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BAI considers banning those convicted of fraud or dishonesty from being awarded radio licences

The authority is considering updates to its ‘Ownership and Control Policy’.

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THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) could introduce new rules that would stop those convicted of fraud or dishonesty from controlling media companies.

The proposals were announced at the launch of a public consultation process into the authority’s updated ‘Ownership and Control Policy‘ this morning.

The policy was first launched in 2001, and is used by the authority to assess how changes to the ownership and control of media licence-holders, such as to their shareholdings and directors, would affect its consideration of new licence applications.

It was last reviewed in 2012, and the authority has proposed changes under eight sections.

They include the character and expertise of applicants, the viability and sustainability of their application, and the quality and type of programming they are proposing.

Among the updated proposals are a “fit and proper person” test, which would examine whether it would be appropriate for an individual to hold a broadcasting contract.

This would see seven tests applied to those named in applications for a BAI licence, including whether they have been convicted of fraud, whether they have been declared bankrupt, and whether they have been disqualified as a company director.

Viable and sustainable

The updated policy would also look at whether an application would lead to impartial, credible and independent journalism in its news and current affairs programming if it was successful in its bid for a licence.

As part of this, existing licence-holders could be judged on their record in how they have previously performed in their news and current affairs programming.

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Other proposals in the policy include tests for whether an application is commercially sustainable, or if an owner is already considered to have an undue amount of sound broadcasting services in one area.

BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe said that a fresh review was required to ensure media plurality in the context of how Ireland’s broadcast sector has evolved.

“The BAI’s ‘Ownership and Control Policy’ has been designed to facilitate the continued development of a viable, sustainable and diverse broadcasting sector that is characterised by a plurality of ownership,” he said.

“The policy is also designed to provide clarity and certainty in respect of the regulatory approach to be adopted and the rules that will apply.”

Views on the draft are now being sought from stakeholders and members of the public, who have until 30 January 2019 to make submissions.

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