‘Who Is Calling The Shots At The BAI?’

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Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue

On June 27, 2014, Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue – during a feature on the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin – said, in a referendum on same-sex marriages, he would vote in favour of changing Ireland’s legislation to allow for same-sex marriages.

This prompted a listener, Ray McIntyre, to complain to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

According to the BAI, Mr McIntyre, “…states that there are also those who take a different view, emphasising the importance of marriage as a social institution designed to provide children with a mother and a father. The complainant states that it is not Newstalk’s role as a broadcaster, to act as a cheerleader for one side or the other in a matter of current public debate. He believes that this kind of conduct, if continued, threatens to make next year’s referendum a farce of epic proportions.”

The BAI upheld Mr McIntyre’s complaint in part, specifically concluding that, ‘It was the opinion of the Committee that the statement by one of the presenters that he would vote in favour of any forthcoming referendum on marriage equality and his stated impatience with not being able to vote immediately constitutes the statement of a partisan position by a news and current affairs presenter on a matter of current public debate, contrary to Rule 4.22 of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.’

Rule 4.22 is as follows…

“It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme to ensure that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item; to facilitate the expression of contributors’ opinions – sometimes by forceful questioning; and to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content. This being so, a presenter and/or a reporter on a current affairs programme shall
not express his or her own views on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate such that a partisan position is advocated.”

Further to this, Senator Katherine Zappone writes:

“The decision of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is concerning for a number of reasons, not least the imposition of election campaign rules at a time when there is no campaign. As it stands no referendum has been called, a referendum commission has not been established and no date has been set.

Secondly the decision came on the day when an authority member was in the national newspapers saying that a quorum could not be met for meetings of the BAI as the Government has failed to make appointments.

This raises serious governance issues which must be clarified, we need to establish who is calling the shots at the BAI and is behind these rulings.

Requiring balance on every issue on the airwaves is simply unworkable – for example must a discussion on racism now require input from racists or must a discussion on murder and violent crimes require someone speaking up for thugs?

Open debate and commentary on the issues of the day has always been a hallmark of Irish democracy, the stifling of views is something we normally associate in closed countries where there is no free press.

I will be raising this issue in the Seanad and support the efforts of media organisations and journalists in seeking further information on how the BAI is interpreting current broadcast legislation.”

Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue criticises BAI decision as “daft and depressing” (Newstalk)

Broadcasting Complaint Decisions (BAI)

Katherine Zappone (Facebook)

Previously: The Loony Mooney Ruling

70 thoughts on “‘Who Is Calling The Shots At The BAI?’

  1. Hashtag Diversity

    Seriously, from Senator “Unvouched for 30K EUR Expenses” Zappone? Obviously the Jobstown incident has chilled her support for the Water Protests. No same-sex refo votes from that part of Dublin then, and we’re back to the main agenda. Was it because some allegedly called a cop something vaguely homophobic?

    This BAI action is NOT the stifling of views or the “chilling” of a debate. It’s in the interests of the pursuit of balanced, free speech in the media. Democracies have rules. Open fair exchange is the basis of pluralism. The opposite is totalitarianism.

    Rich coming from someone from was not even elected.

    1. Sidewinder

      Absolute bullsh*t from start to finish. People who vote against equal rights because they don’t like a politician who supports it need their head examined.

      This is an issue that has enormous personal effects on lgbt people and absolutely no effect on anyone else. Them to talk personally about their desire for equality is not imbalance, it’s free speech. Why the hell is this only happening with equal marriage? Why is it that “Don’t Tell the Bride” doesn’t have to feature someone saying how terrible marriage is and that they shouldn’t do it.

      Why is it balance to have someone on the radio saying heterosexual couples raise kids best alongside someone saying gay couples raise them just as well but they can merrily exclude a person saying that single parents raise kids best.

      It’s a f*cking mess of a stance for the BAI to take and they’ve taken it out of either malice or cowardice and I don’t know which is worse.

      1. Formerly known as @ireland.com

        Ireland had the opportunity to dump the Seanad. It chose to keep it. Feckin’ hell.

          1. Sancho

            No, it didn’t. I would put forward the absence of a “Reform” choice on the ballot plus the complete absence of any reform to date. But hey, looks like they do something about the seagulls. Good on you for voting “yes”!

    1. BillyTwelveTrees

      I heard Telly makes you fat, But Radio makes you fatter…

      Methinks he models for pools cues. [Non Striking End]

      1. I, Diddley

        He had cancer so he did. You’re both horrible and you’re going to Gay Hell where you have to wear Wranglers and Man Utd jerseys and no amount of tweezing will get rid of your monobrow.

