Varadkar hints at media legislation
Privacy laws should be considered here to protect the public and media merger legislation is required to prevent the emergence of "an Irish Berlusconi", Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.
Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties, Mr Varadkar said he didn't believe the Press Ombudsman here had been very effective.
Responding to a questioner during a session on the media and democracy, the Minister said he hadn't given the question of a statutory press ombudsman a great deal of thought.
"But what I do think we would benefit from though is some proper privacy legislation. That hasn't been the case, and was attempted by Michael McDowell and wasn't seen through. I think that's something that probably would protect the public better."
Asked if it was something the Government was considering, he said: "Not that I'm aware of."
Mr Varadkar said the Government needed to bring in media mergers legislation to prevent excessive dominance in the media. It would have to be done in the next Dáil session or the one after, he said.
On media ownership, he said: "No society can benefit from an excessive concentration of media ownership in the hands of one individual or one company and legislation. We definitely do not want to have an Irish Murdoch or Berlusconi, and legislation to address this is long overdue."
The Minister said that one of the more frustrating aspects for Government Ministers had been the demand from the media for 'real political reform' coupled to "their total disinterest in it when it happens".
"Objectively, this government has implemented more political reform in a year than the last one did in three five year terms," he said.
The "loneliest places" in Leinster House were the seats reserved for members of the press down in the committee rooms, he said.
"The 20 minute show at Leaders’ Questions makes better news."
Mr Varadkar said if you spent too much time reading the papers or listening to the radio, "you’d think nothing has been done to bring about a new politics in our State.
"Of course, a lot more needs to be done, and this must only be a start, but for those of us who believe in reform, who really embrace the new politics, it is harder and harder to maintain momentum and win the internal battles for reform, when we are given no credit for what has already been achieved."
Mr Varadkar said politicians and journalists had "a co-dependent, almost symbiotic" relationship. "We don’t always like each other or trust each other but we need each other to survive."