O'Brien gets approval on Today FM

Friday 30 January 2009 11.29
Denis O'Brien - Already owns two Dublin radio stations
Denis O'Brien - Already owns two Dublin radio stations

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) has today approved the proposed sale by EMAP to  Communicorp of Today FM and Highland Radio in Donegal, but has not approved the proposed sale of FM104 to the company owned by Denis O'Brien due to competition concerns.

Today's decisions have to sanctioned by the Competition Authority.

Today FM, FM104 and Highland Radio had been offered for sale by British Group Emap.

Mr O'Brien's company had proposed to buy the three stations for €200m, but the businessman already owns Newstalk, a share in East Coast Radio, Limerick's Spin South West and Dublin stations 98FM and Spin103.8.

Buying three more stations gave rise to significant competition issues, so the BCI gave permmission for Denis O'Brien's firm to buy two, as otherwise Communicorp would own three Dublin music stations.

The final say on the issue will go to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Micheál Martin. 

The BCI said today it was satisfied that Communicorp will not hold an 'undue amount of communications media' in the State or Donegal (North) following completion of the proposed acquisitions of Today Fm and Highland radio.

However, it was not satisfied that an acquisition of FM 104 would not leave Communicorp with an undue amount of the communications media in the Dublin area.

The Commission said that among the factors it it had considered was the context of the totality of the communications media in the area specified, and an examination of the applicant's ability to influence opinion-forming power and its dominance of the audience share of any communications media in which it held an interest.

Communicorp has not yet said what its next step will be, but largely that is out of the company's hands, as the purchase of Today FM and Highland Radio still have to be sanctioned by the Competition Authority.

Following the decison the National Union of Journalists today called on the Government to establish a commission to examine media ownership.

Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ, called on Mr O'Brien to confirm that Communicorp would recognise existing collective agreements and recognise the right of employees to trade union representation.

The NUJ is also asking that ministerial approval for the acquisition of the two stations should be dependant on commitments in relation to trade union recognition and employment standards.