Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022
From Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
Last updated on
From Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
Last updated on
On 8 December 2020, finalised General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill a finalised General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill was published by Minister Catherine Martin.
At this time, he General Scheme was referred to the relevant Joint Oireachtas Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny, which was completed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media in November 2021 .
In addition, on 18 May 2021, Government approved the integration of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, 2019, into the OSMR Bill and the introduction of three further Heads of Bill.
Government approved the publication of the Bill on 12 January 2022. The Bill was then initiated in Seanad Éireann on 25 January 2022 and in Dáil Éireann on 11 July 2022 for consideration for enactment. The Bill underwent intense scrutiny in both Houses of the Oireachtas, including 30 hours in the Seanad and around 10 hours in the Dáil before being signed into law on 10 December 2022.
On 15 March, Coimisiún na Meán welcomed its formal establishment as the new authority responsible for overseeing the regulation of broadcasting and video-on-demand services and for introducing the new regulatory framework for online safety.
Input from and engagement with stakeholders, whether they are members of the public, companies, NGOs or other Government organisations, was vital to the development and progression of the OSMR Bill to enactment. This engagement will remain important going forward, particularly in the context of the work of the new regulator, Coimisiún na Meán.
Examples of stakeholder engagement undertaken in developing the General Scheme include:
• a public consultation was held between 4 March and 15 April 2019 to inform the drafting of the proposed Bill. A thematic analysis of the consultation responses was published on 25 July 2019;
• a virtual workshop on the regulatory framework for online safety was held on 18 June 2020. A summary of that workshop is available here ; and,
• briefing and feedback from the National Advisory Council for Online Safety National Advisory Council for Online Safety.
Examples of stakeholder engagement undertaken in developing and progressing the OSMR Bill to enactment include:
• extensive pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, a report of which is available here ;
• intense scrutiny in both Houses of the Oireachtas as part of the legislative process;
• numerous stakeholder meetings involving Minister Martin and/or the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, including with representative organisations such as Technology Ireland (Ibec), industry, children’s rights organisations like the Children’s Rights Alliance, and various other NGOs such as the Irish Heart Foundation and Samaritans Ireland.
There were already significant regulatory and legal frameworks in place in relation to many online issues, including data protection and criminal justice responses to criminal activities online. However, there was a serious gap both internationally and in Ireland when it came to addressing harmful online content. The new OSMR Act will close the legal gap and establish a robust regulatory framework to deal with the spread of harmful online content.
The Act will empower an Online Safety Commissioner, as part of the wider Coimisiún na Meán, to hold designated online services to account through binding online safety codes. These codes will set out obligations in relation to how these services tackle, at a systemic level, the availability of defined categories of harmful online content.
In the context of this legislation, harmful online content includes a range of offence-specific harmful online content, that being online content which is linked to one or more of 42 existing criminal offences in Irish law. For example, this includes online content by which someone distributes or publishes a threatening or grossly offensive communication about another person, or sends a threatening or grossly offensive communication to another person, contrary to the relevant offences from the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 , or Coco’s Law.
The Act also includes non-offence specific categories of harmful online content in relation to:
- Serious cyber-bullying material;
- Material likely to encourage or promote eating disorders, self-harm or suicide; and,
- Material which makes available knowledge of the means of self-harm or suicide.
Coimisiún na Meán will have robust monitoring, enforcement and sanction powers available to ensure compliance with binding online safety codes. As part of these powers, it may require the provision of information considered pertinent to assessing an online service’s compliance, appoint authorised officers to conduct investigations of suspected non-compliance, and if appropriate, seek the imposition of substantial administrative financial sanctions.
The OSMR Act also enables the Online Safety Commissioner to issue non-binding online safety guidance materials in relation to harmful online content but also to age-inappropriate online content, which includes pornography and gross and gratuitous violence.
The OSMR Act will also facilitate the completion of the transposition of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into Irish law. It will place the regulation of video on-demand services on a direct statutory footing and align the regulation of such services with television broadcasting services.
The Act will establish a more effective oversight and appropriate regulation of audio-visual media services established in Ireland. On-demand audiovisual media services will be required to register with An Coimisiún.
A provision for the introduction of a levy on television broadcasting services and video on-demand services available in Ireland to fund audiovisual content production in Ireland, subject to further research and recommendations by An Coimisiún, is included in the Act.