  2. MPTI

    Unelected senator Zappone writes: “must a discussion on racism now require input from racists?” Is there an upcoming constitutional referendum on racism? When? Does racism enjoy a privileged position in Bunreacht na hÉireann?
    A presenter is not supposed to tell how he is going to vote in a constitutional referendum. Don’t blame the BAI for the Code of Fairness, Impartiality and Objectivity in News and Current Affairs. “The Code seeks to prevent a partisan position being advocated by the presenter and to guard against a presenter using
    his/her programme to pursue an agenda, via comments, choice of guest etc., such that a
    biased view on an issue is articulated.”
    Certain people really cannot accept the idea that dissenting views on same-sex marriage are not only legitimate but necessary for a proper debate. How are we supposed to be informed and make an independent decision if only one side is heard?

    1. Alfred E. Neumann

      Because every outlet in every forum has been presenting the other side of the argument relentlessly since before any of us were born?

    2. Anne

      Certain people really cannot accept the idea that dissenting views on same-sex marriage are not only legitimate but necessary

      That wasn’t the issue.
      The issue was – “The complainant states that it is not Newstalk’s role as a broadcaster, to act as a cheerleader for one side or the other in a matter of current public debate”

      They want the presenters to be bi partisan, to not give their own views, to be like Pat the Plank.

      I’d say your mano, the complainer, would have a heart attack watching Colbert or Jon Stewart.

    3. Sidewinder

      Journalists do it ALL THE TIME. Journalists voice very clear views on a wide range of issues and they’re completely entitled to do so.

      In order to be informed then there’d have to be someone stopping campaigners from actively lying on the radio. Like when anti-equality campaigners say studies show that married heterosexual couples raise children better – not true. Not true at all.

      Like when they say redefining marriage is terrible for society – also not true – we’ve redefined it several times.

      And again, if it’s about balance why aren’t ALL views represented? Where are the people calling for the abolition of all marriage? Where are the people saying single people shouldn’t be allowed have kids? Where are the people saying that yes, marriage is about raising children so infertile people shouldn’t be allowed to marry?

      Or is that a level of absurdity even the BAI won’t stoop to?

      1. Alfred E. Neumann

        I think you’ve identified the central absurdity perfectly. The BAI absolutely can’t indentify what a “social issue” is without taking sides.

        A lot of people are against drug prohibition, to take it out of the marriage arena, but the BAI won’t punish broadcasters for celebrating a drug bust.

    4. Hashtag Diversity

      So by extension, if the discussion on racism is led by racists, should… get the the idea?

  3. radtastic

    Can we now have a rebuttal from a designated atheist group each time they play the Angelus? You know, for “balance.”

    If they are going to indulge the whims of extremists anti gay Christian sects every time they make an angry phone call, they really need to be impartial across the board.

    1. MPTI

      Only when there will be a constitutional referendum on the Angelus.
      In this particular case it was not a question of balance, like with Derek Mooney giving voices only to one side of the debate. The problem this time was with a presenter expressing his own personal political opinions. You are not allowed to do it. It’s unprofessional and against the Code. Imagine the late Brian Farrell voicing a personal opinion on air!

      1. Anne

        “Only when there will be a constitutional referendum on the Angelus”

        Wrong. Sorry.
        “on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate”
        No referendum required.

        Imagine that, a presenter of a ‘current’ affairs programme, giving his opinion on the ‘current’ affairs of the day.

        I wonder how the BAI decision could be challenge, if they have not been making their quorum?
        That rule could do with amending too.

        In any event, I’m not sure by him giving his own opinion, that he did not display impartiality either.
        Impartiality is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria.
        He could have objectively argued that the current law as it stands is not just.

  4. I, Diddley

    There’s going to be a vote therefore the presenter cannot try to influence the vote, no matter what the issue.

    It really is that simple and if it pisses off a few clingons and faghags like Sidewinder, well thats just too bad.

    1. radtastic

      They were not attempting to “influence the vote” they were two gay people talking about the issues that affect them. They did NOT say vote this way or that way. To be gay is not a political stance. The halfwits who suggest otherwise need to check themselves.

      1. radtastic

        I, Diddley’s comments “clingons and faghags” is hate speech. He doesn’t even attempt to hide the homophobia motivating his comments.

        1. Anne

          I use those terms.. but meant in jest.
          It’d be like someone calling me a culchie. I don’t pay much heed. It’s kinda funny.

          But anyway, are people that dumb that they can’t make up their own minds?
          *If* people are influenced, I think it would be because they know it’s the right thing to do.

