Rabbitte says no need for tougher media regulation

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has slapped down a bid by his Cabinet colleague Alan Shatter to introduce tougher privacy laws for the media.

Mr Rabbitte said he saw “no reason to amend” the current Press Council system of regulation, which he said was working well.

And, contradicting the justice minister’s recent claims of cross-coalition support, he said he did not agree with Mr Shatter’s proposed law. “I don’t see any circumstances that warrant a new privacy bill. I do not think it is the way to go.”

He said far more would need to be done to respond to effects the internet has had on the media.

He said democracy needed well-researched reporting and consideration was only now being given to the impact electronic revolution was having on journalism.

“Far more comprehensive measures will be required to reflect the technological, societal and economic change that has already occurred in media,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte was speaking at a dinner hosted by the National Newspapers of Ireland ahead of the general assembly of the European Newspaper Publishers Association in Dublin today.

He said while the future of copyright law and the economic model for newspapers were to be decided there had to be a future for trusted news organisations.

“Coherent and viable media businesses are and will remain central to our democracy,” he said.

Yesterday the EPNA president, Ivar Rusdal, and the NNI chairman, Matt Dempsey, met junior minister Sean Sherlock to discuss the ongoing review of copyright law. Mr Sherlock is due to receive the report on this review next March.

Mr Dempsey said newspapers were expected to do business while coping with the “unregulated pilferage” of their content. He said that search engines and aggregators were able to pass off newspapers’ content “without a penny of compensation”.

Mr Rabbitte said newspapers played an important role and the issue of copyright had yet to be decided.

On the issue of privacy, Mr Rabbitte indicated that he did not support the position of the justice minister.

Last weekend Mr Shatter claimed he had the support of Cabinet colleagues in a bid to place further privacy restrictions on the media.

Mr Shatter promised to introduce the new privacy bill in the wake of the decision by The Irish Daily Star newspaper to publish topless photos of Kate Middleton.

In his latest interview Mr Shatter said the Press Council was not strong enough to regulate some sections of the press. However, Mr Rabbitte said despite the privacy scandals in Britain the system here was working and did not need reform.

Analysis: Future of news hinges on definition of ‘fair use’

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