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Enda Kenny says he's concerned about INM major media merger

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is concerned about the INM and Celtic Media merger.

Businessman Denis O'Brien.
Businessman Denis O'Brien.

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has said he is “concerned” about the media merger between Independent News and Media (INM) and publishing company Celtic Media.

INM – which owns the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Herald and a number of regional titles – will gain ownership of a number of other regional newspapers if the acquisition goes ahead.

The Celtic Media group is made up of seven regional titles, including the Connaught Telegraph, the Meath Chronicle and the Anglo-Celt.

The takeover was approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in November.

Denis O’Brien is the major shareholder in INM and is also the owner of Communicorp which has multiple Irish radio stations, including Newstalk and Today FM.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, the Taoiseach said the proposal from INM to buy Celtic Media “is a matter of concern”.

Enda Kenny told the chamber that the process of examining the merger is underway.

Calling for further investigation, AAA-PBP TD Bríd Smith said:

“This issue needs public scrutiny as otherwise we will hurtle towards a dictatorship in the media.

“The joint committee [on Communications, Climate Action and Environment] will send an invitation to Denis O’Brien’s news and media company to see if it will appear at the hearing.
There must be proper public scrutiny of what is taking place… in terms of media ownership, the country will be almost entirely owned by Denis O’Brien and his consortium, Independent News and Media, if the merger goes ahead.
There is extreme concern about plurality in the media in the event that the merger proceeds.

The Irish Times reports today that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has specifically called for businessman Denis O’Brien to appear before the committee.

The proposed acquisition by INM has been referred for further assessment to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that once a proposed media merger receives clearance from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on competition grounds, it has to be notified to the minister for communications to assess the proposed merger on media plurality grounds.

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After examining the proposed merger, the minister can decide to send the case to the BAI to provide him with a report detailing its recommendations on the matter.

Media plurality  

“The Taoiseach should not pretend this will be an even-handed discrepancy or that the media depends on good journalism. That is not the case because editorial control is everything. This is an issue of national interest and the Taoiseach should be concerned about it,” said Smith.

“I am concerned,” said the Taoiseach, but he said there is a process under way. Submissions to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland must be made within the next two weeks.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what the recommendations or the view or the analysis of the BAI are,” he said.

Smith confirmed to that members of the NUJ, INM and Celtic Media have been invited to a meeting of the committee next Tuesday.

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