April 18, 2018
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said she is dismayed at reports in today’s Irish Times that on the afternoon of the 11th of November 2016 Communications Minister Denis Naughten informed a PR Executive, working on behalf of Lesley Buckley and INM, that the proposed acquisition of Celtic Media would be referred to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland based on advice from his officials. Ms Murphy said she was dismayed because in a Dáil debate with her a month later on December 6th, Minister Naughten told the Dail that his officials hadn’t yet made a decision and that he was yet to decide if he would refer the matter to the BAI.
Deputy Murphy said:
“In December 2016 I had both a written PQ reply from Minister Naughten and indeed participated in a Dáil debate with the Minister wherein which he confirmed that he had only commenced his Phase 1 assessment of the proposed merger on 24thNovember which provided him with 30 days to make a decision. Yet today’s media revelations from the ODCE’s affidavit suggest that the Minister and his officials had in fact made a decision to refer the matter to the BAI and communicated that decision to a PR firm acting on behalf of INM on the 11th of November. During Leaders Questions in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach relayed information from Minister Naughten that his decision was not made until January 2017. The anomalies in those timelines certainly seem to indicate that the Dáil was misled.”
“The fact that Mister Lesley Buckley was able to tell Denis O’Brien that the proposed merger would be referred to the BAI whilst at the same time, and up to a month or more later, the Minister was telling TDs on the floor of the Dáil that no decision in this regard had been made, is extremely concerning. In addition, I have checked the lobbying register and there appears to be no record of the contacts between Heneghan PR and the Ministers’ Department despite such important matters being discussed. The entire matter really opens up questions, yet again, regarding the axis between powerful individuals and political decisions.“
18th April 2018
Notes to Editors: Relevant PQ replies herein: [Ref No.: 38857/16]
To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the stage the proposed determination regarding an acquisition (details supplied) has reached within his department; if he plans to seek Cabinet approval for any decision he may make on this issue [SUBSTITUTE PRIORITY]; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Catherine Murphy. (SUBSTITUTE PRIORITY)
the INM Groups acquisition of Celtic Media
For SUBSTITUTE PRIORITY answer on Tuesday, 6th December, 2016.
(5 Received on 1st December, 2016.)
* To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the stage the proposed determination regarding an acquisition (details supplied) has reached within his department; if he plans to seek Cabinet approval for any decision he may make on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Catherine Murphy.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 6th December, 2016.
(966 Received on 1st December, 2016.)
Changed from SUBSTITUTE PRIORITY to WRITTEN
Following approval by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, notification of the proposed merger referenced in the question was received by me as Minister on 21 November 2016. I have 30 working days from the notification deadline of 24 November 2016 to conduct an initial, or Phase 1, assessment of the case on media plurality grounds.
This examination is guided by the relevant criteria laid out in the legislation and by the Guidelines on Media Mergers, both of which are available on my Department’s website. Following this examination I have three options under the legislation, which are to allow the merger to proceed, to allow the merger to proceed with conditions, or to ask the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) to conduct a more in-depth, or phase 2, examination of the proposed merger.
If the latter is the case, then the BAI will, following its examination of the proposed merger, provide me with a report detailing its recommendations on the matter. It is also possible for me, as Minister, to establish an advisory panel to provide an opinion to the BAI on the application of the relevant criteria to the media merger in question. Following receipt of the BAI’s report and recommendations, I must then make a decision either to allow the merger to proceed, to allow it to proceed with conditions or to refuse to grant my consent.
No provision is made in legislation to allow a Minister to seek Cabinet approval for a determination on a media merger nor is there any role for the Oireachtas.
It would not be appropriate for me to provide further comment while this case is currently under consideration.