Ireland’s Content, Trust & Safety, AVS & Broadcasting Regulator Publishes Plan of Action

Coimisiún na Meán published its first Work Programme on 20 June 2023. Coimisiún na Meán has responsibility for regulating broadcasting services, online safety and on-demand video services in Ireland. It was established in March 2021, taking on the staff and functions of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

The Work Programme addresses three different areas of responsibility:

  1. Online Safety and the Digital Services Act
  2. Broadcasting and Video-On-Demand
  3. Media Development

The programme also focuses on the governance and structure of the organisation itself.

The initial programme will run until February 2024, at which date the Coimisiún will begin enforcing its obligations under the EU Digital Services Act alongside its present functions under the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022.

Online Safety and the Digital Services Act

Coimisiún na Meán has responsibility for regulating many large online platforms and search engines established in Ireland. The programme acknowledges the international focus of the Coimisiún in protecting EU and Irish users in relation to platforms based in Ireland.

This year, they will focus on implementing two new laws related to harmful and illegal content, one national (the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022) and one EU law (the Digital Services Act). They intend to develop and adopt an online safety code for video-sharing platforms, setting out specific requirements in relation to:

  1. Protecting minors from harmful video content,
  2. Protecting the general public from hate speech directed at protected groups, and
  3. Protecting the general public from content depicting criminal offenses, such as terrorism and racism.

The Coimisiún will designate video-sharing platforms in accordance with Directive (EU) 2018/1808 (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive) and make the online safety code binding upon them.

Additionally, the Coimisiún will prepare for its role in enforcing the new EU Digital Services Act, which sets rules that platforms must follow. The Coimisiún will begin enforcing the DSA in February 2024. The DSA includes requirements on how platforms handle complaints about harmful and illegal content, a prohibition on manipulative user interfaces, and requirements for a high level of protection for children. It will be interesting to see how the Coimisiún can reconcile the obligations regarding its independence under the DSA whilst acting as a collective of regulators, and the fact that there are two laws dealing with similar content with similar objectives. There has been no notification to the TRIS mechanism of either of these two laws. Coimisiún na Meán will assist the European Commission in implementing the obligations for 19 Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) identified by the European Commission, 11 of which have their European headquarters in Ireland.

Broadcasting and Video-On-Demand

The Coimisiún will update and implement new media service codes and rules. The organisation will establish a new scheme for determining broadcasting and video-on-demand complaints. A register of Video-On-Demand services established in Ireland will also be published and maintained by the Coimisiún.

There will be a 5-Year Review of funding for public service broadcasting and to explore the feasibility of a new national radio station, including perhaps an Irish-language youth radio station. In Q3 this year the organisation will address the issue of the prominence of public service content and explore steps to ensure that content is easily available and visible on all platforms. With such governmental, trade union, and media focus on public service broadcasting ongoing at the moment, the Coimisiún will play an important role in this national dialogue.

Media Development

The Coimisiún operates a number of funding schemes to support the development of content for Irish audiences, including the Sound & Vision scheme for valuable broadcast content, two new journalism schemes for local courts and democracy reporting, and an archiving scheme for preserving Irish cultural heritage.

The Coimisiún has said it will continue the media development activities previously conducted by the BAI, including the implementation of a sectoral learning and development programme. The Coimisiún will also develop media literacy initiatives to aid the public in critically appraising media content.

Coimisiún na Meán intends to conclude a Gender, Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity strategy for the media sector by year-end to ensure greater representation in these important areas across all media.

They will also review the provision of Irish language services across the media landscape. The organisation will explore areas of closer cooperation between media organisations on both sides of the border in relation to the Shared Island Initiative. The Coimisiún has said it will establish a working group with Sport Ireland, to develop a strategic plan for sports broadcasting, as recommended by the Future of Media Commission Report.

Organisation Development

The Coimisiún currently stands at 50 people with approval to expand to 160 with the launch of a recruitment campaign following the publication of the work programme.

There will also be an industry levy introduced in order to fund the Coimisiún. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 provides that the Coimisiún may make a levy order on providers of audiovisual media services, sound broadcasting services and designated online services.

With a very broad mandate, and hints that regulation under the draft EU AI Act may be added to its remit, the Coimisiún faces a very busy period. If you would like to discuss any of the aspects of the Coimisiún’s plans or remit with us, please contact Deirdre Kilroy or Megan Kearns.

Written by Deirdre Kilroy, Megan Kearns and Aideen Mahon.

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