54 July-August 2023 July-August 2023 PB
hree months after taking over the
functions of the now defunct
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland,
three commissioners laid out their
wares at a press briefing on the future
of Irish media regulation on the eve of
midsummers day.
The commissioners — broadcasting
commissioner Celene Craig, media development
commissioner Rónán Ó Domhnaill and executive
chairperson Jeremy Godfrey — comprise the
Media Commission, more commonly styled as
Coimisiún na Meán, presumably to avoid
confusion with the similarly named Future of
Media Commission now styled FOMC in ocial
jargon, which reported in 2021. The FOMC
report, provides a road map for the
An Coimisiún has been given the extraordinary
– some might say impossible – task of regulating
not just terrestrial Irish television and radio like
its predecessor, but also video-on-demand
services (Netflix, Amazon, Apple and the rest),
and, thanks to Online Safety commissioner,
Niamh Hodnett, the regulation of most major
social media players.
And although they were not mentioned in the
briefing, it is dicult to see how the regulator
could oversee video services, but not on-demand
audio from distributors such as Spotify.
The reach of the commission is limited to
companies with a corporate presence in Ireland,
but the result of Irish tax laws and decades of IDA
foreign direct investment eorts mean that
number includes most of the significant Silicon
Valley forces. In eect, much of the customer-
facing side of the internet may end up regulated
by a small team in Dublin.
Digital regulations coming from Brussels
mean An Coimisiún may have an even wider
impact, working with or on behalf of the EU
Commission to regulate internet giants.
Currently, An Coimisiún has about 50 sta to
Coimisiún na Meáns agenda includes: reviews of existing commercial
licences and a potential new national independent station; proposals for
a new youth Irish language radio station; “democracy fundsfor court
reporting and local journalism; a review of funding for public service
broadcasting; and addressing Artificial Intelligence
carry out this herculean task, though it aims to
increase this to 160 by February 2024, at which
point they will be fully up and running and begin
enforcement of the EU’s digital Services Act in
addition to the powers already available to them
under the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the Online
Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022.“I don’t
think that [160 sta] will be enough, but it will be
enough to start”, Jeremy Godfrey said.
Ironically, the recent rounds of layos by the
Silicon Valley companies, mainly at the behest
of venture capital backers in order to drive share
prices, may make An Coimisiún’s task easier, at
least in hiring for technical roles to monitor and
There is a ready supply of programmers,
technicians and sysadmins who would no doubt
be happy to transmute from poachers to
Much of the work of An Coimisiún will be
funded through a system of levies on the
companies it regulates. It will also have the
power to levy significant penalties on companies.
Unlike the Press Council of Ireland, which is
not a statutory body, and is by design largely
toothless, relying on moral persuasion and
shaming to enforce its code of conduct, the new
commissioners will have several weapons in
Hail the new non-print media Regulator
Coimisiún na Meán: not to be confused with the de-commissioned
Media Commission whose report it is implementing
By Gerard Cunningham
their arsenal, whether or not they choose to use
A Press Ombudsman-mandated apology may
cause a few red faces at an editorial meeting, but
it doesn’t really aect the bottom line. It may
even be weaponised elsewhere in the same
media outlets as nanny-state over-reach and
woke liberal pearl-clutching.
The BAI exercised a similar control, with
broadcasters required to transmit the findings of
complaints upheld by the Authority.
The powers of the Online Safety Commissioner,
who is part of An Coimisiún, have been a
gamechanger in that respect, with the ability to
impose a fine of up to ten percent of turnover or
€20 million. That bites.
Meanwhile, An Coimisiún has a full agenda for
the next few years, with reviews of existing
commercial licences and a potential new national
independent station; proposals for a new youth
oriented Irish language radio station (Raidió na
g?); “democracy funds” to support court
reporting and local journalism eorts, and a
review of funding for public service broadcasting.
All of this is in addition to new challenges such
as the emergence of ‘artificial intelligence’ and
the impact of computerised ‘large language
models’ online.
Men Four (lef–righ): Rónn Ó Domhnill, Nimh Hodne, Jeremy Godfrey nd Celene Crig


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