Tag Archives: BAI

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, from its proposal to regulate social media across Europe; solicitor Simon McGarr


Samantha McCaughren, in the Sunday Independent, reported that the Government is considering proposals from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it be given the power to regulate content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Ireland and across Europe.

Solicitor and director at Data Compliance Europe Simon McGarr spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the proposal this morning and said he didn’t think BAI should be given those powers.

He said:

“I think that the proposal that they’ve [BAI] made today, and they’re publishing later this morning, is basically 98 pages intended to make that argument that they are [right group for the job] but demonstrating throughout exactly why they should not be the body to do that.”

“I think perhaps the best example would be to think of whether or not we thought that the 1950 Censorship Board of Ireland would be the correct body to be put in charge of a modern censorship organisation or a classification organisation.

“The argument that would be made is: ‘well, we have the most experience censoring things and therefore we should be put in charge of all these other censoring activities’.

“It’s precisely because of its institutional history, not because of the people on the board but because of the legislation that was created by the Broadcasting Act of 2009.

“While the institution of the BAI doesn’t have the right instincts, institutional instincts and experience for regulating a completely different form of communication because what has happened here in this body’s proposal is that they have taken the concept of regulating broadcast and applied it in certain areas to regulating areas between individuals.

“So we are now looking at a proposal for example in this, that they would be able to take down private messages, including encrypted messages, sent by things such as WhatsApp or IM message between individuals and they’d be able to censor those messages.”

He added:

“For example, we don’t open all the envelopes in An Post to check whether or not we think that the content is acceptable and deliver on the basis of somebody censoring that information.”

The interview can be listened to in full in the Soundcloud link above or here

Mr McGarr has also written a blog post about the matter here

Why the BAI is not the body to regulate the internet (Simon McGarr, Tuppenceworth.ie)

Kevin Myers


The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland released its latest decisions on broadcasting complaints.

In respect of a complaint made against RTE’s Morning Ireland – in which former Sunday Times columnist Kevin Myers was called a “holocaust denier” by one of the show’s presenters – the BAI upheld the complaint.

RTE has reported that it is considering a response to the finding.

BAI’s summary of the complaint – by Karl Martin – states:

The complainant states that one of the presenters on this programme described Mr. Kevin Myers as a ‘Holocaust denier’. The complainant states that this was an absurd claim based on a newspaper article written by Mr. Myers over eight years ago under a misleading headline that he didn’t write.

The complainant states that Mr Myers took issue with the word ‘Holocaust’ on account of its Greek origin, meaning ‘destroy by fire’. He stated that there was no single Holocaust because it took many forms; Jews were shot in pits, beaten to death, frozen and starved to death, burnt alive in their homes and synagogues and gassed.

The complainant maintains that it is quite clear from the newspaper article that Mr Myers believes that there was a Nazi genocide of the Jews – he typically and pedantically takes issue with the word. The complainant adds that Mr Myers has written many times about the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jews and that it is ridiculous and offensive to label him as ‘Holocaust denier’. The complainant states that no senior member of the Irish Jewish community has called him ‘a denier’.

In support of his complaint, the complainant submits the following:-

a) A copy of a statement issued by the Jewish Representative Council defending Mr. Myers from, inter alia, the claim that he had denied the Holocaust in an article eight years ago.

b) A copy of the Guardian newspaper’s correction to its earlier description of Mr. Myers as a Holocaust denier.

c) A copy of The Times of Israel published defence of Mr. Myers by the Jewish blogger, Mr. Jonathan Hoffman.

The complainant states that despite all of the above, the broadcaster still claims that it was correct to refer to Mr. Myers as having previously written a column in which he “denied the Holocaust”. The complainant states that this is, to quote the Jewish Representative Council, “an absolute distortion of the facts” and is based on the selective use of certain phrases taken out of context.

RTE’s response to the BAI is summarised as follows:

“The broadcaster states that the references to Mr. Myers in this context relate to articles written by Mr. Myers for the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph newspapers in 2009. In reaction to commentary on the articles following Mr. Myers’ final Sunday Times newspaper column, the Irish Independent immediately removed the article in question from its website.

The Belfast Telegraph had not, at the time of replying to the complainant, removed its version of the article. These are quotes taken directly from the article:-

“There was no holocaust (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths.” “It is an offence in Germany to say that six million Jews did not die in the holocaust. Very well then, I am a criminal in Germany.” “I’m a Holocaust denier.”

“The broadcaster states that these are Mr. Myers’ own words. He may have then qualified his headline statements by then writing that there certainly was genocide waged against the Jews by the Nazis, in what he describes as “one of the most satanic operations in world history.”