        2. I, Diddley

          I dont hate gays at all at all. I dont care what other people do as long as they dont frighten the horses. I do however object to being nagged unceasingly by those who have appointed themselves my moral superiors.
          We just got rid of the Bishops folks. That doesn’t mean theres a need for a new Church of Sanctimony and Unctiousness.

          1. Nigel

            ‘That doesn’t mean theres a need for a new Church of Sanctimony and Unctiousness.’

            Stop lecturing us. You’re not our moral superior!

      2. MPTI

        The problem wasn’t with the guests but with the presenter who clearly expressed his own political views on the referendum. Read the ruling.

        1. Sidewinder

          I feel like what you actually mean is that to ignore social norms is a political stance. To be openly gay may be considered a political stance by some but if you’re gay and pretending not to be so as not to take a political stance then people might not know it but you’re still gay.

          1. Sidewinder

            I’d bet a significant amount of money that hashtag diversity, MPTI and I, Diddley are all the same people.

            1. Never seen them on here before.
            2. All commented within a very short space of time.
            3. All with similar opinions and attitudes.
            4. All with the very similar writing style.

            It’s some sock puppet who wishes they were David Quinn’s best mate and thinks astroturfing for Iona will get him there.

    2. Drogg

      You obviously don’t have a clue cause it was before the referendum was called that the interview was broadcast hence it doesn’t come under those guidelines for media before referendum. Now sulk back to whatever backwards banjo loving s**thole you came from.

  5. Terry

    If the presenter was to say that he was against the marriage between two people of the same sex then the lbgt’s would be up in arms with complaints too.

    1. Niamh

      John Waters, Breda O’Brien, and David Quinn say it all the time. All three have public platforms in the IT and the Indo: all three are frequently invited to speak on panel shows hosted by the national broadcaster of Ireland, RTE. Gay marriage is still illegal here, ergo the entire social system is structurally weighted in favour of heterosexuals. You will notice the so-called ‘gay agenda’ have not managed to topple this consensus just yet. That’ll be because they aren’t a sinister and powerful fraternity working behind the scenes to force political correctness on everyone…just a civil rights group calling for fairness.

    1. Sidewinder

      Given that homophobia and transphobia result in a hugely disproportionate number of suicides among LGBT people I’d say she’s not far wrong.

      But lets ignore the hundreds of incidents of lgbt people being compared to paedophiles and zoophiles because what Zappine said is way worse.

  6. STP

    BAI…. BAD more like. When I tune into a show I do so because of the actual personality of the/a broadcaster. Chris (and Ivan) is entertaining, well read, does his research and hosts a great show, and let’s face it – is human, hence he will have opinions like any other person, I wouldn’t tune in to a robot presenter as that would be him or her just saying yes, yes, no, yes for the show. I like to hear my chosen presenter’s opinion, it wouldn’t sway me to their side if i differed in opinion before listening of course but listening to their opinion and the arguments they put forth gives food for thought and in a sense makes the radio show interactive.
    Surely a presenter not allowed to air their views (literally!) is comparable to North Korean radio. Taking the tight leash of presenters won’t lead to public disobedience, that’s happening for other reasons.

  7. Blah

    Those complaining about the BAI, hands up if you’ve ever sneered at the bias of the likes of Fox News.

    As someone mentioned above, Brian Farrell is the model we should follow. The impartiality restriction is there for a reason and works both ways. Maybe it’s too stringent, that’s a fair complaint, but let’s stop pretending it’s some mad conspiracy.

    1. Anne

      hands up if you’ve ever sneered at the bias of the likes of Fox News.
      The Daily show and Colbert do that.. The point is, none of them are censored.

      1. Blah

        You can regulate the media, or you can let them say what they want. Letting them say what you want runs the risk of very politicised media and the likes of Fox News. You get the hilarious stuff like the Colbert Report, but also masses of people indoctrinated (one way or the other) by the likes of Fox News.

        Avoiding ridiculously biased news comes at the price of requiring Newstalk presenters to keep quiet about how they’ll vote. Now in my humble opinion the BAI are a touch on the extreme side, but the general principle is both sensible and important.

        1. Sidewinder

          Fox spins real news to be biased, they report some issues but not others and cover everything through a conservative lens.

          A presenter voicing a personal opinion does not mean the news they present is biased. If the presenter had said “studies show gay people are the best kind of parents ever so I’m voting yes” I’d agree with the BAI ruling, but he didn’t so I don’t.

    2. Drogg

      Also doc news is a news show that manipulates their representation of the news where as the newstalk morning show with Ivan and Chris is not a news show and it is full of opinion pieces just like Chris saying he supports gay marriage.

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