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Merger guidelines fail to tackle powerful media interests

10 June 2015

The National Union of Journalists has described the new guidelines on media mergers published today by the minister for communications as reflecting “an abject failure of the government to tackle powerful media interests in Ireland”.
In an initial reaction Irish Secretary, Séamus Dooley, said the refusal of the government to countenance any retrospective measures to break the stranglehold on media ownership by a few powerful groups and individuals, and the insistence that existing concentration of ownership "have no material impact on the guidelines" undermines the value of the process undertaken by minister Alex White.
He said the minister was to be commended for the principles behind the guidelines but warned that “positive language without strong legislative measures will not break the stranglehold which a few individuals and companies have on media ownership and control in this country”.
He expressed disappointment at Alex White’s failure to even consider the establishment of a Commission on the Future of the Media in Ireland.
Séamus Dooley said:

  “If we have learned anything over the past week it is that government must have the courage to defend the right to freedom of expression and to face down vested interests.  The NUJ responded in good faith to a consultation process. The department response contained one chilling phrase 11 times "No action is recommended".  In that context the guidelines will mean very little.
"In a market where INM titles account for more than 40 per cent of all national newspaper sales and just three groups own 23 of our 37 radio stations it’s not good enough to propose new guidelines for the future while ignoring the present. All that will do is copper fasten the status quo, leaving Irish media markets among the most concentrated in the OECD. 
"We need an independent commission to examine all aspects of media ownership and control. We need politicians to realise that media ownership and control is an issue of fundamental importance to democracy."

Tags: , ireland, press regulation, alex white, media barons, ownership