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Both the reported comments of Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, and your editorial seem to be based on a misunderstanding of Broadcasting Authority of Ireland regulations and a number of recent decisions of its compliance committee.
In the case of the BAI’s recent decisions on TV programmes about same-sex marriage, it is not correct, as reported, that the complaints were upheld on the basis of balance.
Rather, the complaints were upheld as the content entailed programme presenters articulating a partisan position on a matter of current affairs. The responsibilities of programme presenters (to ensure they are impartial) are well-established. This approach recognises the key role of news and current affairs presenters and the importance of ensuring that they do not inappropriately influence public discourse.
While much of the discussion on recent decisions has focused on the BAI’s ‘position’ on same-sex marriage, the authority has no position on this issue.
Rather, the BAI’s decisions have related to the role of the presenter and his/her compliance with the rules.
Any member of the public is entitled to make a complaint to the BAI.
However, the BAI considers the complaints on the basis of their merits. Recent comment has implied that decisions reached by the BAI have been made on the basis of an ideological slant that favours the status quo.
The BAI’s decisions, its complaints-handling process, and its own publications show that the BAI is making decisions in strict accordance with its statutory remit and any suggestions otherwise are false.
News and current affairs content broadcast on Irish radio and television must comply with the Broadcasting Act, 2009, and with the BAI’s Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality. The statutory requirements, and the BAI’s code, require news and current affairs to be fair and objective.
It is not a policy of the BAI that there be an automatic requirement for balance, and the BAI has not communicated any such requirement to broadcasters.
Michael O’ Keeffe
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland
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