Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Mary Coughlan T.D., has published the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers, which was set-up by her predecessor to advise the Government on the current legislative framework regarding the public interest aspects of media mergers.
Media mergers are subject to the normal clearance provisions under the Competition Act 2002 with the exception that, regardless of turnover thresholds, all media mergers, must be notified. Such notifications have then to be sanctioned, first by the Competition Authority, and then by the Minister. According to the Group, since the Competition Act 2002 came into force, of the 89 media mergers which were notified to the Authority, 86 were given the green light immediately while the other three were sanctioned with conditions attached. All decisions were then rubber-stamped by the Minister. The Group has issued 11 separate recommendations to the Minister, including: that there should be a separate system of notification of media mergers to the Minister for clearance, that there should be an on-going periodic publication of indicators in relation to media plurality in the State, and that the definition of "media business" under Irish law should be amended to cover the publication of newspapers and periodicals over the Internet, as well as the broadcasting of certain audiovisual content online.
The Tánaiste will take the Group's recommendations into consideration as part of her wider review of the operation and implementation of the Competition Act 2002. It is her intention to bring forward legislation during the course of 2009 to reform aspects of Irish competition law and implement the merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority, which was announced in December 2008.