Wednesday, 22nd February 2017
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
I would like to begin by thanking Pauric and Michael for inviting me here today to launch the new BAI Strategy Statement which sets out the Authority's focus for the next three years.
The media landscape is changing and the range of activities and stakeholders relevant to the Authority go beyond those contemplated at the time of the Broadcasting Act 2009.
I read with interest research carried out by Ipsos MRBI on the effectiveness of the previous 2014-2016 Strategy. It showed that the BAI is seen as a trusted, independent and effective regulator.
It is difficult to try to predict what shape the broadcasting landscape will be by 2019.
Traditional media and broadcasting, is constantly changing through developments in online technologies and platforms.
The strategy being launched today provides a solid foundation that will allow the Authority to face these challenges and continue to be effective.
This is a well-considered strategy, based on high level consultation with all stakeholders.
I believe that the objectives in the document will ensure a diversity of services and programming all of which is critical for the health of a democracy and an informed public.
One of the important roles of the BAI - which is recognised in this strategy - is the way in which it supports the production of high quality Irish programming and the importance of the availability of Irish content.
I too share this goal as Communications Minister and I am working with my officials to amend the current Broadcasting Act of 2009. While this Act is still an effective piece of legislation, I have identified some areas that need to be amended and improved that will support quality Irish programming.
I intend to introduce a new funding scheme to offer bursaries to journalists working in local or community radio stations. This proposed scheme, which will be funded as part of the Broadcasting Fund, will recognise quality journalism produced at local level.
The scheme may be of particular interest to young journalists starting off in their careers in local radio - as many often do.
I am also proposing to amend the levy provisions aimed at reducing the burden of the levy on all broadcasters. I want to provide more flexibility for the Authority in how it applies the levy to particular classes of broadcasters including community radio stations who will be exempt altogether from the levy.
Given the likelihood that some UK-based broadcasters will look to establish a base in Ireland following Brexit, I am proposing to amend the scope for the application of the levy so that it is properly future-proofed in this regard.
The purpose of these proposed changes is to allow the BAI to ensure that each service it regulates can make a fair and proportionate contribution to the levy and, as I have said, that the levy is not imposing an undue burden on the sector.
While I am constrained in the level of detail that I can provide at this stage on the proposed levy changes as negotiations are ongoing with my Cabinet colleagues, I can confirm that I intend bringing the proposals before Cabinet shortly. The changes will go before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications in the context of the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny process.
I would like to thank the Broadcasting Authority for its ongoing work supporting and regulating broadcasting in Ireland. In a continuously changing media landscape, it is vital that our broadcasting regulator develops strategies and objectives to effectively respond to the challenges faced by the Irish broadcasting sector and its audiences.
I would also like to take this first opportunity to welcome the new appointees to the Board of BAI (Mary Curtis), Compliance Committee (Clodagh O'Donnell) and Contract Awards Committee (Eileen Maher and Kevin Rafter (Chair)).
These positions carry a range of responsibilities and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you well in your new role.
I would also like to thank the outgoing members for their contribution and wish them well in their future endeavours.
Finally, I am pleased to launch a distinctly future-focused strategy today, which has, at its core, a commitment to regulate, foster and support broadcasting in the public interest.