MPs from all parties expressed their concern over the development of media ownership in Iceland at the Althingi parliament on Tuesday. The primary reason for their concern was news of Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson’s interest in 365 Media.
Raudsól, a company owned by Jóhannesson, who is also chairman of Baugur Group, is planning to take over the media operations of 365. Jóhannesson already holds a majority of shares in 365, Fréttabladid reports.
Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson. Copyright of image: Icelandic Photo Agency.
MPs also disliked the idea of a merger of Fréttabladid and Morgunbladid daily newspapers. It has been proposed that Árvakur publishing house take over publication of Fréttabladid, which is currently published by 365, and instead 365 would acquire a 36.5 percent stake in Árvakur.
Leader of the Progressive Party Gudni Ágústsson launched the parliamentary debate, expressing his surprise that Landsbanki Bank, which is now governed by a preliminary board of directors, had initiated Raudsól’s takeover of 365’s media operations.
Minister of Education Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir said it was very serious if one man could gain ownership of almost every media outlet in the country and agreed with Ágústsson that it was surprising that a state-owned bank had encouraged Raudsól’s investment in 365 Media.
Gunnarsdóttir said Landsbanki owed the nation an explanation of what the intention with their action had been.
Jóhannesson told Morgunbladid that he understood the concern of officials, agreeing that media ownership in the country should not largely be held by one person.
Jóhannesson therefore declared himself prepared to reduce his share in the company previously known as Raudsól, currently known as Ný sýn, down to 40 percent.
Jóhannesson also agreed that the planned merger between Fréttabladid and Morgunbladid should be reviewed.
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