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RTE acknowledges bias on abortion interview

By Susan Gately - 09 January, 2016

"Other views on Ireland's approach to abortion ... were not provided to listeners.”

bai 9179_470854882960971_1414237821_nThe Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has welcomed the broadcast of a statement read out on RTE Radio this week acknowledging bias in an interview relating to abortion on the Ray D’Arcy Show.

Six members of the public complained to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) following an interview on the Ray D’Arcy show with Colm O’Gorman, Director of Amnesty Ireland on 9 June 2015, in relation to an Amnesty report entitled ‘She is not a criminal: The impact of Ireland’s abortion law’.

The programme included a broad range of strong criticisms of Ireland’s approach to legal abortion.

The statement broadcast earlier this week in relation to the BAI decision, said that the “Committee found that the criticisms mostly went unchallenged and there were other views on Ireland’s approach to abortion that were not provided to listeners.”

It continued: “listeners would have concluded that the presenter supported the views of Amnesty International and their campaign”.

Ray D'Arcy

Ray D’Arcy

It concluded “Given the content of the programme and role of the presenter it was the view of the Committee that the programme was not fair, objective or impartial and the complaint was upheld.”

“It’s important that listeners to the Ray D’Arcy Show were given an opportunity to hear about the BAI findings against Ray D’Arcy over his incredibly biased interview on abortion, an interview that set a new low in Irish journalism,” commented Cora Sherlock from the Pro Life Campaign.

She said the finding “shows the value of members of the public contacting programmes on television and radio to make their views known when they feel a programme has treated serious issues like abortion in an unfair or partial manner.”

RTÉ had defended the one-sided approach of the interview saying that Ray D’Arcy later conducted an interview with Ben Conroy of the Iona Institute of similar duration to the interview of 9 June 2015 which was “clearly associated on air” by the presenter to the interview which with Colm O’Gorman.

The Broadcasting Act 2009 states that fairness, objectivity and impartiality can be achieved in “two or more related broadcasts…if the broadcasts are transmitted within a reasonable period of each other.”

Cora Sherlock, Pro Life Campaign

Cora Sherlock, Pro Life Campaign

However, the BAI said that the broadcast did not constitute a related broadcast as there was a “significant duration” between the two broadcasts – eleven weeks.

In its decision, the BAI Committee noted that the issuing of the report by Amnesty was “directly linked to a campaign by Amnesty International to change the Irish Constitution, in particular, the 8th Amendment.”

Given this, the Committee was of the view that the other perspectives provided were “insufficient, particularly where the presenter provided very little in terms of counterpoints to those of his interviewee and where there were no other contributions via interviewees”.

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