Instructions From Above

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Una-MullallySmaller-269x300

Una Mullally

I’ve written a history book. It’s called In the Name of Love, and it launches tomorrow evening. It’s an oral history about a social movement, the movement for marriage equality in Ireland. In this book are over 70 interviews – ministers, journalists, activists, academics – pieced together to document the legislative and social change that has occurred in Ireland in relation to rights for gay people.

I’ve spent two years working on it and I’m very proud of it. Now comes the time to talk about it. In light of these two BAI rulings, that’s the tricky bit. I have been told by national radio stations that in order to discuss this history book, there must be someone present who opposes rights for gay people. These are not editorial decisions. They are instructions from above. The utterly normal issue of civil marriage is being treated hysterically, and stations can’t risk getting another black mark from the BAI.

BAI ruling on marriage equality comments stifles ongoing debate (Una Mullally, Irish Times)

Pic: Imeall

Update:

Via the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland:

The BAI has, at no time in its engagements with broadcasters, issued any direction requiring that broadcasters must automatically “balance” a discussion with an opposing view. Neither has the BAI, at any stage, made a “ruling on marriage equality”.
News and current affairs content on Irish broadcast media is required to comply with the Broadcasting Act 2009 and with the BAl’s Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs. In setting out its guidance on the principle of fairness, the BAI has indicated to broadcasters that it will be necessary for them to consider the range of ways in which fairness is achieved, including through the selection of contributors, the time allocated to a news and current affairs issue, the scope of the debate, the structure of the programme or the role of the presenter.
Furthermore, the approach to covering issues, including those of public controversy or current public debate, should be guided by ensuring equitable, proportionate coverage. While there may be some instances where balance may be required, an automatic requirement for balance is considered unnecessary and inappropriate by the BAI. Indeed the BAI has consistently expressed the view that the application of such an artificial balance can, in and of itself, amount to a lack of fairness in certain circumstances.
Against this backdrop, it would be a matter of grave concern to the BAI if “national radio stations” or any other broadcasters, incorrectly used the outcomes of recent complaint decisions as a basis for their editorial decision-making.

BAI Comment in Respect of Issues Raised by Una Mullally (BAI)

72 thoughts on “Instructions From Above

  1. Stewart Curry

    You’ll never find anyone who actually “opposes rights for gay people”, it’s all couched in nonsense about Helen Lovejoying it and preserving the uniqueness of marriage even though any two idiots can get married as long as they aren’t too young or too related.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      And if you can never find one, you can never have the discussion.

      hmmmm. Y’know, if I was a cynical so-and-so, I’d almost think that was the point…

  2. Rob

    Hysterical: irrational from fear, emotion, or an emotional shock. – This doesn’t seem to be at issue here, at least not from the broadcasters.

    You aren’t being told you can’t discuss your book, you just need someone of an opposing view in the same room and you should be able to rationally deal with any arguments they have.

    Having read far too many of your articles though, my only concern is that you might manage to make yourself the figurehead of the yes side of the debate, thereby endangering what should a fairly easy win for the Yes side.

  3. Eamonn Clancy

    A bit of a stretch saying they’ve “written a book” surely? More like edited over 70 interviews and had them published. Not quite the same thing.

  4. Soundings

    What’s the problem? There’s an upcoming referendum on the subject, there are people for it, and people against it. What’s wrong with forcing regulated media to have balance in discussing the referendum issue? Sure, most people will vote for the amendment according to the opinion polls, but there are those who won’t. Mullally is no more than a little cry baby for thinking she should be given a clear field to promote her views. Get over it, love.
    Can’t wait for the bookzzzzz……but then again, I might just wait for the blog.

      1. Soundings

        The Catholic Church to which most of us still nominally belong, opposes the amendment. Is its position not valid then? Who says? Isn’t that why we’re conducting opinion polls which still show a sizable minority opposed to the amendment.

        1. Mark Dennehy

          So, a few things:
          – You can’t say we all nominally belong to the RCC as though that was an argument, because there’s no way to leave the RCC and the vast, vast, vast majority of its “members” were less than a year old at baptism. If you didn’t, after the age of majority, choose freely to join it, then it’s nonsense to claim you as a member.