The broadcaster maintains that if he is being referred to around the world as a Holocaust denier, it is because he described himself as such.

The broadcaster refers to the contents of this article as unarguable evidence that the statement by the presenter that Mr. Myers had “previously written a column in which he denied the Holocaust” was accurate and fair, did not misrepresent Mr. Myers and was not in any way misleading to listeners.

In its decision to uphold the complaint, the BAI said:

“While noting that Mr. Myers had described himself as a ‘Holocaust denier’ in a typically provocative newspaper article that he had written, it was evident from the article as a whole that his description did not in fact amount to a statement denying the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi regime.

Rather, the article was a comment on how language is used and the criminalisation of individuals or groups who engage in Holocaust denial. In this context, the comments by the presenter were considered to lack fairness to Mr. Myers and both misrepresented his views in a manner which would likely mislead audiences as to his views. Accordingly, the complaint has been upheld.

Read the decision in full here



George Hook

A complaint about comments made by George Hook last September on his then High Noon show on Newstalk has also been upheld.

On September 8, 2017, Mr Hook had made certain comments in light of a court case concerning a sexual assault.

Mr Hook said:

“But when you look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She’s only just barely met him …. then is surprised when somebody else comes into the room and rapes her.”

“Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger? There is personal responsibility. You then of course read that she passed out in the toilet and when she woke up the guy was trying to rape her. There is a personal point of responsibility, because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter.

“And what determines the daughter who goes out, gets drunk, passes out and is with strangers in a room and the daughter that goes out, stays half way sober and comes home. I don’t know … but there is a point of responsibility. The real issues nowadays and increasingly, is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety.”

The complaint to the BAI was made by Fiona O’Toole, who summarised her complaint as follows:

The complainant states that it was not appropriate for the presenter to blame an alleged
victim of sexual assault for the fact that she was raped. The complainant states that it is irrelevant that she chose to go back to a hotel room with one man; she should not be raped by a second.

The complainant expressing the opinion that the presenter believes that the victim is responsible for this assault is offensive and harmful. The complainant states that
nobody would suggest that men who are mugged walking down Grafton Street in Dublin are responsible for being mugged and it is not appropriate for the presenter to blame women (and their parents) for rape rather than the rapist and their parents for how they raised them.

Newstalk’s response to the BAI was…

The broadcaster states that the day following the initial broadcast, Saturday 9th September, the programme presenter and Newstalk issued an apology for the on-air remarks.

On Monday 11th September, the presenter, while on-air, issued a further, more detailed,
apology. The broadcaster states that an internal process within the station in relation to the comments was undertaken and, on Friday 15th September, it was confirmed that the
presenter had been suspended from his duties at the station while the process was

The broadcaster states that on the 22nd September it was confirmed that the
process which reviewed the circumstance that led to the presenter’s comments had
concluded and Newstalk confirmed that the presenter would be stepping down from his
lunchtime slot and would return in December when he will take on a new weekend show.

In upholding the complaint, the BAI stated:

“In the case of the programme that is the subject of the complaint, the Committee noted that it is aimed at an adult audience and the programme and presenter’s sometimes provocative style are well established and understood by the audience.

The Committee also recognises that it is permissible in broadcasting to deal with the question of personal responsibility in covering issues of crime and criminal behaviour. However, this topic was raised in the programme in the context of a then ongoing UK court case about rape and the issue of personal responsibility was described by the presenter as “the real issue” in this matter.

As such, the Committee considered that the manner and context of raising the issue of personal responsibility in the context of a specific case of alleged rape caused undue offence and there was a strong possibility of causing distress to audience members who might personally identify with this issue.

In considering this complaint, the Committee acknowledged that the broadcaster subsequently undertook remedial action and has accepted the substance and validity of the complaint.

It also noted that the presenter explicitly stated that he does not condone rape.

However, the broadcaster had a responsibility to take greater care to prevent the possibility of undue offence and harm, including taking timely corrective action where content is likely to have caused offence.

The Committee was of the view that the broadcaster had failed to take corrective action in a timely fashion, action which may have ameliorated the undue offence caused. Given this and given the content of the programme, the Committee has decided to uphold the complaint.

Decision can be read in full here

Ryan Tubridy interviewing Stefanie Preissner, Michael Harding and Blindboy Boatclub, of The Rubberbandits, on the Late Late Show on January 6; from the BAI’s most recent report on complaint decisions

This afternoon.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has announced its most recent decisions concerning complaints from the public.

It reviewed and rejected 11 complaints it received about Blindboy Boatclub, of The Rubberbandits, referring to the eucharist as “haunted bread” and Stefanie Preissner saying how, as a child, the eucharist being described as body and blood conjured up images of cannibalism, on the Late Late Show in January.

