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Union opposes Celtic Media takeover in Ireland

21 September 2016

The NUJ and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have expressed concern at the proposed takeover of leading Irish regional newspaper group, Celtic Media Group, by Independent News and Media Plc (INM). 

The union has called on the Consumer Protection and Competition Commission not to approve the acquisition of the Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Independent, the Westmeath Examiner and the Meath Chronicle and is urging communications minister, Denis Naughten, to use his powers to veto the proposed share transfer to INM. 

Following completion of the investigation the Commission will make a recommendation to Naughten.

NUJ Irish secretary, Séamus Dooley, told the Commission the union had previously welcomed the management buyout of the Celtic Media titles because it had ensured diversity within the regional media market. INM, whose majority shareholder, Denis O’Brien, owns the giant media group Communicorp, is now seeking to extend its control to a level which is unacceptable.

Opposition to the share transfer to INM is a logical consequence of the union’s initial welcome of the management buyout.

In his submission, Séamus Dooley, said:

"The National Union of Journalists strongly opposes further acquisitions by Independent News and Media Plc in this sector and believes the current application, if granted, will have negative consequences on the media industry on the island of Ireland, serving to reinforce the dominant position of Independent News & Media Plc on the Irish media market and granting to the majority shareholder an excessive degree of control and influence on the print, broadcasting and online media in Ireland to such an extent that it is deleterious to the market, undermining competition, damaging employment and crucially acts against the public interest."

The NUJ has argued the Commission must consider the fact that all regional newspaper titles within Independent News & Media Plc operate under the control and direction of INM Regionals. INM regional currently comprises thirteen paid-for weekly regional newspapers published in counties Cork, Kerry, Dublin, Louth, Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow and Sligo. 

If the application is successful there would be 28 regional titles in the group, with additional reach into Westmeath, Cavan, Meath, Mayo and Offaly.

Séamus Dooley said the Commission must take into account the business model operated by Independent News and Media Plc. The restructuring of the business model allows cross-selling of advertising between titles within the national newspaper sector. The Commission must have regard for the potential of such developments across the regional newspaper sector. Such developments would seriously deplete the revenue streams of smaller media organisations and their existence at risk.

The NUJ has also asked the Commission to take into account the copyright policy of INM Plc, who have attempted a number of rights grabs in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Access the NUJ's submission to the Commission

Tags: , ireland, media commission, media ownership, media plurality, independent news and media, merger, Celtic Media Group