A Guide To Telecoms And Media In Ireland 2013

Author:Ms Helen Kelly
Profession:Matheson
 
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Communications policy

1 Policy

Summarise the regulatory framework for the telecoms and media sector. What is the policymaking procedure? Has the EU regulatory framework (including the market reviews) been fully transposed into your national law, as far as currently required?

The Irish government's policy in the communications sector is to open up electronic communications networks and services. The stated policy in relation to broadcasting is to serve Irish society by regulating, shaping and supporting the broadcasting environment, so that broadcasting reflects Ireland's diverse and democratic nature. In terms of media ownership, the government's policy is to protect plurality of media by spreading ownership among individuals and undertakings. The minister for communications states the roll-out of broadband to be critical to Ireland's success.

The regulator for communications is the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), which was established by the Communications Regulation Act 2002 (as amended). The objectives of ComReg are set out in section 12 of that Act and in section 16 of the Framework Regulations (defined below), and include the promotion of competition, contributing to the development of the internal market and promotion of the interest of users within the EU. Com- Reg's objectives reflect the objectives set for the national regulatory authorities by the European Community in Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communication networks and services (Framework Directive), as amended by Directive 2009/140/EC (Better Regulation Directive).

ComReg also has as one of its objectives the efficient use and effective management of radio spectrum and numbers. It is also responsible for regulating premium-rate services. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) is the relevant government department responsible for the telecoms and media sector. In terms of policymaking and policy development procedure, the minister for communications, energy and natural resources (minister for communications) has powers to issue directions to ComReg, some of which are subject to public consultation prior to their issue. ComReg regularly conducts public consultations on regulatory issues. The framework within which ComReg regulates the electronic communications industry is largely driven by the European Commission and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

Ireland has implemented the European regulatory framework governing the electronic communications sector by way of primary and secondary legislation (the Irish Regulatory Framework). Primary legislation includes the Communications Regulation Act 2002 (as amended).

In 2011 a number of changes were made to the secondary legislation underpinning the Irish regulatory framework following the adoption of the EU electronic communications reform package in November 2009 (including the Better Regulation Directive, Directive 2009/136/EC (Citizens' Rights Directive) and Regulation EC No. 1211/2009 (BEREC Regulation)). Five new regulations were signed into law on 1 July 2011 to transpose the reform package, namely:

the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Framework) Regulations 2011 (the Framework Regulations); the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Access) Regulations 2011 (the Access Regulations); the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Authorisation) Regulations 2011 (the Authorisation Regulations); the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and User's Rights) Regulations 2011 (the Universal Service Regulations); and the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011 (the Privacy Regulations). ComReg took over from RegTel as the statutory independent regulator of premium rate services (PRS) in Ireland following the enactment of the Communication Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act 2010 on 12 July 2010. New regulations governing the provision of PRS were introduced in June 2012 (Communications Regulation (Licensing of Premium Rate Services) Regulations 2012) and ComReg launched a new code of practice for PRS which came into full effect on 25 July 2012.

ComReg is responsible for monitoring call-handling, fee-setting and quality of service relating to the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS), which is currently provided by BT Ireland Limited.

It is expected that the Consumer and Competition Bill will be published early in 2013. The bill is expected to include new rules on media mergers and provide for the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority. The Broadcasting Act 2009 established a single content regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) (see questions 3, 36 and 40).

2 Convergence

Has the telecoms-specific regulation been amended to take account of the convergence of telecoms, media and IT? Are there different legal definitions of 'telecoms' and 'media'?

The Framework Directive (transposed in Ireland by the Framework Regulations) provides that the convergence of the telecoms, media and information technology sectors means all transmission networks and services should be covered by a single regulatory framework. The statutory instruments implementing the European regulatory framework cover all electronic communications networks (ECN) and electronic communications services (ECS) irrespective of their means of transmission and regardless of the type of information conveyed.

An ECN means transmission systems and, where applicable, switching or routing equipment and other resources (including network elements which are not active) which permit the conveyance of signals by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic means, including satellite networks, fixed (circuit- and packet-switched, including the internet) and mobile terrestrial networks, electricity cable systems (to the extent that they are used for the purpose of transmitting signals), networks used for radio and television broadcasting, and cable television networks, irrespective of the type of information conveyed.

An ECS means a service normally provided for remuneration which consists wholly or mainly of the conveyance of signals on electronic communications networks, including telecommunications services and transmission services in networks used for broadcasting, but excludes services providing, or exercising editorial control over, content transmitted using electronic communications networks and services, and information society services, as defined in article 1 of Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998, which do not consist wholly or mainly in the conveyance of signals on electronic communications networks.

Media services could potentially be categorised as ECS depending on their method of transmission. Broadcasting licensing, content regulation and media ownership, however, are regulated separately and are not covered by the package of statutory instruments implementing the European regulatory framework. The statutory instruments implementing the European regulatory framework neither define nor make any explicit references to the terms 'telecoms' or 'media'. In February 2012 the minister for communications made a statement noting the move away from a traditional vertically integrated model of media provision towards a more disaggregated and internet-focused model, which has driven cross-media mergers with companies increasingly building a deliberately diverse portfolio of media interests. The minister also noted the challenge of adjusting to a changing market, and technological and social trends in a flexible and appropriate manner.

As mentioned in question 1, the Consumer and Competition Bill will amend the current legislation on media mergers. It is expected that the bill will include a definition of 'media' that explicitly includes news materials published on the internet.

3 Broadcasting sector

Is broadcasting regulated separately from telecoms? If so, how?

The broadcasting sector in Ireland is regulated by the Broadcasting Act 2009 (Broadcasting Act), which updated and modernised the legislative framework for broadcasting in Ireland by repealing a large proportion of the broadcasting legislation enacted in Ireland over the past 50 years. The Broadcasting Act established a single content regulator, the BAI, which took over the regulatory functions of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) and the RTÉ Authority (RTÉ). The Broadcasting Act also introduced stricter enforcement mechanisms and new financial penalties that result in television and radio stations facing fines of up to €250,000 if they infringe broadcasting codes of conduct or rules, or breach the duties of broadcasters within the Broadcasting Act or the provisions in respect of the recording of broadcasts and advertising or licence requirements.

Television broadcasting in Ireland was originally established under the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960. This established RTÉ as the regulator and operator of television broadcasting services, which now include RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2 and TG4 (the Irish language station) and the then-existing publicly owned radio services, which now comprise Radio 1, 2FM, Radió na Gaeltachta (the Irish-language station) and Lyric FM. TG4 was established as an independent statutory body in April 2007.

The Radio and Television Act 1988 (as repealed by the Broadcasting Act) provided for the establishment of commercially owned radio broadcasters both locally and nationally. It also provided for the establishment of a commercial television...

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