Friday 19 January 2018

Kenny rules out inquiry into media ownership

Businessman Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin
Businessman Denis O'Brien. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Calls for a public commission on the future of the media that would examine ownership and editorial control have been rejected by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He told the Dáil that the Minister for Communications has the powers necessary to ensure media freedom and plurality.

The Taoiseach was replying to questions from Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy who raised concerns about the sale of the Celtic Media group to Independent News and Media.

She noted that INM already publishes the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, The Herald, the Sunday World and the Belfast Telegraph, as well as having a 50pc stake in the Irish Daily Star.

The company, in which businessman Denis O'Brien is a significant shareholder, also controls 13 paid-for regional weekly newspapers.

Mr O'Brien also has interests in a variety of radio stations including 'Newstalk'.

She noted a report earlier this year by Dr Roddy Flynn of DCU identified the concentration of media ownership in Ireland as a "high risk", while another Sinn Féin commissioned report raised similar concerns in recent weeks.

Mr Kenny said the latter report was being examined by Communications Minister Denis Naughten but cautioned against any expectation that the Government would interfere in the management or ownership of media outlets.

"As the Deputy is aware, the 2014 Act gives the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the power to block any media merger that is deemed likely to be contrary to the public interest in maintaining the plurality of media in the State."

Mr Kenny added that any attempt to act retrospectively or to assess a media business in the absence of a proposed merger would be to interfere with the property rights enshrined in the Constitution.

"That could also have a severe impact on investment in the sector," he said.

Irish Independent

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