Updated: 12/01/17 : 05:18:33
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Sligo Champion owner faces BAI takeover review

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is to examine the implications of the proposed takeover of the Celtic Media Group of local newspapers by the Sligo Champion owners, Independent News & Media (INM).

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has confirmed he has sought a full review of the proposed merger.

In a statement, a Department of Communications spokesman said: “This assessment will be undertaken by the BAI, who will provide a report and recommendation to the Minister within 80 working days.

“In line with the Media Merger Guidelines and the relevant legislation, Minister Naughten proposes to appoint an advisory panel to provide an opinion to the BAI.”

The proposed deal would see INM gain control of seven regional newspapers, including the Anglo-Celt in Co Cavan, the Meath Chronicle and the Connaught Telegraph.

Last November the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission approved the acquisition of the Celtic Media Group by INM.

Celtic Media employs about 100 staff and is led by Frank Mulrennan, a former Irish Independent business editor.

Reports say that Mr Mulrennan – who led a management buy-out of Celtic Media in 2012 – will join INM as part of the transaction.

Opposed by NUJ

Along with the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and the Sligo Champion, INM already owns a number of local newspapers, including the Fingal Independent, the Kerryman, the Wexford People and the Bray People.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has opposed the takeover and had asked the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to block it.

The union said INM should not be allowed to further expand its newspaper stable, given its current dominant position in the Irish market.

The BAI will be asked to determine whether the proposed takeover has implications for media plurality.

The public will be allowed to make submissions on the deal to the BAI.

The Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment will be also be able to make a submission to the authority.

The INM group has said it is willing to co-operate fully with the BAI for the review.

“Consolidation within the print media sector, which is undergoing significant challenges,  is essential for its survival,” said the company in a brief statement.

“Combining these two groups of regional papers would strengthen the overall newspaper channel in Ireland.  Celtic Media Group’s publishing division comprises six weekly regional newspapers, a bi-weekly newspaper, and a pre-press service.  Celtic Media’s printing business is not part of the transaction."