In reference to one of the complaints, the BAI decided:

The Committee noted the discussion as a whole. In this respect, the comments that were deemed by the complainant to be offensive were articulated as part of a broad conversation on faith, which arose from the presenter asking the panellists about the manner in which they spent the Christmas period.

The first contributor, Mr. Michael Harding, outlined how he shied away from the traditional Christmas dinner and instead ate Indian food. He noted his fondness for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights and commented on the beauty of this festival.

The conversation turned to Mr. David Cambers of The Rubberbandits who detailed his Christmas celebrations in a surrealist manner that is the hallmark of the artistic/comedy act of which he is one member.

Finally, Ms. Stefanie Preissner spoke about her disillusionment with the commercial nature of Christmas festivities. The conversation then progressed to a discussion about the Catholic belief and practice, in terms of the decline of vocations and the rise and impact of secularisation on Irish life and faith, the issue of how young people have responded to a decline in traditional Catholic faith and practices and the question of where they can find spiritual ‘refuge’, if at all or indeed if even necessary.

It was at this point in the programme that one of the contributors also featured made reference to The Eucharist as ‘haunted bread’.

While not agreeing with the contention by the broadcaster that this panellist was speaking for his generation, the Committee considered it legitimate for a panellist to articulate their own personal views. In this instance, his views dealt with a religious tenet which rests on a belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in The Eucharist, a belief which may be difficult to reconcile for those who hold other religious beliefs or or no religious belief and one which the panellist did not appear to hold.

At that point in the programme, the other contributors reflected on this topic. Ms. Preissner spoke about how, as a child, The Eucharist being described as the body and blood of Christ conjured up images of cannibalism.

Mr. Harding spoke about how, over time, the belief in Transubstantiation has for some become difficult to understand, either for those who may only value the empirical or those who value only their own perspective regardless of facts.

Mr. Harding also spoke about the value of belief once it is not a belief that is imposed on others. Learning that Mr. Harding was a former priest, Mr. Chambers apologised for any offence that his description of The Eucharist may have caused him.

The Committee did not agree with the view of the complainant that Ms. Preissner was equating The Eucharist with cannibalism as it was clear that she was describing her thoughts as a child.

Regarding the comments by Mr. Chambers, the Committee considered his comments an expression of his own views rather than a comment on the views of others and did not agree that they were intended to mock the faith of others.

Regarding the view of the complainant that a reference to the attendance at Christmas midnight mass of people who are ‘half-cut’ with drink as being offensive; the Committee considered this a humorous reference to what may, on occasion, have been the experience of some parishioners at Christmas.

Read the complaints and decisions in full here

Previously: Maligning The Host


RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy and Irish Independent crime correspondent Paul Williams on The Late Late Show earlier this year

You may recall Irish Independent Crime Correspondent Paul Williams’s appearance on The Late Late Show on February 19 of this year, just a week before the general election on February 26.

Yesterday, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland rejected two complaints made about Mr Williams’s interview with presenter Ryan Tubridy.

In it’s decision, the BAI noted that, although live, the interview had been previously rehearsed and Mr Williams had unexpectedly raised the Special Criminal Court, Sinn Féin and Sinn Féin voters.

In the first instance, the complainant was John Flynn.

The BAI explained:

[Mr Flynn] objects to an interview with the journalist, Mr Paul Williams, who he claims was freely allowed to malign Sinn Féin voters as criminals.

The complainant believes that in the initial reply he received from RTÉ, the Producer relied on the weak intervention of the presenter and on the hazards of live TV to excuse the failure of the broadcaster to distance itself from Mr Williams’ claim.

The complainant maintains that Mr Williams stated that only people/organisations
opposed to the Special Criminal Court were Sinn Féin members of criminal enterprises.

The complainant states that RTÉ chose not to repudiate the remarks both on the night
and later in reply to the complainant. This was especially repugnant during an election campaign.

In response, the executive producer of The Late Late told Mr Flynn:

RTÉ state that this was a wide ranging and lengthy item that told the story of two criminal families and their vast wealth over a number of years.

The broadcaster states that towards the end of the item, which, for legal and editorial reasons, had been strictly rehearsed and planned in advance, Mr Williams unexpectedly started discussing the Special Criminal Court and his support for its ongoing existence.

The broadcaster states that the presenter attempted to cut him off but Mr Williams continued and made the accusation that the complainant and several others have found offensive. The interview continued about the feuding families thereafter.

RTÉ state that while it is worth noting that Mr Williams did not say that anyone who votes for Sinn Féin is a drug dealer or killer, he did say that the only people who support that part of their manifesto are.

