Written Answers. - Newspaper Industry Report.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

78 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has received the promised report on the Irish newspaper industry from the competition and mergers review group; when she will introduce legislation to deal with the recommendations in the report of the newspaper commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22269/98]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Questions Nos. 66 and 132 on Tuesday, 3 November 1998.

On 6 November 1997 I stated in the House that I had requested the competition and mergers review group, a body established by my predecessor to review the corpus of competition law, to examine how certain competition recommendations pertaining to newspapers might be enacted into law and to report back to me. The chairman of the group expects to publish a discussion document on this issue shortly. The final overall report and recommendations of the group including its recommendations on legislation will be considered by me in due course.

The Commission on the Newspaper Industry which reported in June 1996 contained many recommendations, a number of which concerned competition and which related to my Department as follows: — that a ban be placed on the sale of newspapers at below average marginal cost, that, in exercising powers to control changes in ownership of newspapers, the Minister should take into account the following factors — the competitiveness of the industry, the plurality of newspaper ownership, the plurality of titles, the diversity of views in Irish society and the maintenance of cultural diversity; that consideration be given to amending merger legislation to widen the powers to regulate not only the acquisition of shares but also the acquisition of control over newspapers by other means; that issues of concentration in the media should be considered on a media-wide as well as on a single media basis.
As regards the first recommendation, the National Newspapers of Ireland have been informed that this issue was examined by the previous Minister and independent legal and economic advice was sought on this difficult issue. I also considered it but considerable difficulty has been encountered in attempting to formulate in law a mechanism which would be effective and workable while at the same time being in compliance with European Union law. I have decided to concentrate on the other competition recommendations in the Report of the Commission on the Newspaper Industry and these are the subject of the review groups deliberations.