Broadcasting Commission of Ireland

Broadcasting Commission of Ireland

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) ( _ga. Coimisiún Craolacháin na hÉireann) is the regulator of the commercial broadcasting sector in Ireland. It is responsible for arranging the provision of television and radio services in additional to those provided by Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ). In addition, it is responsible for developing codes on advertising and other matters, which apply both its own stations and those of RTÉ.

The Commission awards television and radio programme contracts (typically called "licences", though the actual broadcasting licences are really issued by ComReg) by a "beauty contest" system. Typically the Commission will decide on the area and type of service to be provided. It then asks for expressions of interest, which will then lead to an actual contest for the contract. Each bidder for the contract submits a detailed business plan and programming proposals to the Commission, which then selects a preferred bidder. It will then conduct further negotiations before issuing the contract. However the Commission has limited ability to enforce contracts once issued. It can issue stations warnings or ultimately threaten them with the loss of contract, but this is regarded as a "nuclear option" and is often very unpopular with the stations' listenership. More often, it will try to negotatiate with the station in order to influence its programming. Only in one instance - Radio Limerick One - was a station's contract terminated mid-way through its run. In three further cases - North West Radio, Radio Kilkenny, and Carlow Kildare Radio - the stations contract was awarded to a different company at the end of its term. These decisions proved very politically unpopular and have led to calls for the BCI to automatically renew contracts unless there have been stated misbehavior. However as Independent Local Radio stations typically have a monopoly, this would mean no new enterants could ever enter the market.

The Commission was set up as the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC) under the terms of the [ Radio and Television Act, 1988] . This act allowed the first legal stations not operated by RTÉ to come into existence. Prior to this commercial broadcasting in Ireland had been unlicenced and illegal. Despite this a thriving pirate radio scene existed. The Act sought to bring this under a regulatory framework.

From 1989 onwards the Commission began to licence Independent Local Radio stations. It also sought to introduce a national radio and television service. But while ILR was very successful, both national efforts ran into difficulty. In the case of the radio service, Century Radio, it went bankrupt within months and was later replaced by Radio Ireland, now Today FM. Meanwhile the selected contractor for the television service TV3 Ireland, took eight years to find a backer before it finally went on air.

The [ Broadcasting Act, 2001] gave the Commission its present name and increased its powers. It can now issue contracts for broadcasting via cable, satellite, and most recently DTT under a different model from 2001 Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007, and can also develop codes in relation to various broadcasting activities. The first, a code on children's advertising, has proved highly controversial. Under the Broadcasting Bill 2008 [] the Commission will be abolished and its powers transferred to the new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's Contract Awards Committee. The BAI will also incorporate the role of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission for Ireland and also the regulatory powers of the RTÉ Authority and Teilifís na Gaeilge. While the contract award process will not be radically altered, the Authority will now have powers to fine stations rather than having to remove their contracts.

The Commission also operates the Broadcasting Funding Scheme or Sound & Vision which distributes 5% of the collected TV licence to projects on film, TV and radio. This is further to the Broadcasting (Funding) Act 2003. So far over €30 Million euro has been invested into the audio visual sector in Ireland as a result of the scheme, enabling 280 projects to be funded and broadcast in peak listener/viewer times.

ee also

*Communications in Ireland

External links

* [ Broadcasting Commission of Ireland website]
* [ BCI evolution into BAI planned for 2008 legislative incorporation]

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