Wednesday 16 January 2019

Broadcast watchdog set to tighten licence rules

CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), Michael O’Keeffe. Photo: David Conachy
CEO of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), Michael O’Keeffe. Photo: David Conachy
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is considering broadening the range of offences it will take into account when considering applications for a new licence or a change of ownership and control of broadcasting services.

The proposed changes were unveiled yesterday by the BAI as it launched a public consultation process. It is updating its policies on ownership and control within the sector, and has drawn up new policies on media plurality. The BAI is seeking views on additional character tests in relation to applicants, with a number of changes proposed to its current policy.

As well as taking into account whether the applicant has ever been convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty, the draft proposals will consider whether these should be extended to take into account a broader range of offences or findings of a non-criminal nature which could speak to the quality of the character of the individual.

In addition to fraud or dishonesty, they are seeking views on whether adverse findings of civic or public bodies, but which do not constitute a criminal offence, should also be taken into account.

According to the new draft proposals on ownership, it is proposed that the number of radio stations that can be owned by one body will remain the same at 25pc.

However, the BAI has also added a new test in relation to programming.

For those who want to own a new service or change ownership, it's proposed the BAI will not only look at news and current affairs programming, but also at news and current affairs practices to see if they support independent and impartial content.

Meanwhile, the consultation document on media pluralism will look at issues surrounding diversity of content and diversity of ownership, meaning the spread of ownership and control of media businesses in the State, linked to the market share of those businesses "as measured by listenership, readership, reach or other appropriate measures".

"Media pluralism makes an important contribution to a well-functioning democratic society," said BAI CEO Michael O'Keeffe.

Mr O'Keeffe was questioned at the launch about the BAI's stance in July 2012, regarding the media interests of businessman Denis O'Brien - who has a 29pc stake in Independent News and Media (INM), which publishes the Irish Independent and other titles - where it ruled that Mr O'Brien does not control INM, "rather he has a substantial interest in the company".

"I am absolutely happy to stand over that analysis that was done at that time," he said.

The consultation period for both draft documents will run until January 30.

Both consultation documents are available on the BAI website.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business