NUJ demands report as Celtic Media Group takeover talks collapse
7 June 2017
Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, has urged Irish communications minister Denis Naughten to make public a report on the proposed takeover by Independent News and Media plc of the Celtic Media Group (CMG) following the last-minute decision of the companies to abandon the deal.
The minister was due to make a decision on the controversial acquisition this week. He had ordered a statutory investigation by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and appointed an expert panel under Professor John Horgan to advise on the implications for media plurality.
The BAI report was received on May 8 but over the Irish bank holiday weekend the companies pre-empted the process by saying that they were walking away from the deal. The companies had vigorously defended the move earlier this year at a parliamentary hearing and rejected concerns about the threat to media diversity expressed by the NUJ and leading academics.
Séamus Dooley said:
“We welcome the lifting of this significant threat to media diversity in Ireland. We were surprised by the last-minute decision of the companies to walk away from the deal. The proposed acquisition, if approved, would have further undermined media diversity in Ireland.
"The NUJ welcomed the management buy-out of the current titles and has worked closely with the chief executive Frank Mulrennan and his staff to ensure the viability of the regional newspapers.
"Staff embraced change and accepted pay cuts to protect the company. We opposed the INM acquisition of the titles for the same reason that we welcomed the original management buy-out: the protection of media diversity. The union has been consistent in advocating media plurality and we hope that Celtic Media will continue to develop as a significant player in the regional newspaper sector.
“The issues raised by the BAI report are of fundamental importance. We call on Mr Naughten to publish the report despite the decision of the parties to end the process. The findings in respect of cross-ownership by the largest shareholders remain of interest.
“Questions must be asked about the initial approval given to the deal by the Consumer Protection and Competition Commission. The last-minute decision means that the state, and indeed the companies involved, have spent vast sums on a process which should never have received regulatory approval from the commission. The BAI focus was on the implications for plurality and media diversity. We still believe that in competition terms this move was bad for the media industry.”