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Broadcasting watchdog to rule on cross-media O'Brien probe

THE broadcasting watchdog is gearing up to announce the outcome of its three-month probe into Denis O'Brien's cross-media ownership.

The item is first on the agenda for the broadcasting body's board meeting on Monday, and sources confirmed a decision is "expected" on the day.

Board members will also discuss the prospect of raising the first ever debt finance for the running of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI). Other items on the tightly-packed agenda include the revised ownership of Setanta Ireland and tv3's attempts to change 3e's licensing.

The BCI has been examining Mr O'Brien's media ownership in light of the appointment of three new directors to the board of Independent News & Media.


The new directors, coupled with Mr O'Brien's 26pc interest in INM, were considered a "substantial interest" prompting the BCI to examine Mr O'Brien's total share of Irish media in the context of his radio licences for Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM, Spin103.8 and Spin South West.

The BCI is legally obliged to promote the plurality of media ownership and control, although it can only directly influence Mr O'Brien's ownership and control of the radio stations it licences.

The funding issues at the BCI come after a 28pc cut in the commission's budget this year. At the time, the commission was expected to become the Broadcasting Authority, and begin charging broadcasters a levy, by the middle of the year.

The Broadcasting Authority is now not expected until the end of the year, prompting the board members to begin to consider contingency funding.

The body will also consider the new ownership structures of Setanta Ireland and Setanta North America, which have both changed hands following the collapse of the UK arm.

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