Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Marriage Equality have strongly criticised the use of Broadcasting Authority (BAI) complaints procedures to “chill” public discussions about same-sex marriage.
The groups spoke out after the BAI Compliance Committee partially upheld a 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 years same-sex marriage referendum.
Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue also expressed his personal opinion that he would be voting in favour of the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. In doing so, he was found in breach of 4.22 of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.
The complaint was initially made by Ray McIntyre, who says he believes in “the importance of marriage as a social institution designed to provide children with a mother and a father”.
The decision comes on the same day that BAI board member Colum Kenney explained in an Irish Times article, that the BAI “is currently unable to meet and do business” because “the Government has failed to appoint new members since the term of office of the majority of the nine BAI members expired.”
ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said, “The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is surprised that, on the same day that a Board member of the BAI has indicated that the Authority ‘is currently unable to meet and do business’ and cannot ‘function entirely in the manner intended by the Oireachtas’, its Compliance Committee has produced a decision that is capable of having a chilling effect on public discussion of equality issues.
“Rule 4.22 of the BAI Code is intended to promote fairness, objectivity and impartiality, not to provide an alternative channel through which professed opponents of equality can muzzle free expression. This is a matter that the ICCL intends to raise formally with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland if and when its Board is properly reconstituted.”
Andrew Hyland, Director, Marriage Equality commented, “Marriage Equality is deeply concerned at today’s decision. The BAI’s recent rulings have led to a fear factor in media especially when it comes to those who support marriage equality. This development is very worrying as we have not even moved into a campaigning period on the referendum.”
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