The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022 will, when enacted, formally dissolve the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, and establish a new regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, which will be responsible for overseeing the regulation of broadcasting and video on-demand services and the new regulatory framework for online safety. Coimisiún na Meán will also have functions relating to the promotion of an open, trusted and pluralistic media and online environment, including research, education, media literacy, the protection of children and journalistic and creative supports. Given that infringement proceedings have been launched against Ireland for the delay in the transposition of the revised audiovisual media services directive, which will be given direct effect in Irish law by the Bill, we are keen to see the legislation enacted by the summer recess. This would pave the way for formal establishment of an coimisiún by ministerial commencement order in the second half of this year.
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022 was initiated in the Seanad on 25 January last and moved to Second Stage on 22 February. Committee Stage of the Bill in the Seanad commenced on 26 April and continued on 28 April and yesterday, 4 May. The next Committee Stage session is scheduled for 10 May. Given the importance of an coimisiún, the Government has approved its establishment on an administrative basis prior to the enactment of the Bill. While an coimisiún will, as set out in the legislation, ultimately be funded through levies on regulated services, €5.5 million was secured in the 2022 budget to provide start-up funds to resource the establishment process.
A programme of work is now under way to secure the recruitment of key staff with the relevant skills and expertise to establish and lead an coimisiún and to lay the groundwork for the commencement of its regulatory functions. This includes managing the transition of BAI staff and functions to an coimisiún, while also ensuring the continuity of existing broadcasting regulation set out under the Broadcasting Act 2009.
The recruitment of the senior staff who will lead and manage an coimisiún is a priority.
Work is currently under way between my officials and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Public Appointments Service to secure the recruitment of those staff, including the executive chairperson and online safety commissioner, through open, transparent and effective public competitions. In light of the international reach of an coimisiún's remit, the recruitment process will commence with an executive search by the Public Appointments Service, to raise the profile and awareness of these critical posts. I expect that this process will commence in the current quarter.