Wednesday 22 August 2018

Naughten sees no reason to step back from media mergers

Took advice: Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Took advice: Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Communications Minister Denis Naughten sees no reason why he should step back from dealing with media mergers following the controversy over the proposed takeover of Celtic Media by Independent News & Media (INM).

The minister has batted away calls for him to be rescued from future decision-making in the area after he became embroiled in a political row over his contacts with a lobbyist for INM.

Speaking on Independent.ie's 'The Big Tech Show', Mr Naughten said: "I have dealt with 11 media mergers since I became minister. Not one of those has been appealed.

"In each one of those I took the advice of my officials in relation to it.

"This is something that will be ongoing into the future."

Asked whether he has concerns that his involvement in future mergers, including the proposed takeover of the 'Irish Examiner' by 'The Irish Times', could become a distraction, Mr Naughten said he didn't believe so.

He said the INM deal was dealt with appropriately and that his decision to have it reviewed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was the correct one.

"The reality is that the decision I made last January in terms of moving to Phase II was not beneficial in any way to Independent News & Media whatsoever," Mr Naughten said. "So I don't see why I should have to consider any sort of approach like that."

The minister spent much of the past fortnight dealing with the fallout of his name being mentioned in court papers filed by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as part of a bid to have High Court inspectors appointed to investigate alleged corporate governance issues at INM.

It emerged that Eoghan Ó Neachtain, a lobbyist ­working for INM, in November 2016 ­contacted the minister to ­discuss the proposed merger.

During the short phone call, Mr Naughten confirmed he was likely to refer the deal to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for review.

The ODCE has alleged that details of the conversation were passed on by Heneghan PR to then-INM chairman Leslie Buckley.

In turn, Mr Buckley is alleged to have emailed INM's largest shareholder Denis O'Brien, in a move the ODCE says may amount to "inside information" and potentially a breach of stock market rules.

Irish Independent

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