TV3 slams new code as ‘draconian’

Vincent Browne

TV3 has condemned a controversial new code for television and radio stations being introduced by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) as “a draconian extension of the State’s control over media”.

RTÉ’s main rival claims that the measure will affect the independent television and radio sector, which it claimed was already over-regulated and under-funded.

The new code governing coverage of news and current affairs introduces a ban on presenters from stating their personal view on air.

Another proposal to establish a register of financial interests of presenters has been put on hold by the BAI due to legal difficulties.

In a submission to the BAI, TV3 accused the broadcasting watchdog of attempting to extend its control over the media “without cause”.

“The State now seeks through its regulator to control content on channels it does not own, limiting news and current affairs programming to arid lists of facts,” said TV3.

“It prevents non-State broadcasters from having a different view from the State and thereby restricts essential roles of media as watchdog, as court of public opinion and as provider of informed analysis. At best this is unnecessary ‘regulatory creep’, more harshly it could be called state censorship.”

TV3 said if such a code was introduced in countries like Russia or China it would be regarded as an attack on free media.

In contrast, RTÉ gave a general welcome to the new code, saying it believed it would represent “a valuable aid” to programme makers and broadcasters.

While it supported the establishment of a register of interests, it argued such a document should be held by the relevant broadcaster and made available to the BAI on a confidential basis if any complaint about conflicts of interest arose.

RTÉ presenter Pat Kenny yesterday said the ban on offering personal opinions would have no real impact on his programmes as such rules already existed within the station.

However, he expressed concern that the code could result in a large increase in mischievous and vexatious complaints to the BAI.

The Prime Time presenter said he had no practical difficulty with the proposed register of presenters’ financial interests but did oppose it on grounds of principle.

Cork 96FM’s Neil Prendeville said the code would be an obvious worry for listener-driven shows like his daily morning programme.

“Shows like mine are by their nature very opinionated and personality-driven. The danger with such a ban is that you create programming that is just robotic,” said Mr Prendeville.

He argued that broadcasters were already obliged to be fair and balanced. He said he believed the new restrictions were being introduced as a reaction to recent controversies involving RTÉ.

TV3 presenter Vincent Browne said broadcasting codes should try to mitigate the effect of the inequality embedded in control of and access to media.

He claimed the idea that media was independent, impartial, and objective was a mirage when it was itself an institution of power and reflected the ethos of power elites.

The joint Oireachtas committee on communications said it believed the rule restricting a broadcaster from giving their personal view was unenforceable.


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