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16.06.2017

Ireland: mega-merger is called off!

by Jane Whyatt
Media freedom campaigners have welcomed the news that two of Ireland’s biggest companies will not be merging after all.

newsocracy2_Dublin NUJ Acting General Secretary (2nd left) at ECPMF at Dublin conference on media ownership (Photo: ECPMF/Nora Wehofsits)

Denis O’Brien’s Independent News and Media Holdings was set to acquire the local radio and newspaper networks of CMLN Limited, formerly Celtic Media Newspapers Limited. The takeover was debated at ECPMF’s Newsocracy#2 conference in Dublin where Social Democrat TD (Member of parliament) Catherine Murphy explained why she had introduced a new law in the Irish Daìl, the parliament. The Private Members Bill on Media Ownership 2017 sought to amend the Competition Act 2002 so that it could apply retrospectively. And it would strengthen the public interest test for any one media owner holding more than 20 percent of the market. She said that local newspapers were necessary to democracy.

Local newspapers

If the deal had gone ahead with Celtic Media Group, INM would gain control of seven regional newspapers including the “Anglo-Celt” in Cavan, the “Meath Chronicle” and the “Connaught Telegraph”. It already owns a number of local newspapers including the “Fingal Independent”, the “Kerryman”, the “Sligo Champion”, the “Wexford People” and the “Bray People”.

Welcoming the news that the INM/CMLN takeover had been abadoned, the National Union of Journalists Acting General Secretary Séamus Dooley said:

The union welcomes the lifting of this significant threat to media diversity in Ireland,  as a result of the decision of both companies to withdraw from the sale process.“

Media diversity

But Dooley insists that the official scrutiny of the deal must go ahead and its results must be published. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) had held a public consultation and was due to announce its findings when the announcement came that the takeover would not happen. The Minister responsible, Denis Naughten, had also appointed an advisory panel. Dooley is calling on him to publish both the panel’s findings and the results of the BAI consultation, saying: “The issues raised are of fundamental importance to the issue of media diversity in Ireland.“

Read the full NUJ statement

The National Union of Journalists notes the announcement that the Celtic Media regional newspaper group is not to be acquired by Independent News and Media plc.

The union welcomes the lifting of this significant threat to media diversity in Ireland,  as a result of the decision of both companies to withdraw from the sale process.

The report of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) into the proposed acquisition of the group was submitted to the Minister for Communications on May 8 2017 and he was due to announce his decision next week.

We are 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 have worked closely with the Chief Executive Frank Mulrennan and his staff to ensure the viability of the newspapers.

Staff embraced change and accepted pay cuts in order 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 regardless of the decision of the parties to end the process.

We note that the Minister also appointed an advisory panel on the acquisition and we would further urge report of the panel’s findings. The issues raised are of fundamental importance to the issue of media diversity in Ireland.





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