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Rabbitte: robust and diverse media vital for democracy

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte has warned that the Competition Authority is not the appropriate body to deal with the sensitive issue of diversity in the media.

Mr Rabbitte is waiting to have the authority's current powers in this area transferred over to his department as part of a broader media mergers bill.

However, the slow rate of the handover from Richard Bruton's Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has sparked tensions in the Coalition.

The position of the Labour Party on the issue of media ownership was clear as delegates at yesterday's party conference almost unanimously backed a proposal from the Dublin South West Constituency Council that the introduction of legislation on media mergers is a "pressing" issue of public policy.

The motion from Mr Rabbitte's own constituency noted the "presence of an active and diverse media sector -- both in terms of ownership and content -- is a prerequisite

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of any modern democratic society".

In a packed conference hall only one delegate was seen to oppose the vote as the motion was strongly backed by the Communications Minister.

In a hard-hitting speech, which was greeted by strong applause from party delegates, the Labour minister warned that when it came to regulation "the media is different" to other businesses and that the "proper functioning of our democratic system depends on plurality".

The minister said the issues posed by the media could not be subject to the "important but conventional analysis" of such issues carried out by the Competition Authority.

Mr Rabbitte said he believed in an "active, robust, diverse" media sector and warned that diversity in ownership was a "key prerequisite of a modern democratic society".

The minister was applauded in Galway as he warned delegates about the "undesirability of any one individual holding excessive control" and said that this posed "risks that go beyond" conventional competition issues.

Sunday Independent