          – The RCC doesn’t actually marry you in the eyes of the state. That’s the little bit that’s done after the ceremony with the register signing and before with the marriage licence. So if you think the RCC has some special role in all this, you didn’t pay attention the day you got married (or in the weeks before it). You might as well argue that we have to have every religious group represented (yes, including the pagans and the satanists and the Jedi — and if you want proof that they’re real religions, then I want proof that Christ rose from the grave).

          – Since this is a state affair, and the RCC is an NGO headquartered in a foreign jurisdiction, and a hierarchial you-must-obey-your-seniors kind of NGO at that, not only is its position not special, there’s a good argument it shouldn’t even be heard.

          – Since the RCC doesn’t actually have a vote itself, why would we listen to it at all?

          And that’s without mentioning the Ryan Report, the whole raping-our-children thing, Tuam, or any of the hundred other reasons that the RCC should never be allowed have a voice in Irish state policy ever again.

      2. Derval

        Why are we having a referendum about something which is not (equally) valid?
        That’s the stupid situation.
        We wouldn’t have a referendum about whether people with red hair should be allowed to sit on a park bench.

        1. Spaghetti Hoop

          Agree. I’ve been banging on about this for months. Saying ‘yes, let the gays marry’ is perpetuating a division in our society between heterosexual and homosexual. It should be a referendum for equal rights for all citizens regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

          Mulally is definitely barking up a tree that she alone wants to sit in and definitely doing damage to the yes campaign as Rob remarks on above.

          1. Caroline

            @Spag Hoop
            But are you really suggesting that because the debate will be divisive and nasty that it shouldn’t happen at all? Or do you think there is a method that would achieve the same effect without that?

            As regards marriage being held out as a holy grail, I’m not entirely sure it is. It’s the right to marry that’s the prize. Just like you don’t have to actively celebrate people’s marriages falling apart to support the right to divorce (although in some cases an air punch is warranted), I think it’s perfectly possible to be ambivalent about marriage itself and still want marriage equality.

            There are also plenty of gay people who think co-opting a stifling heteronorm does not represent progress for gay rights, but I wouldn’t like to get into that as it might frighten some of the plainer people of BS.

          2. Mark Dennehy

            There are also plenty of gay people who think co-opting a stifling heteronorm does not represent progress for gay rights

            I think you might find they’re not hugely interested in the wedding side of things, but the inheritance rights, tax status, child custody rights and norms, and all the important parts of marriage in the eyes of the state are somewhat of interest to them.

            Because let’s be clear here – this isn’t about Adam and Steve getting all dressed up to say nice things to each other in front of a priest.

            This is about what happens when Adam gets hit by a bus six years later and Adam’s homophobic mother who disowned him when he came out, decides to sue for custody of Adam and Steve’s kids (someone please hose down Ronan Mullen and explain turkey basters and surrogate mothers to him? Or at least adoption?).

            Right now, Adam’s mom gets custody of Steve’s kids and the kids get to grow up having lost one parent to a bus and the other to a legal system that says their parents were just good friends.

            The point of the referendum is that if it passes, Adam’s mom gets told to go away by the courts because the kids aren’t orphans, and Steve gets Adam’s life insurance to help pay to raise their kids despite losing one parent’s income, and Adams possessions can pass on to Steve and then on to their kids.

            In other words, what happens if one of your parents had died when you were a kid.

            And as far as the BAI are concerned, we can’t talk about that idea on air unless someone will oppose the welfare of Adam and Steve’s kids.

            So the real question is, why do the BAI hate children?

          3. Caroline

            Yes, all very fine and well, but – some argue – where is it written that these issues must be taken care of in the context of marriage? Why not offer e.g. Civil Marriage Plus, which regulates these aspects fully and properly, and leave the notion of marriage out of it? It’s exactly “the wedding side of things” that is – to them – undesirably heteronormative.

            Not my position, but just so you properly understand the argument.

          4. Mark Dennehy

            Caroline, that “civil marriage plus” thing?
            That’s what the rest of us heteronorms refer to as “marriage”.

