The Chief Executive of the Broadcasting Authority Ireland (BAI) has defended it’s recent ruling to uphold a complaint against Newstalk, and denies imposing requirements on broadcasters to be “balanced” when discussing same-sex marriage.
BAI’s Michael O’Keeffe wrote a piece for The Irish Times that addressed the recent article from In The Name Of Love:The Movement for Marriage Equality in Ireland author Una Mullally, in which she revealed that national radio stations told her, “In order to discuss this history book, there must be someone present who opposes rights for gay people”.
In his article, the BAI chief denied imposing this requirement on broadcasters. He writes, “The BAI has, at no time in its engagements with broadcasters, issued any direction requiring that broadcasters must automatically ‘balance’ a discussion with an opposing view”.
Addressing claims the the ruling was an attempt to “chill” public debate around the topic, he added, “Neither has the [BAI], at any stage, made a ‘ruling on marriage equality’.
“It would be a matter of grave disquiet, therefore, if ‘national radio stations’ or any other broadcasters, incorrectly used the outcomes of recent complaint decisions as a basis for their editorial decision-making.
“Furthermore, the approach to covering issues, including those of public controversy or current public debate, should be guided by ensuring equitable, proportionate coverage. While there may be some instances where balance may be required, an automatic requirement for balance is considered unnecessary and inappropriate by the authority.”
O’Keeffe concluded that “the challenge for Irish broadcasters is to continue to show they can cover news and current affairs in line with existing regulations without compromising their duty to inform the public in a fair, objective and impartial manner”.
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