Staffing in a new Media Commission will need to be adequate to its task of effectively regulating social and other media, according to Fórsa. In a submission to an Oireachtas committee currently scrutinising legislation that will establish the body, the union says staffing levels will need to be comparable – or even higher than – those of the Data Protection Commission.
Fórsa also noted that legislation establishing the commission specifically provides for a role for a recognised trade union to negotiate the transfer of staff from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). “This provision will ensure that the Media Commission has a body of staff at the outset with a significant level of experience not only in broadcasting but also in online regulation,” it said.
Fórsa’s predecessor IMPACT played such a role in past staff transfers in the broadcasting regulatory sector.
The union’s submission says BAI staffing levels have been inadequate since it was established on the eve of the last financial crisis. The agency sought additional staff resources in 2009 but, in the context of widespread cuts in public service jobs, these were never provided.
The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, which was replaced by the BAI, had approximately 42 permanent staff in 2008, but the BAI has operated with just 35 permanent staff for many years.
The Fórsa submission says this must change if the Media Commission is to be an effective regulator.
“The staffing complement of the Data Protection Commission has increased significantly in recent years to reflect the new regulatory responsibilities flowing from the introduction of the GDPR requirements.
“A similar transformation in media regulation is now underway. The breadth and scope of responsibilities that will fall on the Media Commission will be significant, and staffing in the new organisation will need to be comparable, if not greater, than is currently the case for the Data Protection Commission,” it says.
The commission is being established under the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which heralds new regulation of a range of media, including video sharing platforms. It also introduces a regime to tackle a range of online harms across social media services.
“The need for such regulation has been raised in a variety of contexts over the years, by civil society organisations and by many representatives in both Houses of the Oireachtas. Fórsa welcomes the fact that plans in this regard are now bring progressed,” according to the union’s submission.
It also pointed out that Ireland will come under increasing EU pressure to transpose the Audio-visual Media Services Directive.
“In this context, it will be essential that work on the operational structure and arrangements for the proposed Media Commission progresses in parallel with discussions on the Bill. This will enable Ireland to meet its obligations under the directive at the earliest possible point,” it says.
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