            You’re thinking the referendum would force the RCC to marry gay people in a church. It wouldn’t. It would mean that they could go get married by a HSE official in a castle like the rest of us.

            But you introduce this “civil union” horsehockey as a solution and you pretty much need to understand that you are proposing the official creation and enforcement of a second class citizen status. In general, we like to think of that as a bad thing (though quite a few minorities, along with at least one majority, will point out that we do it all the time anyway, if unofficially).

          5. Caroline

            Mark, you need to understand that I am putting forward a position I don’t personally advocate, in order to explain the fact that there genuinely are gay people who don’t support the idea of gay marriage for various political reasons. Read my contributions in context.

  5. Perry Throne

    I’m all for the stifling of Una Mullally. If there could also be a BAI ruling that she can only appear on national radio if someone is also present who thinks she’s a complete pain in the hoop…

    1. eric cartman

      thats fairly simple, theres the presenter, production assistant, and even probably the security guard who re-enforced the patriarchy by allowing her through the door with his ‘misogynistic ‘ man made locks.

  6. Sancho

    Nice of the Irish Times to run such a big and prominent advertisement for Una’s book. And just before Xmas; how very fortunate.

  7. Parochial Central

    Una Mullally in a nutshell.

    How I learned to stop reading the comments and enjoy the silence.

    http://thisisagility.com/blog/2014/7/23/how-i-learned-to-stop-reading-the-comments-and-enjoy-the-silence

    I understand the drive to push journalists towards engaging with reader’s conversations. Social media has taken over our day to day communication and media companies want to get on board. But for the most part, a journalist engaging with the comments is akin to a footballer pausing to chat with the “fans” on the terrace throwing coins. Some will eat the banana with panache, others will get caught up in pointless and circular arguments with commenters. It’s not very productive to answer comments that are off topic, insulting, wrong, or just stupid. It’s time consuming and bears no fruit.

    And if reader engagement is that important (outside of citizen journalism where the audience creates the information that colours the story) where are the successes? What is the point? What purpose does it serve? What value does it add? In my experience, if there is a particularly heightened tone in the comments, the journalist jumping in and “engaging” actually stokes the flames and is completely counterproductive to facilitating reasonable arguments.

    1. Someone

      John Waters used to say the same thing, and they’re both wrong.

      We all know that 90%+ of BTL comments are full of it, but every now and then there is a genuinely informed comment that destructs the main article.
      If you think you’re good enough to get paid for writing the article, then you should make an effort to defend what you said.

  8. Clampers Outside!

    So… “national radio stations”
    We only have RTE’s station portfolio and Communicorp’s…. there’s only two to say ‘no’.

    So that must mean they all said no.

    Was she trying to pull the wool with that dumb line or what….

  9. Tim Bucktoo

    Oh look – a BAI statement tonight:

    “Further to an opinion editorial by Una Mullally, published in today’s Irish Times (8.12.14), the BAI has said:

    The BAI has, at no time in its engagements with broadcasters, issued any direction requiring that broadcasters must automatically “balance” a discussion with an opposing view. Neither has the BAI, at any stage, made a “ruling on marriage equality”.

    News and current affairs content on Irish broadcast media is required to comply with the Broadcasting Act 2009 and with the BAl’s Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs. In setting out its guidance on the principle of fairness, the BAI has indicated to broadcasters that it will be necessary for them to consider the range of ways in which fairness is achieved, including through the selection of contributors, the time allocated to a news and current affairs issue, the scope of the debate, the structure of the programme or the role of the presenter.

    Furthermore, the approach to covering issues, including those of public controversy or current public debate, should be guided by ensuring equitable, proportionate coverage. While there may be some instances where balance may be required, an automatic requirement for balance is considered unnecessary and inappropriate by the BAI. Indeed the BAI has consistently expressed the view that the application of such an artificial balance can, in and of itself, amount to a lack of fairness in certain circumstances.

    Against this backdrop, it would be a matter of grave concern to the BAI if “national radio stations” or any other broadcasters, incorrectly used the outcomes of recent complaint decisions as a basis for their editorial decision-making.”

    http://www.bai.ie/index.php/2014/12/bai-comment-in-respect-of-issues-raised-by-una-mullally/

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