Taoiseach Enda Kenny has rejected a call for a public commission on the future of the media in the Republic.
Mr Kenny said everybody would agree that a free and pluralistic media was an essential component of a modern democracy. He said a report commissioned by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan was being examined by Minister for Communications Denis Naughten.
He added the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 gave the Minister the power to block any media merger deemed likely to be contrary to the public interest.
“Therefore, I do not see any reason for the setting up of a commission of inquiry into the matter,’’ said Mr Kenny.
The Taoiseach was replying to Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who said the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission had last week approved the acquisition of the Celtic Media group by Independent News and Media (INM).
Ms Murphy said it was now up to the Minister, and presumably the Cabinet, to accept or reject the acquisition.
“It is difficult to understand how an agency involved in consumer protection could approve the proposed acquisition, particularly in a sector that has the potential to undermine our democracy.’’
She said if the acquisition went ahead, INM would control 28 regional titles across the country in addition to a number of national titles.
The radio sector was also relevant, given Communicorp, which was owned by the same majority shareholder as INM, controlled about 20 per cent of the radio market.
Ms Murphy said the ownership of such a large proportion of print broadcasting and digital media by someone who had consistently used the courts to “create a chilling effect on journalists and other media outlets’’ had to be questioned.
“The person to whom I refer, Denis O’Brien, was the subject of adverse findings in the Moriarty tribunal, as the Taoiseach is aware,’’ she added.
She said reports, including the one compiled by Ms Boylan, had expressed grave concerns about the Irish media landscape.
She said the National Union of Journalists had called for a public commission which would examine ownership, editorial control, employment standards, including pension rights, and measures to protect editorial independence.
Mr Kenny said Ms Boylan’s report was based on a legal opinion from two firms based in London and Belfast, both of which primarily worked in the field of human rights.
It seemed to have been prompted in part by the report of the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom, based in Florida and funded by the European Commission, he added.
Key words: Center of Media Pluralism, European Commission, Consumer Protection Commission