January 31, 2017
The Social Democrats are today bringing the Media Ownership Bill 2017 to first stage in Dáil Éireann. The Bill seeks to rebalance the media landscape in Ireland to improve media plurality and minimise the potential for over-concentration of media ownership with any one individual or company.
Speaking in advance of introducing the Bill this afternoon, Catherine Murphy TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats said:
“We are seeing in the US how vital an independent and diverse media is in the face of huge challenges to democracy and the rule of law.”
“All democracies depend on an active and diverse media both in terms of content and ownership. Media plurality is a crucial component of any healthy and vibrant society. It underpins the representation of a very wide range of voices and opinions in the media.”
“However, there is significant evidence that the concentration of media ownership in Ireland is ‘high risk’, which puts the independence of this vital democratic institution in jeopardy.”
“Mainstream media plays a pivotal role in helping to both lead and shape opinions on matters of fundamental importance to society, in particular in holding government and powerful institutions, businesses and individuals to account.”
“An ever-increasing proportion of our media outlets are becoming concentrated in too few hands. This represents a potential threat to a free and open media which facilitates a vigorous democracy.”
“There is currently a public interest test for media control that suggests a concentration of ownership by any one entity of more than 20% of the media is not in the public interest. However, there is no transparency on who owns or controls the media.”
“Our Bill is timely in that it coincides with the proposed acquisition by Independent News and Media of the Celtic Media Group. If this acquisition goes through, it would further increase INM’s dominance in the Irish market and pose a grave threat to media plurality.”
“Internationally, the issue of press freedom and impartial journalism is to the forefront of public debate as people begin to realise the dangers of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’. Both the global and domestic situation have drawn into sharp focus the importance of a pluralistic media environment that actively challenges and holds power to account in the interests of democracy.”
The Media Ownership Bill 2017 will be introduced at first stage in Dáil Éireann this afternoon, and be debated in second stage on 8th February.
31st January 2017
Note: The Competition Act 2002 and the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 give the Minister for Communications the power to establish guidelines on media mergers and oversee any media mergers or acquisitions in Ireland, to protect the public interest. Currently, these guidelines apply only to new media mergers. The Media Ownership Bill 2017, being introduced by Deputy Catherine Murphy, will give the Minister for Communications the power to apply the media merger guidelines retroactively so that the Minister may apply the same guidelines to existing media ownership in the public interest and taking account of the need for media plurality.