Minister for Communications Alex White T.D., today (Wednesday) published media merger guidelines, which have been prepared under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014.
The Act gave the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources powers to determine whether a proposed media merger is in the public interest in terms of media plurality. The media merger guidelines, which were noted by Government yesterday, set out the procedures and criteria the Minister will use to determine whether a proposed media merger would be against the public interest.
The guidelines say that the Minister will have regard to the holding or voting strength that each merger party holds in any media business. The guidelines use the term "significant interest" to measure holding or voting strength. They define a significant interest as sufficient voting, financial or ownership strength "to influence directly or indirectly, to an appreciable extent, the direction of policy of the media business or media businesses with regard in particular to news, current affairs or cultural content."
They say that while a holding or voting strength of between 10% and 19% in a media business may constitute a significant interest, a holding or voting strength of over 20% "will generally constitute a significant interest."
Minister White said: "Media plurality is essential to the health of our democracy. The Competition and Consumer Protection Act significantly enhances the regulation of media mergers in Ireland by introducing a requirement to consider the impact of a proposed merger on media plurality. The guidelines I've published today outline how I will apply the relevant criteria when assessing the impact of a proposed merger on media plurality."
The publication of the guidelines follows a public consultation process. All the submissions will be published on the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website today.
The final guidelines broadly reflect the draft guidelines that were put out for public consultation. The most significant amendments are:
· The inclusion of a pre-notification process, which is established practice in the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
· The express inclusion of the protection of the Irish language.
· Explicit provision that members of the advisory panel will have relevant experience.
· A provision for exemption from the requirement to submit information in cases where there is demonstrably no impairment of media plurality.
Notes to Editors
The Media Mergers Guidelines and the Notification form, to be used by parties submitting a Notification to the Minister, can be found at the following link: