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Funding shortfall threatens future of Family and Media Association

By Ann Marie Foley - 20 August, 2013

Dr Ivo O'Sullivan of FMA and Fr Eamon Bourke

Dr Ivo O’Sullivan of FMA and Fr Eamon Bourke

The Family and Media Association (FMA) has said it is facing closure by the end of the month unless sufficient funds are raised to sustain its ongoing needs.

The FMA serves 5,000 people every month with details of ‘good news’ stories as well as data and information on media bias through newsletters, email and text.

The association monitors anti-catholic and anti-family biases in mainstream media and contacts media outlets to put forward an alternative viewpoint.

Over the weekend, one of the FMA founders, Dr Ivo O’Sullivan, made a personal appeal stating, “It is with great sadness that I have to inform you today that we only have enough funding to last until 31st August 2013, after which time we will have to suspend our service.”

He suggested that if everyone reading the appeal donated even a small sum that would sustain the FMA services for the next year.

Donal O’Sullivan Latchford who is involved in the association’s day-to-day work said that a combination of the recession and the fact that the FMA is often in the background have contributed to its financial difficulties. He said the ageing profile of its supporters was also a factor.

The FMA serves many church and family groups by providing analysis of media and evidence of bias which groups such as pro-life supporters can then use in their own campaigns.

“We are cost lean and have a very low turnover,” he said and explained that newsletters and design are all done in-house.

“Our service helps other groups such as pro life groups and journalists and everyone who is involved with the media with a view to representing the truth,” he told CatholicIreland.net.

He explained that FMA provides the analysis and data so other groups can make good decisions quickly.

“It might not be apparent to most of the Catholic public so therefore we have a lower base of supporters to call on. We have been reluctant to aggressively market what is essentially a free service so the invitation has gone out because we find ourselves in a lot of trouble and we will have to close unless substantial funding arrives to pay for the future,” he said.

4431_88159417239_2213004_aFMA was founded almost 20 years ago in 1994when Pope John Paul II, in his World Communications Day message, appealed to parents to make their opinions known to the media with regard to the morals and values they portrayed – hence the name Family and Media Association.

Initially the group monitored RTE to see if it was living up to its statutory requirements of fairness and balance.

Some of its founding members have since passed away, including Michael Ahern and Christopher O’Farrelly. Chairman Ivo O’Sullivan still plays a very active role in the Association.

All these men were well regarded in their chosen academic fields of engineering and the sciences and were well versed in accuracy and the need for solid statistics and data. Dozens of other volunteers, all over Ireland, monitored programmes.

As time went on the Irish media become more diversified and there are now more TV and Radio stations to monitor.

Donal O’Sullivan Latchford joined in 2005 at what he calls the ‘dawn’ of new media. He feels that the service is more timely than ever, especially with new media such as Facebook, Twitter and others. These he monitors using his programming skills.

The monitoring of traditional media also continues, for example FMA was able to point out to RTE that it ran three debates in a row with all pro-abortion panellists. Likewise it was able to make a submission to the Broadcasting Commission’s Draft Code of Fairness, Objectivity & Impartiality in News and Current Affairs. 

As well as publishing details of positive stories under the banner “What it doesn’t say in the papers”, FMA also points out instances of bias or inaccuracies in the media.

Some examples of this are:

* How current affairs presenters on RTE, the national broadcaster, seem to express “their own views” contrary to the 2009 Act but complaints about this have not been upheld.

* How a same-sex marriage ad on Marian Finucane Show was also in breach of BAI (Broadcast Authority of Ireland) rules.

* How parents and guardians of young children should know that there was bad language and profanity on the Mooney Show in the mid afternoon (earlier than the watershed).

* Highlighted the libel against Fr Kevin Reynolds and debated whether the error by RTÉ’s Frontline programme changed the outcome of the presidential election.

FMA always needs help to monitor the media and a volunteer might typically monitor one programme per week and report on any bias or lack of fairness.

Donations are particularly welcome at this moment either by post, through the bank or via the website. See: www.fma.ie

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