NUJ welcomes INM plan to walk from Celtic Media acquisition deal

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was due to rule on contentious takeover

Independent House: the acquisition of Celtic Media by Independent News and Media  would have increased its share of provincial newspaper titles from 13 to 20. Photograph: Fran Veale

Independent House: the acquisition of Celtic Media by Independent News and Media would have increased its share of provincial newspaper titles from 13 to 20. Photograph: Fran Veale

 

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has welcomed the news that Independent News and Media (INM) will not be acquiring the regional newspaper group Celtic Media.

In a statement, the two companies confirmed they were walking away from the proposed €4 million takeover.

Celtic Media publishes the Westmeath Independent, Westmeath Examiner, Anglo Celt, Meath Chronicle and Connaught Telegraph newspapers, along with a number of freesheets.

“Following discussions, INM and Celtic Media Newspapers Ltd have taken a decision to move forward on a separate footing,” the two companies said in a joint statement.

The acquisition of Celtic Media by INM would have increased its share of provincial newspaper titles from 13 to 20. It was opposed by the NUJ on the grounds that it would weaken media diversity in Ireland.

The decision was announced just four days before Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was expected to rule on whether the deal could go ahead.

Merger examination

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was charged in January with conducting a full media merger examination of INM’s deal to buy Celtic Media. It reported to the minister on May 9th and he has 20 working days to consider the matter. Those 20 working days are up on June 8th.

The involvement of the broadcasting regulator in a proposed deal between two newspaper groups was triggered under cross-media ownership regulations because INM’s biggest shareholder is Denis O’Brien, who owns the radio group Communicorp.

NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley expressed surprise at the last-minute decision by both companies to walk away from the deal.

However, he added: “The proposed acquisition, if approved, would have further undermined media diversity in Ireland.”

Mr Dooley said he worked with Celtic Media and its chief executive, Frank Mulrennan, on the terms of a management buyout of the company in June 2012.

Viable business plan

He said the NUJ had worked closely with management and staff to put a viable business plan in place to secure the future of the newspapers, which employ 98 staff.

“Staff embraced change and accepted pay cuts in order to protect the company. We opposed the INM acquisition of the titles for the same reason that we welcomed the original management buyout – the protection of media diversity. The issues raised by the BAI report are of fundamental importance and we call on Mr Naughten to publish the report regardless of the decision of the parties.”