NUJ seeks Naughten pledge on sale of regional newspapers
5 September 2016
THE NUJ has called on Communications minister Denis Naughten to use the powers available to fully investigate the proposed acquisition by Independent News and Media plc of the publishing arm of the Celtic Media Group.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, called on the minister to set up a panel of experts to investigate the acquisition and to ask the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to carry out a fully statutory inquiry, as provided for in guidelines introduced by his predecessor Alex White. He said:
"This is a very significant development and highlights past political leadership in dealing with media ownership and control. If this deal is approved INM will acquire seven newspaper brands and a pre-press/digital centre in Mullingar.
"INM will add the Anglo Celt, The Meath Chronicle, Westmeath Examiner, The Connaught Telegraph and the two free newspapers Offaly Independent and Forum to their portfolio. This will mean that the INM Regional Division alone, will consist of 20 newspaper titles, operating across 11 counties. The Celtic Media publishing hub in Mullingar, provides services to the Dublin People Group, Tuam Herald, Nenagh Guardian, Cork Independent and Galway Independent.
"Given INM's dominant position in the national newspaper sector and the dominant role of the chief shareholder in the independent broadcasting sector there are compelling reasons for an investigation into the full implications of this proposed acquisition.
The Minister has the power to consider the impact on media plurality and diversity and to explore what steps need to be taken to protect editorial independence.
"This latest expansion bid came at the end of a week in which INM, the dominant newspaper publisher on the island of Ireland, announced that core editorial production functions are to be outsourced to the UK, with a loss of up to 27 permanent and contract jobs. Against the backdrop of compulsory redundancies and the transfer of jobs to the UK Mr Naughten must seek clarification from INM about how they propose to protect editorial diversity and plurality in the ownership and editorial management of all titles.
"We welcome the assurance of consultation by Frank Mulrennan of Celtic Media Group and the NUJ will be meeting with CMG to discuss our grave concerns. We want assurances that employment will be protected and that the titles concerned will not be swallowed up or undermined in any way."