Media Notes (06-06-07)

This week’s media notes:

The BCI have launched an investigation into Denis O’Brien’s radio interests after he reached the important milestone of having a 25% share in Independent News & Media. As mentioned last week, this sizeable stake will allow O’Brien to block special resolutions at board level – for example he will be able to stop the issuing of new shares; a tactic which had been at IN&M’s disposal to diminish the impact of O’Brien’s land-grab. With O’Brien now just 4.9% away from having the maximum stake possible without making a takeover bid, it’s clear that the BCI/Government is anxious about the idea of having one man in control of Ireland’s most popular newspapers (The Irish Independent and Sunday Independent), two of its more popular tabloids (The Evening Herald and The Star*), a rake of its regional/local newspapers, its only two national commercial radio stations (Today FM and Newstalk), two of Dublin’s more popular radio stations (98FM and Spin FM) and two other regional stations (Spin South West and East Coast FM).
Read more: Arthur Beesley’s article details the investigation in The Irish Times (subs required).

One of the aforementioned newspapers, The Evening Herald, launched its website this week in what may well mark the beginning of the end for the offline newspaper in Ireland. The website is straight forward with plenty of scope for additional content – most importantly it follows its IN&M siblings and offers its copy for free. No subscription, no registration, no log-in.
Check it out: The Evening Herald’s new online home.

Multimedia company UTV has brought forward plans for a rights issue due to the worsening state of the global economy. The group, which operates the ITV franchise in Northern Ireland and is the biggest commercial radio operator in Ireland after Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp (and is a pretty big player in the British market too) hopes to raise Stg£50m by giving shareholders the chance to buy two shares for every three they hold at a price of 130p per share. Chief executive at UTV, John McCann, said the company was still in good shape and that the money raised would be used mainly to reduce debt. The reason plans to raise this money was brought forward is likely out of the fear that it would be harder to refinance its existing debt down the line, should the credit crunch tighten further.
Read more: Francess McDonnell and Ciarán Hancock in The Irish Times.(Subs required)

* Ownership of The Star in Ireland is split 50/50 between IN&M and Express Newspapers Ltd.

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