The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has published a new Ownership and Control Policy which outlines new requirements for commercially-owned broadcasting media. The policy allows the BAI to vet a potential broadcast owner’s character before permitting them to purchase a majority stake in a broadcasting station.
The new policy states that one person is not permitted to have an “undue number of sound broadcasting services”, which currently stands at 15 per cent. The BAI will not differentiate between ‘control’ or ‘substantial interests’.
Although spokesperson Tony Heffernan admits the policy, which replaces the previous policy of 2010, is “not radically different”, the new document does state that parties attempting to own more than the 15 per cent cut-off point will be subject to the BAI Compliance Audit.
Although the BAI is the body which monitors the broadcasting sector, print media can be taken into account if any party who acquires a majority shareholding in any communications media, which would cover print media, attempts to obtain a large share in broadcast media.
The policy was published less than a week after Gavin O’Reilly resigned as CEO of Independent News & Media, Ireland’s largest media group, ending nearly 40 years of direct control of the company from the O’Reilly Family.
Tony Heffernan said the new policy was part of an “ongoing process” which is reviewed every three to five years.
Other character assessments which the BAI will undertake include finding out whether an applicant has ever been convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty, or has ever been restricted or disqualified as a company director.
Speaking about the publication of the policy, Michael O’Keeffe, chief executive of the BAI said. “This policy seeks to balance the needs of a rapidly evolving indigenous broadcasting sector with the statutory requirements of promoting open and pluralistic broadcasting services and diversity in viewpoint, outlet and source in the interests of listeners and viewers.”