Irish broadcast regulator: O'Brien does not have 'undue control' over Irish media

Ireland’s broadcasting watchdog has ruled that Independent News & Media shareholder, Denis O’Brien, “does not have an undue amount” of control over media in the Irish Republic.

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) started a review of O’Brien’s Irish media interests in May after he took hold of 26 per cent stake in Independent News & Media, owner of the Independent and Independent on Sunday.

Raising his holdings to over a quarter of the company’s stock made O’Brien its second largest shareholder behind the O’Reilly family. Three of O’Brien’s closest associates were then appointed to the board of the newspaper group prompting a review by the watchdog.

The BCI launched its investigation saying the appointments gave O’Brien a “substantial interest” in the newspaper group and raised issues about his control of other media in Ireland.

In addition to substantial mobile communications holdings, O’Brien owns a string of radio stations in Ireland including a controlling interest in Newstalk, Today FM, Spin 1038 and Dublin’s 98.

However, the commission concluded yesterday that O’Brien does not have control of, or substantial interests in, an undue amount of communication media in Ireland.

The commission said: ‘The board was satisfied that Mr O’Brien’s substantial interest in Independent News and Media, coupled with his radio interests, do not constitute dominance in terms of his ability to influence opinion forming power in any of these franchise [different forms of media] areas.”

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