By Ann Marie Foley - 08 February, 2018
Several complaints claiming broadcasters’ bias in favour of pro-choice have been rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), according to its latest published decisions.
At meetings in October, November, and December 2017, the Compliance Committee of the BAI considered 11 complaints and upheld five. In the Executive Complaints Forum of the BAI, a further 22 complaints were considered and rejected.
Of all the 33 complaints five were upheld. Just over one third of the 28 rejected complaints were about religion, blasphemy and pro-life. Of these, six were about the Eighth Amendment / pro-life/ life limiting conditions, and four were about anti-religious bias, mocking of faith, aspects of faith or those practising their faith. One was about misinformation on blasphemy laws.
The decisions published on 6th February 2018 upheld / upheld in part complaints including:
• RTÉ One TV: Eco Eye: 7th February 2017 in relation to seaweed harvesting.
• Newstalk: Newstalk Breakfast: 27th July 2017 about language used by reporters about a protest in Jobstown involving then Tanaiste Ms Joan Burton.
• RTÉ Radio 1: Morning Ireland: 31st July 2017 about remarks by the presenter about Kevin Myers.
• Newstalk: High Noon: 8th September 2017 in relation to George Hook’s comments on a rape trial.
Published complaint decisions that were rejected by the Compliance Committee included issues with: homophobic comments on a sports show; data on arrears and repossessions on a property documentary; and the use of a ‘buy Irish slogan’ on and advert.
Another rejected complaint was about RTÉ One TV’s The Late Late Show on 6th January 2017 in relation to panellists referring to the Eucharist as ‘haunted bread’, and the presenter failing to maintain balance by agreeing with comments. This incident was subject of other complaints in previous BAI decisions reports (see catholicireland.net 9 August, 2017).
Some 22 complaints about broadcasts in 2017 were rejected by the Executive Complaints Forum of the BAI.
On 98FM’s Dublin Talks programme on 10th April, a listener complained about a presenter’s comments on the lifting of the Good Friday ban on alcohol in which Jesus was portrayed as an alcoholic because h changed water to wine, and people with faith were called ‘Holy Joe’s’.
On 24th May TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne, a viewer complained that the show failed in fairness, objectivity and impartiality in an interview with Minister Simon Coveney on the Eighth Amendment.
On 12th and 13th June on Newstalk across various programmes including Pat Kenny’s show, there were three complaints in the context of the Childcare Law Reporting Project and around pro-abortion and pro Repeal Eighth Amendment comments and interviews which were given more prominence than pro-life, and on a failure to present a variety of views.
On 1st May RTE Raido 1’s Morning Ireland received a complaint about an interview on the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital and how it failed to challenge bias, and allowed a anti-religious position to be portrayed as that of the majority of the general public.
On 10th July on Newstalk’s Moncrieff show, a listener complained that the interviewee Ms Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service was not balanced, and allowed the interviewee a generous amount of time to express views on abortion.
On 20th August on Radio Kerry News, there was a complaint that Ms Ailbhe Smyth of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth insisted that abortion was a human right and she did not take into account the rights of the pre-born baby, fathers, grandparents and the wider community.
On 4th August on RTE Radio 1’s Ryan Tubridy Show received a complaint about a topic on ‘gene editing’ on live embryos. Mr Dave Fanning was presenting and on hearing the opinion of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Consultative Group on Bioethics on the issue Mr Fanning said “they haven’t gone away .. you know”. The complainant felt that likening the Bishops to the IRA showed them and all who hold similar views as undesirable and found this was biased, offensive and worrying.
On 19th October Moncrieff on Newstalk interviewed Tim Jackson a pro-life campaigner. The listener complained that the presenter inaccurately stated that a baby with Edwards Syndrome would be in extreme pain and the listener complained that the use of the term ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ was offensive.
On 30th September on Newstalk’s Between the Line, the Referendum on the Eighth Amendment was discussed with TD Mr Bernard Durkan. A listener complained that this was a pro-choice interview with no effort to ask questions from a pro-life viewpoint.
Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, viewers and listeners can complain about broadcasting content, which they believe is not in keeping with the BAI’s broadcasting codes and rules. The viewer or listener first sends their complaint to the broadcaster within 30 days of the date of the broadcast. If they are not satisfied with the response from the broadcaster, or if the broadcaster does not respond within a specified timeframe they complain to the BAI.