Following its establishment earlier this year, Coimisiún na Meán (the CNM) released its first work programme on 20 June 2023. This work programme (the 2023 Programme) sets out the primary objectives of the CNM for 2023 up to February 2024.
The objectives in the 2023 Programme include the following:
- Implementing new regulatory regimes for how online service providers deal with harmful and illegal content;
- Regulating broadcasting and on-demand services;
- Supporting the development of the wider media sector with funding schemes, together with initiatives to promote the Irish language, media literacy, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion in the media sector; and
- Building the CNM’s organisation.
The CNM has elaborated on how it will pursue these in the following ways.
The CNM’s aim for this area, specifically, is to reduce the risk of harmful and illegal online content. To achieve this, the CNM will focus on two areas: i) adopting online safety codes and ii) assisting with enforcing the EU’s Digital Services Act (the DSA).
Regarding the online safety codes, the CNM envisages that these will be legally binding sets of rules for video sharing platforms. These will set out the measures platforms must take to comply and will encompass areas such as the protection of minors from harmful online content, prevention of criminal offences, and the occurrence of hate speech against minority groups. The codes will be distinct from the DSA and will carry fines of up to 10% of global turnover. The CNM will issue a call for inputs on these codes in the second quarter of 2023. They will also designate the video sharing platforms that fall under the codes at the same time. These designations will be made according to the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
For the DSA, the CNM plans to place greater emphasis on this legislation at an Irish level. The CNM will be Ireland’s “digital services coordinator” under the DSA. The CNM will expect platforms to follow the rules in the DSA such as the prohibition on manipulative user interfaces, and the requirements for greater protection of children. The CNM will engage with Irish stakeholders regarding DSA procedure and policies in the third quarter of 2023.
The EU Commission will still hold primary responsibility for enforcing the DSA for very large online platforms (VLOPs). The CNM may still have some room to enforce the DSA against those VLOPs based in Ireland (provided there is no EU investigation already open). The CNM itself notes this role in the 2023 Programme due to the large number of VLOPs with European headquarters in Ireland.
Broadcasting and Video On-Demand
The CNM will establish a scheme for determining broadcasting and video-on-demand (VOD) complaints while also implementing new media service codes. The CNM will also publish a register of VOD services established in Ireland. A 5 year review of funding for public broadcasting will also take place. Finally, the 2023 Programme also mentions that the CNM will examine the potential for a new national radio station.
The CNM will focus on various funding schemes to support Irish media, including journalism, archiving, and broadcasters. The CNM will also continue funding schemes previously operated by the BAI.
A new Gender, Equality, Inclusion and Diversity strategy will be published by the year end which will outline the standards to be adopted in media. Finally, the CNM will begin a review of the provision of Irish language services for this year.
Building the Organisation
The CNM wishes to grow its staff numbers considerably. Currently they have 50 staff members with approval to increase that to 160. The CNM hopes to also diversify its staff roles, setting up teams in the organisation with specific functions. These will include the supervision of platforms, formal investigations, broadcasting regulation, and media development, among other roles. The CNM will implement an industry levy to fund this expansion.
The 2023 Programme specifies targets and end dates for the various objectives. The latest of these is in the first quarter of 2024. As the CNM chairman notes in the 2023 Programme, this is an ambitious set of objectives but the organisation looks forward to pursuing these and to engaging with stakeholders in Ireland and the EU.