Ireland: media concentrated in a few hands

In comparison with other western European countries Ireland’s print media displays a high level of concentration of media ownership. Almost half the daily and Sunday papers are owned by the Independent News and Media Group (INM), whose majority shareholder, businessman Denis O’Brien, also controls a number of radio stations.

The country's oldest newspaper (© picture-alliance/dpa)
The country's oldest newspaper (© picture-alliance/dpa)
In recent years critics have repeatedly called on the Irish government to introduce more regulations to counteract the concentration of media ownership. Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny declared in October 2016, however, that the freedom of the press was guaranteed and that no state intervention was necessary.

According to a study carried out by the Irish newspaper publishers, 70 percent of the population still reads newspapers on a regular basis. With a daily circulation of 102,000 copies the conservative daily The Irish Independent is the market leader. The country's oldest newspaper is the liberal Irish Times, founded in 1859, which in 1999 was one of the first papers to recognise the growing importance of the Internet and became a pioneer internationally in expanding its online service.

News websites such as Businessworld.ie and thejournal.ie are also successful. Around 85 percent of the Irish population uses the Internet.

Gaelic publications are the exception and are mostly subsidised by the state to promote the conservation of the Irish language, which 40 percent of the population still speak. The public television channel TG4 as well as six radio stations broadcast exclusively in Gaelic. In December 2008, however, the last Gaelic daily Lá Nua ceased publication.

In accordance with the Anglo-Saxon liberal media model, political parties in Ireland have little influence on the press. Links with commercial interests are traditionally stronger. Both in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland British media are widespread. They adjust their content only slightly to cater to the Irish public.

The thirty-year-old conflict in Northern Ireland between unionist Protestants and separatist Catholics has at times led to restrictions on press freedom which affected the Republic of Ireland in particular. But since the Good Friday agreement of 1998 brought the Troubles to an end, press freedom has been guaranteed.

Press Freedom Rating:

Reporters Without Borders: 14th place (2017)
Freedom House: 17th place – status: free (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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