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Minister White publishes draft guidelines on media mergers for public consultation

Dublin, 8th December 2014

Minister for Communications Alex White T.D., today published draft media merger guidelines for public consultation. These draft guidelines have been prepared under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, which came into effect last month.

Minister White said: "The new approach introduced in the recent Competition and Consumer Protection Act significantly enhances the regulation of media mergers in the State and introduces a requirement for media plurality into the regulatory framework. This strengthened process recognises the fact that a free and pluralistic media is an essential component of modern representative democracies. These draft guidelines set out how we propose to conduct these tests. I encourage all interested parties to examine the guidelines and submit their comments to my Department."

The guidelines have been produced to help media organisations and other interested parties to understand how the new media merger process will work in practice. In particular, they set out the relevant criteria for making determinations on whether a proposed media merger is contrary to the public interest in terms of media plurality.

Interested parties are invited to make submissions on the guidelines by 22 January 2015. The guidelines have been published on the Department's website in draft form at
http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Broadcasting/Consultation+on+Media+Mergers+Guidelines

ENDS

 

Note for Editors

The new Part 3A of the Competition Act 2002 (the Act) updates legislation addressing issues such as fragmented media, the rise of online media and an increasingly dynamic media sector. The most important element of this section of the Act is a new public value test, which involves a more thorough definition of media concentration than was previously used, and which deals specifically with cross media ownership. The legislation includes a statutory definition of media plurality, which refers to both ownership and content, and incorporates a statutory test to be applied by the Minister for Communications in the discharge of his function in relation to media mergers.

The objective of the Act is the pursuit of the public interest in the protection of media plurality in the State and, in particular, to prevent the diminution of this essential public interest by way of media merger and the concentration of the media, both in terms of ownership and content. To achieve this objective the Minister will seek information on and have regard to the situation on a before and after the proposed merger basis. This will allow the Minister to assess the impact of the parties to the proposed merger on media plurality, and the effect of allowing the merger to proceed.

The Act provides that the Minister may prepare and make guidelines on the general applicability of the relevant criteria to media mergers, the public interest and indicators of diversity of content and diversity of ownership and control of media businesses that would be used in determinations concerning media mergers and the public interest.

These guidelines aim to assist media undertakings and interested parties to understand the process involved and how the Minister will apply the relevant criteria in making a determination on whether a proposed media merger will be contrary to the public interest in protecting plurality of media in the State. The guidelines may be changed from time to time, as deemed appropriate.

Full consultation with appropriate bodies including the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the Competition Authority, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and relevant media experts was undertaken to assist in the task of drafting the guidelines.

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