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The BAI is unlikely to take further action over Denis O'Brien's stake in IN&M unless he breaches the 30 per cent barrier. Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Broadcasting Authority 'not obliged' to review Denis O'Brien's media holdings

The broadcasting watchdog says Denis O’Brien doesn’t “control” Independent News & Media – he just has “a substantial interest”.

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland has said it has no requirement to review the media holdings and influence of Denis O’Brien – because his stake in Independent News & Media does not amount to a controlling share.

The authority this afternoon clarified the nature of its letter to O’Brien’s radio holdings company, Communicorp, saying it had written to the company in order to request that it keep the BAI informed of any further developments of O’Brien’s interests in IN&M.

O’Brien owns 100 per cent of Communicorp, which owns six radio stations in Ireland, as well as 29.9 per cent of IN&M, which publishes the Irish Independent, the best-selling daily, and the Sunday Independent, the highest-selling Sunday broadsheet.

The BAI said today that O’Brien’s stake in IN&M was relevant in the context of the BAI’s obligation to stop any individual or group from controlling “an undue amount of communications media”.

It added, however, that upon examination of O’Brien’s stake in IN&M – which was increased to 29.9 per cent in May – it had determined that O’Brien did not control the newspaper publisher, but merely had a “substantial interest” in it.

It noted that O’Brien’s shares did not give him more than 50 per cent of IN&M’s voting rights, even though his shareholding did mean a special resolution could not be passed a meeting of IN&M shareholders if O’Brien voted against it.

It further noted that O’Brien’s shareholding had not passed the 30 per cent mark – beyond which he would be obliged, under stock market rules, to launch a formal bid for the remaining shares in the company.

It also took stock of the fact that the influence of the O’Reilly family, previously IN&M’s largest shareholder, had been greatly diminished and that O’Brien could now nominate three members to its board.

The BAI adopted its current policy on the ownership and control of broadcasting outlets last April.

Previously: BAI to write to O’Brien’s Communicorp to discuss media ownership

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