Communications Minister Denis Naughten denies Irish media ownership issues

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has rejected claims there is a problem with Irish media ownership “plurality” after an independent EU report raised questions about Denis O’Brien’s level of involvement in the industry.
Communications Minister Denis Naughten denies Irish media ownership issues

The Independent TD and former Fine Gael member made the comments in response to opposition calls for action on the issue.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Naughten said he is continuing to examine the ‘Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland’ commissioned by Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan and published earlier this week.

Despite the report’s authors raising concerns over Mr O’Brien’s involvement in numerous Irish media outlets, Mr Naughten said the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland already found two years ago that there has “not been a material reduction in media plurality due to the limited changes in ownership and control”.

The comments came as Mr O’ Brien hit back at a claim in the report that the country has “one of the most concentrated media markets of any democracy”.

The report states: “The two most important controlling entities in the Irish media landscape are the national State broadcaster, RTÉ, and an individual businessman, Denis O’Brien, who has a dominant position within the Irish print media sector, given his ownership of a significant minority stake in the dominant Independent News and Media, and substantial holdings in the commercial radio sector.”

Mr O’Brien said in a statement that, despite the State broadcaster being mentioned, the report did not focus on RTÉ in any detail.

“There is no focus on RTÉ in the context of the largest media entity in Ireland, the only entity involved in TV, radio, and print, revenues subsidised by licence fees amounting to €178.9m,” he said.

“Sinn Féin is very diligent and adept when it comes to pushing its agendas, overtly and covertly.”

Mr O’Brien issued a strong defence of his media ownership, placing it in the context of an industry he described as being “in decline”.

“I am the owner of Communicorp which, like RTÉ, TV3, the Irish Examiner, and the Sunday Business Post operates in a very challenging environment. I understand The Irish Times is currently considering various funding options.

“I believe that some media companies will not survive this decade without radical structuring including substantial funding,” he said.

“This decline has been ongoing for many years and it threatens an industry that has served this country exceptionally well.”

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