Media law to 'reflect public interest'

Fri, Jul 27, 2012, 01:00

Legislation on media mergers to be published in the autumn will place “a strong premium” on the public interest, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a speech to the MacGill summer school in Glenties yesterday, Mr Rabbitte said the legislation would have regard to principles outlined by the Sreenan report on media mergers published several years ago.

“I think that undue concentration of the media is something that has to be guarded against,” Mr Rabbitte said.

“The media is different. The media has a significant formative influence on the character of our very democracy and on the character of public discourse. For that reason, plurality of views, the representation of a plurality of views is very important. So I think we have to, insofar as we can in our legislation provide for diversity of content and diversity of ownership.”

He was speaking following confirmation from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it did not to take any immediate action in relation to the media interests of Denis O’Brien.

“There is a Bill in gestation. It will be published in autumn. It will have regard to the Sreenan principles, which was a committee [on media mergers] established a few years ago to look at this issue, headed up by Mr [Paul] Sreenan SC,” Mr Rabbitte said.

“It places a very high premium on the public interest and the legislation will have significant regard to that report.”

On the Press Ombudsman, Mr Rabbitte said that office “does seem to have the capacity to resolve disputes in an immediate and low-key way”.

His cabinet colleague, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, had earlier said he did not believe the ombudsman had been very effective.

“Perhaps you’re right it hasn’t been tested yet. But it seems to me for an architecture put in place on a non-statutory basis, that it’s performing quite well,” Mr Rabbitte said.

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