BAI prepares for future within new Media Commission

Broadcasting regulation ‘in a period of transition’ ahead of expected transfer

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) expects to be fully integrated into the proposed new Media Commission within the next three years as part of the State's major expansion of media regulation to include social media and online streaming services.

In a strategy document published on Thursday, the BAI said it would be working with international as well as national stakeholders to develop a new regulatory regime for broadcast and online platforms.

“The media landscape has been transformed over the past decade,” said BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe.

“Significant developments in the regulatory environment are anticipated over the period of this strategy statement, including the transposition into Irish law of the revised EU audiovisual media services directive and the transfer of the BAI’s functions to a new Media Commission.”


Future challenges

Mr O’Keeffe said the BAI would continue its current work while ensuring it had “the capabilities to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead”.

Under the recently published general scheme of the Government’s Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, the BAI will be subsumed within the Media Commission, which will also regulate harmful online content as part of its wider remit. As with the BAI, the commission will be funded by an industry levy, with online services required to pay for the first time.

The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said last month that the Media Commission would have an executive chairperson, an online safety commissioner, an on-demand audiovisual services commissioner and a broadcasting commissioner, with the latter overseeing the current functions of the BAI and its staff.

Up to six commissioners may be appointed to allow the new body “react and adapt to changing circumstances”, with the commission expected to have four times the number of staff as the BAI.

Democratic importance

"A well-functioning media sector is of vital importance to all democracies, and media regulation in Ireland is entering a transformative stage, with the upcoming introduction, for the first time, of a regulatory framework for online safety and the establishment of a new Media Commission," said Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

Skills development, plurality of ownership, diversity initiatives and audience research were among the themes highlighted in the document.

BAI chairman Pauric Travers said media regulation had "struggled to keep pace" with the evolution in the industry, but was now "in a period of transition".

The values of the BAI would not be abandoned or diluted in the new era of regulation, he said.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics