Online safety legislation to include boost for broadcasters and public service media

Online safety legislation to include boost for broadcasters and public service media

Measures to assist community broadcasters, public service media and the radio sector will be incorporated into draft online safety legislation, ministers have announced.

The Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, which had reached committee stage when the Dáil was dissolved in January 2020, will now be integrated into the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.

Culture Minister Catherine Martin said both bills propose amendments to the Broadcasting Act 2009 and deal with levy issues, meaning integration “is important to avoid the potential for unnecessary confusion and duplication”.

She added: “Through integration, and as a result of the urgency attached to enacting the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, I expect the provisions of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill to be enacted earlier than if it remained as a standalone piece of legislation.”

The earlier bill would have given the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) greater powers to impose a levy on broadcasters and allocated it a portion of television license receipts. Under the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, the BAI will be replaced with a new Media Commission.

Some of the provisions of the earlier bill will be strengthened following integration, including a complete exemption for community broadcasters from the industry levy rather than a reduced levy.

The legislation will enable the Media Commission to be part-funded by licence fee or exchequer money, and thereby support a reduction in the industry levy for all broadcasters

There will also be provisions requiring prominence for public service content and providing greater flexibility in advertising time for the commercial radio sector, and provision for a bursary scheme for community and local radio stations.

Ms Martin said: “These measures will provide further support the broadcasting sector, which has played such an important part throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in providing reliable news and high quality entertainment to Irish audiences.”

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