Journalists hit out at guidelines on media mergers
NEW guidelines on media mergers in the Republic reflect an abject failure of the government to tackle powerful media interests", the National Union of Journalists has claimed.
The NUJ's Irish secretary Samus Dooley said the guidelines, published yesterday, did nothing to "break the stranglehold on media ownership by a few powerful groups and individuals".
He said he was disappointed communications minister Alex White did not consider the establishment of a commission on the future of the media in the Republic.
Mr Dooley said titles owned by Independent News and Media account for more than 40 per cent of all national newspaper sales, while three media groups own 23 of the Republic's 37 radio stations.
"We need an independent commission to examine all aspects of media ownership and control," he said.
"We need politicians to realise that media ownership and control is an issue of fundamental importance to democracy."
The guidelines came as billionaire businessman Denis OBrien was accused of wielding a Sword of Damocles over the media in the Republic.
The Irish government has appointed a former judge to investigate the running of the state-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) following a legal row involving Mr O'Brien, who controls Independent News and owns two national radio stations.
The Commission of Investigation will be led by retired High Court judge Daniel OKeeffe.
A court will also decide tomorrow if an injunction will be lifted, allowing RT to report on Mr OBriens financial dealings with IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank.
RTs lawyers argued yesterday that the injunction had become pointless because all the key details are now in the public domain following comments made in the Dail under parliamentary privilege.
They claimed the media mogul was trying to hold a Sword of Damocles over journalists in the south.
Lawyers for both Mr OBrien and the IRBC opposed lifting the injunction.
Meanwhile, the Commission of Investigation into IBRC is to investigate claims made by Sinn Fin's Pearse Doherty in the Dil on Tuesday evening.
The Donegal TD claimed Mr OBrien had made three attempts to extend a 315 million loan agreement with liquidators. A fourth attempt was accepted after the 2013 expiry date amid the threat of legal action.
During a two-day debate on the inquiry, Mr Doherty also claimed that Mr OBrien and IRBC had struck a deal whereby the latter would would receive 92.02 per cent of all Digicel dividends in excess of $50 million as part of a loan repayment agreement.
IBRC's special liquidators have disputed the TDs claims, describing them as inaccurate and misleading.
However, the Republics finance minister, Michael Noonan, yesterday confirmed that issues raised by Mr Doherty would be covered by the commission.
Announcing the appointment of Mr Justice OKeeffe, Mr Noonan told TDs the body would have the power to investigate any transaction that gave rise to concerns.