Due to a ruling by the Broadcasting Authority Ireland (BAI), author and columnist Una Mullally has allegedly been told that she must have an opponent of the same-sex marriage referendum present when discussing her book on air.
Irish Times columnist Una Mullally has written today that she has been instructed by national radio stations that she must have a person opposing marriage equality present at any promotional interviews about her new book In The Name of Love, an “oral history which traces the history of the movement for marriage equality in Ireland.”
The measure that has allegedly been taken by national radio and broadcasters was prompted by the Broadcasting Association of Ireland upholding a complaint against RTÉ Radio One’s The Mooney Show, about a discussion on civil partnership and civil marriage last January, which at the time was a decision that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) criticised.
The NUJ said at the time, “BAI would appear to be singling out discussion on so-called same-sex marriage, imposing restrictive conditions even before the Government has provided wording on a possible referendum on civil marriage equality, never mind setting the date.”
Last month, BAI partially upheld another complaint against the Newstalk Breakfast Show. The complaint related to two panellists on the show, a member of the Dublin Pride committee and a former member of BeLonG To, being given “free rein” to talk in favour of next year’s same-sex marriage referendum, without opposing views represented.
Writing today in The Irish Times, Mullally revealed, “I have been told by national radio stations that in order to discuss this history book, there must be someone present who opposes rights for gay people.
“These are not editorial decisions. They are instructions from above. The utterly normal issue of civil marriage is being treated hysterically, and stations can’t risk getting another black mark from the BAI.”
She added, “Journalists and broadcasters are going to look back on this period, this farcical, Orwellian time, with nothing but embarrassment. It is beyond ludicrous that this ruling is so far-reaching that you can’t talk about history without a spoiler in the room saying gay people aren’t equal. It is not enough to censor the future and the present, it seems.”
The NUJ has now called for the “urgent review” of guidance notes issued to broadcasting organisations.
Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ, said in a statement, “This is precisely the absurd consequence which the NUJ warned of in the wake of the original Mooney ruling.
“We now have a situation where station managements, programme editors, and journalists are being forced to self-censor as a result of the requirement to second guess the BAI in relation to any issue which may or may not be the subject of a referendum at an unspecified date in the future. This seems to arise from the BAI determination in the Mooney Show and the circular issued in relation to coverage of the referendum on marriage equality.
“It is difficult to see how the public interest is best served by a mandatory adversarial type debate,” he added.
Andrew Hyland, Co-Director, Marriage Equality also commented on the situation saying, “The BAI code is being manipulated to create an environment whereby some media are reluctant discussing marriage equality on air for fear of backlash. Mullally’s article is on the money when she discusses the censorship in place and the dark cloud hanging over Ireland’s social change to-date.”
He continued, “Irish people largely support equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples due to our innate sense of fairness. What is not fair is the expectation that lesbian and gay lives and love are continually open to criticism and hurt in the form of anti-equality opponents on air.”
‘In the Name of Love’ will be launched tomorrow (December 9) at 6.30pm in Pantibar.
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