New guidelines on the operation of the new media merger regime were published on 10 June 2015. Under the new regime, media mergers must be notified not only to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) but also to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The Minister is tasked withassessing, at Phase I, whether the “media merger will be contrary to the public interest in protecting plurality of the media” in Ireland. In doing so, s/he must have regard to a set of “relevant criteria”. The guidelines provide detail on the “relevant criteria”. They include, in relation to the media businesses of the merging parties and any other “relevant media assets” which they own:
- The ownership and control structure
- Market shares
- Governance structures and editorial ethos including future plans for the proposed merged entity
Other “relevant media assets” are defined as holdings which constitute a “significant interest” in a media business in the State, in other words, the ability to influence directly or indirectly the direction or policy of the media business. The guidelines state that a holding or voting strength of between 10% and 19% may constitute a significant interest and of more than 20% generally will constitute a significant interest.
Additional “relevant criteria” which the Minister must consider are:
- The content of each of the media businesses party to the merger
- The financial structure of the media businesses party to the merger
- The current scale and reach of the Irish Public Service Broadcasters, RTE and TG4
- The decisions and recommendations of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland under its licensing function and under its ownership and control policy
- Any commitments proposed by the parties
So far, only two media mergers have been notified to the Minister under the new media merger regime.