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New Bill aims to limit media ownership in Ireland

The Social Democrats introduced the Media Ownership 2017 Bill today.
Jan 31st 2017, 8:35 PM 12,562 36

THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS today launched a new Bill that seeks to increase media plurality and cap ownership in Ireland.

The Media Ownership Bill 2017 was brought forward in the Dáil today by Catherine Murphy.

Its aim is to increase plurality as well as minimise the potential for over-concentration of media ownership with any one individual or company.

Speaking in the Dáil, Murphy said the point of the Bill was to “rebalance the landscape of media plurality” in the country.

Speaking ahead of the bill being launched, Murphy said an “ever-increasing proportion of our media outlets” were being concentrated in too few hands.

“This represents a potential threat to a free and open media which facilitates a vigorous democracy,” she said.

Murphy pointed towards international debates and issues around “fake news” as a reason to have a “pluralistic media environment”.

She also pointed towards the proposed acquisition by Independent News and Media of the Celtic Media Group.

INM – which prints the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, the Herald and a number of regional newspapers – would gain ownership of a number of other local newspapers as a result of this acquisition.

The takeover was approved by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in November. It is now a subject of a review by the Communications minister.

Denis O’Brien – a large shareholder in INM – is also the owner Communicorp, which runs a number of Irish radio stations.

“There is currently a public interest test for media control that suggests a concentration of ownership by any one entity of more than 20% of the media is not in the public interest,” said Murphy.

However, there is no transparency on who owns or controls the media.

Under the Competition Act 2002 and the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, the Minister for Communications has the power to establish guidelines on media mergers and oversee any media mergers or acquisitions in Ireland, to protect the public interest.

This can currently only be done for new media mergers. The Media Ownership Bill will give the Minister the power to apply these guidlines retroactively.

The Bill will be debated next week in the Dáil.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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