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Broadcasting Bill – ‘A Good Bill, Which Could Be Better’

Mr. Willie O’Reilly has been appointed chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), the representative body for Ireland’s independent commercial broadcasters, both radio and television.

“Independent Radio and TV is the success story of the past two decades. Today, over 63% of the population (2,296 million listeners daily) tune into independent radio on a daily basis. The sector employs over 1500 people and contributes positively both economically and culturally to Irish society. Independent broadcasting is intertwined in the life of every community in the country”, said Willie O’Reilly, who is Chief Executive of Today FM.

Consumers in the 21st century are able to avail of a greater choice of media than ever before yet the success of Radio is largely undiminished. It is a very resilient medium.

“From the cackle of the ancient transistor to the modern wireless download radio has proved itself uniquely versatile. It is accessible walking, driving, at home, over the net and anywhere in the world. It is entertaining and informing. It is an important part of our culture and of our politics. It is a medium not just of the past and of the present but of the future. For radio, technology has brought renaissance and not redundancy” he said.

“But technology enables broadcasting and makes radio convenient. It does not of itself make it compelling. It is talented people who make good programmes and who keep our listeners tuned in and our audience growing. In turn advertisers can measure that success and invest accordingly”, he said.

O’Reilly’s appointment comes at a time when broadcasting in Ireland is undergoing considerable legislative change. The Broadcasting Bill is being debated before the houses of the Oireachtas and is likely to be enacted later this year.

“The broadcasting bill is a very comprehensive piece of legislation which will provide a modern legislative framework for broadcasting in Ireland. We welcome many aspects of the bill including the establishment of a single regulatory authority which will create a level regulatory playing field for national, regional and local broadcasters in Ireland. But there are aspects which we believe could be improved.

“Through the levy outlined in the Broadcasting Bill, members of the IBI will be financing the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and we believe that a seat on the Authority should be provided for an independent broadcaster. The views and position of independent commercial broadcasters need to be represented during discussions which will directly affect their day to day work and they will be able to provide members of the Authority with a detailed and in-depth understanding of the industry”, said O’Reilly.

“We also welcome the decision to fast track license approvals for those stations renewing their radio license uncontested, but the license should be renewed for 10 years, as a contested license is, and not 5 years as suggested in the current bill. No business can be run on a short term plan, which is what stations winning an uncontested license would be forced to do. It will make it difficult to attract and retain staff, difficult to justify investment in areas such as premises, equipment or staff training and be detrimental to the development of the sector”, he said.

The IBI is also advocating a change to the proposed advertising cap of 10 minutes per hour outlined in the bill arguing that there should be some flexibility and the cap averaged over 2 hours.

“Live radio broadcasts can be often run over skewing radio ad breaks. Averaging the cap over 2 hours would provide more free-flowing radio and a better listening experience. Such a move would not only eliminate petty breaches and the administration requirements that accompany these breaches”.

O’Reilly is very upbeat about the continued growth of independent broadcasting and believes that the broadcasting bill will ultimately result in a more level playing field and increased opportunities for IBI members.

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About the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland
The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) is the representative body for Ireland’s independent commercial broadcasters, both television and radio. The mission of the IBI is to champion the agenda of independent broadcasters in Ireland and to be a distinct and coherent national voice in the ongoing campaign for competitive equality across the sector.

The independent voice of Ireland, over 63% of the population tune into independent radio on a daily basis. This translates into weekday figures of 2,296 million listeners. With more than 1500 people employed in the sector, independent broadcasters make a significant economic, social and cultural contribution to the Irish economy. The IBI represents 2 national radio stations, 1 national TV broadcaster, 4 regional radio stations and 27 local radio stations. For more information please visit: www.ibireland.ie