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BAI to write to O'Brien's Communicorp to discuss media ownership

The broadcasting watchdog will write to Denis O’Brien’s radio company, “on the subject matter of control and ownership”.

Denis O'Brien owns 100% of Communicorp, Ireland's largest private media owner, as well as 29.9% of its largest newspaper publisher IN&M.
Denis O'Brien owns 100% of Communicorp, Ireland's largest private media owner, as well as 29.9% of its largest newspaper publisher IN&M.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND’S BROADCASTING WATCHDOG is to write to Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp company in the subject of media ownership and control.

A spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland said the decision to write to the company had been taken following the monthly meeting of its board, which took place yesterday afternoon.

“The Authority considered Communicorp’s ownership in respect of its policy” on media ownership, the spokeswoman said, “and it will be sending a communication to Communicorp on the basis of its considerations yesterday.”

The spokeswoman said a communication with the owner of any Irish radio stations was not unusual, as it carried out its watchdog function “every day of the year” would be in regular contact with owners in relation to many aspects of its policies.

It was “not unusual to write to consider matters pertaining to any policy and any aspects of it,” the spokeswoman said, saying the correspondence was still being drafted but would be sent before the end of this week.

Updated policy

The BAI’s policy on media ownership, updated in April, saw the watchdog outline new criteria under which a party’s ownership of other media – and not just those licensed by the BAI itself – would be considered before the takeover of a broadcaster was permitted.

Communicorp owns 40 radio stations in eight countries, including six in Ireland. Its Irish stations include Today FM, Newstalk, the contemporary station Dublin’s 98FM, alternative rock station Phantom 105.2, and the youth-oriented Spin 103.8 and its regional sister station Spin South West.

The BAI’s decision to write to the company – which is 100-per-cent owned by Denis O’Brien – comes two months after O’Brien upped his stake in Independent News & Media, the publisher of the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent, to 29.9 per cent.

That increase means O’Brien is the single biggest shareholder in that company.

A spokesman for O’Brien said neither he nor Communicorp had any comment “at this point”.

Read: BAI will consider ownership of newspapers in approving broadcast takeovers

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Gavan Reilly

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