The Broadcast (Amendment) Bill 2019 , had reached Committee stage when the Dáil was dissolved in January 2020. However, it was considered that the Bill had been overtaken by events, including by the development of the General Scheme of the OSMR Bill. Therefore, on 18 May 2021, in order to avoid any confusion or uncertainty, the Government approved the integration of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, 2019, into the OSMR Bill.
The Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill, 2019 included a number of measures to support radio, particularly local community radio. These provisions from the Bill are carried over into the OSMR Act and even enhanced by, for example, providing that all community radio and television services will be exempt from paying an industry levy.
On 24 January 2022, in light of the strength of feeling among stakeholders, Minister Catherine Martin established an expert group to examine the possibility of providing for an individual complaints mechanism in the OSMR Act.
The expert group, in its report , backed the feasibility of such a mechanism, subject to certain dependencies being met. In addition, in light of potential issues around the volume of complaints, it recommended that the mechanism be phased-in over time. As a result, Minister Martin introduced amendments at Dáil Committee Stage which provide for the effect of the recommendations of the expert group and the legal basis for An Coimisiún to establish individual complaints schemes.
The following are key features of the OSMR Act:
• the establishment of a new multi-person media commission, to be known as Coimisiún na Meán; and
• the dissolution of the existing regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
• to impose industry levies to fund its operations;
• to require the provision of information from regulated services;
• to appoint authorised officers to investigate suspected non-compliance;
• to seek to impose administrative financial sanctions of up to €20 million or 10% of turnover in respect of non-compliance;
• to issue notices to end non-compliance;
• to seek the prosecution of senior management of designated online services for failure to comply with a notice to end non-compliance;
• to seek to block access to certain online services; and
• to issue content limitation notices to designated online services in respect of individual pieces of harmful online content.
• defining “harmful online content” by reference to defined categories of content, including a category containing a schedule of 42 existing criminal offences and three further categories relating to cyberbullying, the promotion or encouragement of eating disorders, self-harm or suicide;
• a process for defining further categories of harmful online content, subject to government approval and Oireachtas oversight;
• the making of binding online safety codes, which will tackle the availability of the categories of harmful online content by addressing a wide range of issues from content moderation, to complaints handling, to recommendation systems, to reporting, to advertising;
• a risk-based process for designating online services for regulation;
• the making of non-binding online safety guidance materials and advisory notices to further create and support a safety-first culture of compliance;
• a “super-complaints” scheme where nominated bodies, including expert NGOs in areas such as child protection, can bring systemic issues to the attention of the Media Commission; and,
• a legal basis for Coimisiún na Meán to establish individual complaints schemes which allow members of the public to submit complaints about individual items of alleged harmful online content directly to the regulator.
• the regulation of Video Sharing Platform Services on an EU-wide basis (incorporated under the regulatory framework for online safety);
• updates to the regulation of television broadcasting services and video on-demand services;
• a 30% quota for European Works in the catalogues of video on-demand services;
• greater flexibility regarding advertising placement for television broadcasters, moving from a 20% hourly limit to a 20% limit for certain blocks of hours, for example between 18:00 and 24:00; and,
• provision for a content production levy and content production scheme to support the creation of European Works, including independent Irish productions.
On 22 February 2023, Minister Catherine Martin signed the necessary Ministerial Orders to establish Coimisiún na Meán on an administrative basis with formal establishment commencing from 15 March 2023. Relevant sections of the OSMR Act 2022 were also commenced, including the provision for the:
• powers, duties, functions and operation of Coimisiún na Meán;
• updated regulatory framework for broadcasting and video-on-demand services;
• new regulatory framework for online safety; and,
• powers of investigation and sanction conferred onto Coimisiún na Meán.
The relevant Orders are:
On 15 March 2023, Coimisiún na Meán was formally established and four Commissioners formally appointed. An Coimisiún is being led by the following Commissioners, who were appointed by Minister Martin following an open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service:
• Jeremy Godfrey as Executive Chairperson;
• Niamh Hodnett as Online Safety Commissioner;
• Rónán Ó Domhnaill as Media Development Commissioner; and,
• Celene Craig as Broadcasting Commissioner.
Further information on Coimisiún na Meán, including its functions, are available on their official website .
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act was approved by Government, passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, and signed into law by the President on 10 December 2022. The Act was subsequently commenced on 15 March 2023.
Audiovisual Media Services Directive and OSMR correlation table