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'Show some backbone' - new report harshly criticises Ireland's culture of media ownership

A new report commissioned by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan for an EU grouping takes aim at both RTÉ and billionaire media mogul Denis O’Brien.

pjimage Source: Rollingnews.ie

A NEW REPORT into Irish media ownership has called for a commission of inquiry into RTÉ’s role as Ireland’s state broadcaster, together with the “chilling effect” of our defamation laws.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who commissioned the report, has called on Communications Minister Denis Naughten to establish the relevant commission to investigate the Irish media landscape.

The new report, which can be viewed here, was commissioned by Boylan on behalf of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group within the EU Parliament.

The report describes Ireland as having “one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy”, with the two main controlling entities being RTÉ as state broadcaster and “individual businessman Denis O’Brien”.

The report also repeatedly makes reference to the publishing of a similar report in March of this year, by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), which gave Ireland a score of 0.7 (on a scale of 0 to 1.0) with regards to how concerned citizens should be regarding the state of media ownership here.

In that report only Finland, Lithuania and Luxembourg were evaluated as having higher concentration levels of media ownership in the study of 19 EU member states.

The new report’s conclusions include:

  • That there are “extremely grave concerns about the high concentration of media ownership in the Irish market, and in particular regarding the position of INM (Independent News and Media) and Mr Denis O’Brien”
  • That the Government should establish “a cross-disciplinary Commission of Inquiry” into media plurality here which should report as soon as possible
  • That the argument that investigating media ownership here is a “no go area” are “flawed”
  • That the report recognises that its field of investigation is “an extremely difficult area”

Speaking at the report’s launch today in Dublin, Boylan said “it is not just media outlets that are afraid”.

“Politicians seem to balk at the thought of effectively dealing with the issue,” she said.

We need a media that holds those in powerful positions to account, one that seeks the truth and ensures that the public has access to the truth.
The Minister and all politicians must now show the political backbone required to take on those in dominant positions.

The report describes Denis O’Brien’s “litigious profligacy” in detailing the 12 lawsuits he has taken against Irish media organisations and personnel in the last six years, and describes Ireland’s defamation culture (ie that in which juries routinely make very high awards to successful plaintiffs) as being “wholly out of kilter with the rest of Europe”.

O’Brien, who was listed among the world’s top 200 billionaires last year, via his company Communicorp, owns over 40 radio stations across Europe (including Newstalk and Today FM), together with the largest shareholding in Independent News and Media.

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