Regtel, Realm and Regulation

I have a backlog of stories about media and communications law in Ireland – here’s the first of them.

Content and pricing for ‘premium rate’ services (whether traditional telephone or increasingly popular mobile content services) have been ‘regulated’ in Ireland by the industry initiative Regtel to date. However, it has been reiterated (by the Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan) that self-regulation is to be replaced by regulation through the Commission for Communications Regulation (Comreg). It could be argued that it’s closer to co-regulation, in that there are State nominees on the board (although it appears to be in a personal capacity rather than a fully formal one and the legal structure is a private sector one). In any event, the times they are a-changing. The Minister flagged this in a speech back in May (as reported by Silicon Republic at the time) and his recent comments are reproduced and welcomed by Labour’s Tommy Broughan here. If this is going to happen, it’s to be a part of the Broadcasting Bill (currently on its way to a Dáil committee having passed through the Seanad earlier in the year). At its most recent stage in the Dáil, we were treated to a lovely rant about how RTÉ is a left-wing organisation (reported with a raised eyebrow here). Don’t ask why it’s in the Broadcasting Bill – things always end up in the wrong place and it will probably be an amendment to the Communications Act made by way of a Broadcasting Act. Happens all the time – and given that Ireland still doesn’t have consolidated legislation, it’s an absolute pain. Anyway.

It’s not clear whether this is related to the upcoming case taken against the regulator by Realm Communications (news report from last week’s Irish Times here). Realm are looking for an injunction to prevent enforcement of a Regtel decision that they disagreed with (TJ McIntyre responds – with a brilliant headline – to an earlier Times report here. At the very least this would be an interesting case where the status of the self-regulatory body could be discussed. There has never been a direct parallel in Ireland of R v ASA ex p Insurance Services which found the ASA subject to English law on the judicial review of administrative actions and thus it would be interesting to see how that argument would go, if advanced; there’s a hint of it though in a recent case regarding the CAO but ultimately that case turns on a different point. In any event, I can’t link to the decision that is being challenged as Regtel doesn’t appear to publish its decisions (some are summarised in the annual report, which is useful if insufficient).

For some more (and infinitely more entertaining) commentary on Realm Communications see here. In the meantime, the same company, according to the Sunday Times of the weekend before last, wants to sponsor the Gerry Ryan show on RTÉ radio. Ahem.

2 Replies to “Regtel, Realm and Regulation”

  1. Daithi, greetings.

    One thing has always been clear. RegTel as a limited organisation has been regulating with out a remit since the 2003 Electronic Communications Framework. If you look at the various directive the NRA – ComReg has full control over the natural resource which is number (it is infinite).

    I have made this point in the various corridors around the city including in the NAP – Numbering Allocation Panel, under ComReg’s framework division.

    The challenge for regulators is the content – not the numbers, so it has suited NRAs e.g., Ofcom and ComReg to defer to ISCTIS and RegTel, but do they have the competence? One might suggest yes for content but no for numbering (where the money is racked up and in, be it sms or PRS – Premium Rate Service).

    Reminds me, I have a Net Neut paper for you.

    Hope the UK is treating you well!

    Ronan

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