Irish Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 signed into law

December 16, 2022

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 has been signed into law. It amends the Broadcasting Act 2009 to establish Coimisiún na Meán (a multi-person Media Commission), dissolves the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, establishes a regulatory framework for online safety, updates the regulation of television broadcasting and video on-demand services, and transposes the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into Irish law. The new Media Commission will also be Ireland’s designated regulator under the EU Digital Services Act.

The regulatory framework for online safety will be overseen by an Online Safety Commissioner, who will have the powers to make binding Online Safety Codes to hold designated online services to account for how they tackle the availability of some of the most serious forms of harmful online content. The Commissioner is also given powers under the Act to introduce an individual complaints mechanism on a phased basis, focusing initially on children. It can also order the removal or limitation of availability of specific items of harmful online content, either following a complaint or on its own initiative.

Updates to the regulation of television broadcasting and video on-demand services will bring video on-demand services under statutory regulation for the first time. Providers of such services will, as broadcasters currently are, be subject to binding codes and rules, including in relation to advertising, accessibility and impartiality in news and current affairs.

The Act provides Coimisiún na Meán with new compliance and enforcement powers, including the powers to appoint authorised officers to conduct investigations of suspected non-compliance, to require the provision of information and to seek administrative financial sanctions of up to €20 million or 10% of turnover. Ultimately, providers of regulated services under the Act who remain in breach of the rules may be subject to criminal prosecution.

Coimisiún na Meán will also have a role in promoting media sustainability and development through a dedicated Media Development Commissioner. The Media Development Commissioner will be responsible for creating and maintaining funding schemes for media production and training, including schemes to support professional journalistic practices and future schemes envisaged under the Report of the Future of Media Commission. The Media Development Commissioner will also be charged with reporting on the feasibility of introducing a content production levy to find content production schemes, which Coimisiún na Meán will be empowered to make in consultation with Fís Éireann (Screen Ireland).