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BAI will consider ownership of newspapers in approving broadcast takeovers

The new Ownership and Control Policy is the blueprint under which authorities will consider whether to block a takeover.

The BAI's rules hope to stop individuals from controlling too much of Ireland's broadcast environment.
The BAI's rules hope to stop individuals from controlling too much of Ireland's broadcast environment.
Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland has issued an updated policy document discussing how it will consider bids to take over a broadcaster – saying it will include a person’s ownership of other communications media when considering an application.

The authority’s Ownership and Control Policy document outlines that parties who own more than 10 per cent of a media company will be appraised based on their control and interests in other outlets before they are permitted to take over a broadcaster.

Any person who has an “undue number of sound broadcasting services” will now be appraised based on the number of broadcasting licences they already hold.

Parties who propose to take over more than 15 per cent of the country’s broadcasters will be subject to a Compliance Audit, appraising whether their existing broadcasters have been acting in compliance with broadcasting standards.

Those seeking to take over 20 per cent of the broadcast environment will be subject to more rigorous examinations which will also examine how many other communications media they own, and the extent to which this can impinge on the supply of news and information.

Such an examination would also appraise whether their services operate in concentrated areas, the number of broadcasters in which the party has direct control, and the audience share held by their existing stations.

As was previously the case, parties will be banned from controlling over 25 per cent of the country’s broadcasting licences.

When considering whether a proposed acquisition of a licence would give a single party too much control of the broadcasting sphere, the BAI will consider the ‘substitutability’ of one outlet for another, and a test of ‘dominance’ in the communications area.

The policy document also outlines a number of tests to be applied to potential owners in order to appraise their “character, expertise and experience”, as well as an applicant’s accounting record.

BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe said the policy document sought to “balance the needs of a rapidly evolving indigenous broadcasting sector with the statutory requirements of promoting open and pluralistic broadcasting services”.

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Gavan Reilly

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