Comisiún na Meán announce Work Programme | Fieldfisher
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Comisiún na Meán announce Work Programme



The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 (“the Act”) provides for the establishment of a new regulator with responsibility for the introduction and enforcement of a new regulatory framework for online safety. The Media Commission or Comisiún na Meán (“the Commission”) assumed responsibility for this role on 15 March 2023.
The Commission have this week published their first work programme which sets out the Commission's objectives for the year ahead:
  1. Implementing new regulatory regimes for how online service providers deal with harmful and illegal content
  2. Regulating broadcasting and on-demand services
  3. Supporting the development of the wider media sector with funding schemes., together with initiatives to promote the Irish language, media literacy, as well as equality, diversity and inclusion in the media sector.
  4. Building the Commission organisation.
In this article, we aim to look at points 1 and 2 above.  

1. Online Safety

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022

Section 45 of the Act inserts Part 8A into the Broadcasting Act 2009. Part 8A of the Broadcasting Act 2009, as amended, relates to "Online Safety" and aims to minimise the availability and spread of defined categories of harmful online content by regulating the activities of relevant online service providers through online safety codes.

The Commission has responsibility under the Act for designating the relevant online service providers that are to be subject to online safety codes. The Act requires the Commission to designate as a category of online services, the video-sharing platform services (VSPS) the provider of which is under the jurisdiction of the State.

The Commission has indicated in their work programme that they will be holding a consultation on category designation for VSPS’s during Q2 of this year with the aim to have decisions made and a VSPS register published by year end. Once an online service is designated, the Commission must determine which online safety code(s) applies to that service.

According to the Commission's Work Programme, the Online Safety Code ("OSC") will include measures that VSPS must take to address matters such as ‘the protection of minors from harmful video content, hate speech against groups with protected characteristics, and criminal offences, including those related to terrorism, child sex abuse material and racism’.  

The Commission has outlined that it will shortly issue a call for inputs about the OSC and will consult on a draft OSC later on in the year. It is expected that the OSC will be adopted by the Commission in Q4.

Additionally, and separate to the OSC, the Commission has indicated that it expects to consult, as required, on the procedures and guidelines stemming from the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2021/784) during Q4 of this year. It is anticipated that the procedures and guidelines will then come into effect in early 2024.  

EU Digital Services Act

The Irish Government has decided that it will designate the Commission as the Digital Services Coordinator ("DSC") under the EU Digital Services Act ("DSA"). The DSA came into force on 16 November 2022 however, it will not be fully applicable across the EU until 17 February 2024, being the date by which EU Member States need to empower their DSC's. The General Scheme of the Digital Services Bill 2023 was published on 20 March 2023.

As the DSC, the Commission will have a key supervisory role in the enforcement of the DSA. The DSC is a newly established role and the Commission has indicated that there will be engagement with stakeholders on DSA procedures and policies in Q3, with decisions on DSA procedures and policies being made in Q4, in advance of full implementation of the DSA by 17 February 2024.

While the Regulation is not fully applicable until 17 February 2024, for very large online platforms and very large online search engines, the new rules are operative from an earlier point. Once designated by the European Commission as a very large online platform ("VLOP") or very large online search engine ("VLOSE"), those online platforms and/or search engines will have 4 months to comply with the obligations under the Regulation, including carrying out and providing the first annual risk assessment exercise. VLOP's and VLOSE's are obliged under the DSA to take reasonable, proportionate and effective mitigation measures, tailored to their specific systemic risks. As matters stand, the European Commission has designated 19 VLOP's and VLOSE's.

It is notable that 11 out of 19 of the currently designated VLOP’s and VLOSE’s have European headquarters in Dublin.

If you are or think you may in the future be designated as a VLOP and/or VLOSE then it is encouraged that you engage both with the European Commission and the Commission over the coming months.

2. Broadcasting and Video-on-Demand

The Commission have announced that they will establish a new scheme for determining broadcasting and video-on demand (VOD) complaints. It is anticipated that this new procedure will be established in Q3 of this year.

The Commission will also update and implement new media service codes with a consultation on changes to the codes due to take place in Q3 of this year. It is anticipated that the updated codes will be implemented by year end.

In accordance with Section 9 of the Act, which inserts Part 3A into the Broadcasting Act 2009, the Commission have announced that they will publish a register of all VOD services. The Commission anticipates that all VOD services will be notified of registration decisions by year end when the first register is also expected to be published.  Those deemed to be registered will be required to comply with the codes once they have been implemented.

3. Moving forward:

Jeremy Godfrey, Executive Chairperson of the Commission submitted that “there is much to do and the clock is ticking”. We therefore anticipate a busy few months ahead for all relevant stakeholders.

The full work programme can be found here. If you would like to view our previous article on the Online and Safety Media Regulation Act 2022, please click here.

If you require any advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Sinéad Taaffe or Damien Watson of this office.

Written by: Sinead Taaffe and Damien Watson

Areas of Expertise

Public and Regulatory