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Ireland to review media merger laws – minister

The Irish government is setting up an advisory group to review legislation governing media mergers, the minister for enterprise, trade and employment said.

“I believe that it is appropriate in the context of the current review of the Competition Act 2002 to have a specific look at the existing criteria and arrangements for considering and assessing how a proposed merger might affect the diversity of views and the concentration of ownership within and across media businesses,” Minister Micheal Martin said in a statement on Sunday.

The Observer newspaper reported that Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien plans to buy Dublin-based newspaper owner Independent News & Media and sell its loss-making UK title, The Independent. O’Brien has criticized IN&M’s management harshly in the past year, alleging cronyism at the company which is dominated by the O’Reilly family, who in turn branded O’Brien a “dissident shareholder” on Thursday.

Executive Chairman Anthony O’Reilly owns almost 27% of the company and his son Gavin is chief operating officer. O’Brien owns 21% of the group. The company has argued that the rules that prevent individuals or companies from owning large cross-holdings in print and radio needed to be tightened, the Irish Examiner newspaper said.

The Department of Enterprise however denied that its inquiry had been spurred by IN&M’s actions, adding that it had been planning the announcement for weeks, the Irish Times reported. (Reuters)