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Media ownership continues to be a hot topic in Ireland, say lawyers, with recent acquisitions, continued uncertainty about the future of radio stations and a marked level of concentration across national and regional newspapers.
Karyn Harty, McCann FitzGerald, highlights the insistent pressure on traditional media and the trend towards digital, which is reflected in the number of defamation claims.
She explained: “Claims against broadcasters have increased and there appears to be an increase in big ticket defamation actions, possibly a reflection of improving bottom lines post recession and greater willingness on the part of broadcasters and publishers to fight cases to trial.”
Claims related to online publication are expected to increase while featuring alongside printed copy causes of action.
Ms Harty noted: “We have noticed an increase in cases featuring complex legal issues, such as source protection privilege, and increasing use of discovery in defamation actions.”
She continued: “The outcome of Ryanair –v- Van Zwol and others, which ran for 7 weeks before a jury at the end of 2017 and in which the jury threw out Ryanair’s claim for damages for defamation, may deter some plaintiffs from suing. We are likely to see greater case management of larger cases in
the jury list but this is dependent on resolving the current chronic shortage of High Court judges.”
Controversy over media ownership and diversity followed the announcement of Independent News and Media’s proposed acquisition of Celtic Media Group, which was referred to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for a full merger review.
Acquisition plans were subsequently abandoned in June 2017 ahead of the BAI’s decision on the controversial deal, which raised concerns over media diversity.
Séamus Dooley, NUJ Acting General Secretary, commented: “We welcome the lifting of this significant threat to media diversity in Ireland. We were surprised by the last-minute decision of the companies to walk away from the deal. The proposed acquisition, if approved, would have further undermined media diversity in Ireland.”
Other developments include the impact of Brexit on data protection. David Phelan, Hayes Solicitors, noted: “We are already seeing an impact of Brexit in the data protection space as we are having to accommodate contracts where clients are involved in the UK, where transfer of data will be relevant.”
’s internal collaborative approach creates broad sector and service focus. The firm’s specialisation in media defence, commercial litigation, privacy and internet liability is driven by department head Karyn Harty. The team works on numerous defamation actions on behalf of long-standing clients Times Newspapers Ltd, Trinity Mirror and the Rehab Group.
William Fry has a “strong reputation in the area of defamation”. Clients highlight the firm as one of Ireland’s leading media law practices. Head of defamation and privacy Fiona Barry is described by clients as “thoughtful, responsive and provides pragmatic advice”. Head of media Ken Casey advises on a range of issues including entertainment, social media and data protection. The firm acts for clients including UTV, BBC, Daily Mail Group and Sky.
Arthur Cox has an established media practice with cross-border capability. Working from its Belfast and London offices, the firm advises on music, film, television and advertising. Under the leadership of Colin Kavanagh the team advised Savage Productions on the financing and production of various film and television projects. The team also assisted RTÉ Networks with regulatory aspects of third party broadcasting.
A&L Goodbody’s media team operates under the management of the firm’s IP and technology division. Areas of specialisation include broadcast, entertainment, publishing and online media. Lawyers advise on regulation, content licensing and copyright disputes.
With a dedicated sports law division, Mason Hayes & Curran lawyers regularly advise broadcasters, sponsors, sports-governing bodies, investors and athletes. Related focus areas include reputation management, personality and image rights along with dispute resolution. Working from a separate TMT division, media lawyers work with leading social media and search organisations on matters ranging from first round funding and strategic outsourcing partnerships to intellectual property management.
The media and entertainment division at Philip Lee specialises in film and television. Lawyers assist with feature films, animation series and television drama produced in Ireland. The team also advises on Ireland’s tax incentive for film and online distributed productions. Led by Jonathan Kelly, the practice is recognised among peers for its high visibility in sector-related cases.
Ronan Daly Jermyn’s areas of expertise include defamation, privacy and contempt of law. Lawyers acts for print, broadcast and digital media clients on media mergers, advertising, copyright and regulation. The firm advises radio and digital entities within the UTV Group and several regional newspaper titles.
Primarily a defence practice, Simon McAleese is among the country’s leading libel specialists. The media team acts for newspapers, magazine and book publishers, radio stations and independent television production companies. The firm is also known for its work in the area of data protection, copyright and reputation management.
Rachel Shanley manages the media division at Eugene F. Collins, which is known for its focus on traditional media content providers such as radio and television broadcasters. The team also provides pre-publication advice and litigates on behalf of clients in cases of defamation and privacy.
Johnsons is gaining recognition among peers, who highlight the firm for its increased visibility in media cases. Under the management of Paul Tweed, the team achieved record damages for plaintiff clients while representing national newspapers and publishers. The firm also works with clients from the music, sports and entertainment industries.
LK Shields lawyers have extensive experience advising on corporate transactions. The firm acted for Communicorp Group Limited, the largest radio operator in Ireland, in its acquisitions of foreign radio stations. In a separate case lawyers advised Alpha Newspaper Group with its acquisition of various newspapers. Other focus areas include film financing and production, music rights and defamation.
Lawyers at Matheson have in-depth experience advising on libel, contempt of court, freedom of expression and privacy laws. With a dedicated entertainment and media group, the firm is widely involved in contractual and financing arrangements for feature films and television programming. Head of division Ruth Hunter also advises on sector-related equity and tax-based arrangements.
Beauchamps Solicitors specialises in advertising, digital media and sponsorship. The team provides advice on content, online marketing, copyright protection as well as clearance advice on advertising copy. The practice is known for transactional work, sports law and product law.
The media division at DFMG Solicitors works within the firm’s intellectual property department, focussing on film finance, privacy and sponsorship and advertising agreements. Lawyers also advise on data protection and copyright.
Ranking and editorials
Mason Hayes & Curran
Ronan Daly Jermyn
Eugene F. Collins
Gleeson McGrath Baldwin
RANKING AND EDITORIALS