This was unplanned, unscripted and the opinion solely of Mr Williams.

In rejecting the complaint, the BAI concluded:

…Mr Williams’ comments about the position of Sinn Féin in respect of the Special Criminal Court and their proposal to abolish it were factually correct.

From a review of the programme, it was evident that the comments made by the guest concerned the response of some segments of the electorate, in particular those engaging in criminal activities, to this aspect of the election manifesto of Sinn Féin.

While the comments could be reasonably seen as an implied criticism of that aspect of the Sinn Féin manifesto, the Committee did not agree that it amounted to a
comment on supporters of this party as a whole
, as stated by the complainant.

While audiences would have benefited from a more forthright response from the presenter to the remarks of his guest, it noted that the presenter quickly stated that the proposals of Sinn Féin in respect of the Special Criminal Court were not relevant to the discussion and also noted that the party, had it been in studio, would disagree with Mr Williams’ analysis.

Given the focus of the discussion, the factual nature of some of the comments in respect of the Special Criminal Court, the response of the presenter, and having also had regard to the right to free expression, the Committee was of the view that, on balance, the programme did not infringe the fairness, objectivity or impartiality requirements of the Broadcasting Act 2009 or the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs in the manner stated by the complainant. Accordingly, the complaint has been rejected.

The second complaint was made by Enda Fanning who claimed Mr Williams’ comments were an attempt to harm Sinn Féin in the then forthcoming General Election. He said Sinn Fein was the only political party referred to by Mr Williams in his comments.

RTÉ sent the same response to Mr Fanning as it did to Mr Flynn.

And, in rejecting Mr Fanning’s complaint, the BAI made the same conclusions in its rejection of Mr Flynn’s complaint.

Read the BAI decisions in full here

Previously: Passing Stools

540bbfba1f8f9.imageColum Kenny

Further to the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

Colum Kenny, a professor in the Communications Department of Dublin City University and a member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, spoke with Richard Crowley during RTÉ’s News At One.

Mr Kenny is also a former barrister and discussed what should be deemed unpublishable.

Richard Crowley: “Legally, what could be published?”

Colum Kenny: “Well, what you can publish is limited in the law under the provision of the Defamation Act 2009, that refers to blasphemy and you can be prosecuted for publishing or uttering a matter that’s grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters that are held sacred by any religion. Now it does have to cause outrage among a substantial number of the followers of that religion and you have to show that it was intended to cause outrage but a person can be prosecuted for publishing something that does cause outrage among a substantial number of believers. You would, as a media organisation, you are allowed to argue that there’s genuine literary or artistic or political or scientific or academic value in the matter to which the charge relates and it would be up to the circuit court to decide whether or not they accepted your argument. ”

Crowley: “But as I understand it, any visual depiction of the prophet Muhammad is offensive to some Muslims. You don’t have to ridicule, you don’t have to present him in a derogatory sense, you simply have to produce a visual depiction and that would be offensive. Now, to the rest of us, that seems ludicrous.”

Kenny: “Well, I’m not sure it’s ludicrous. The certain religious depictions, in a number of world traditions, and even in early Christianity and Buddhism were regarded as inappropriate, so many believers thought you shouldn’t attempt to represent the sacred so it’s a cultural thing that changes with time. But certainly it’s true that in Islam today there are people who find any depiction of the prophet Muhammad offensive and I think we need to be sensitive to that as journalists and as news media organisations. It doesn’t mean we don’t do it, if it’s appropriate in certain circumstances but if it’s going to cause outrage among a substantial number of Muslims then we need to think twice before we do it.

Crowley: “I suppose the question, Colum, becomes what is a substantial section of the population? The majority might say this is about a minority of the minority and we cannot be driven by that, if we want to protect freedom of speech and our own values.”

Kenny: “Well, we certainly can’t be driven by attacks, by physical attacks, outrages like that in Paris yesterday, which was entirely unacceptable and I think anyone who talks about this issue, should make clear their own position on that, whether they’re a Muslim or otherwise, they need to make it very clear that this is entirely unacceptable, no matter what the provocation, you don’t respond like this but the question of whether or not a substantial number of people find it offensive would be one, actually, that the circuit court judge would have to address, if there was a prosecution. They’d simply look at the evidence, they might well hear evidence from people like your previous speaker [Dr Ali Selim], one of the leaders of the Islamic community in Ireland, and that well might satisfy the court, that ‘yes’ a substantial number of Muslims find any depiction offensive. If they decided that, they’d have to go on to look at whether or not the publication intended to outrage those people and finally, they would have to look at whether or not there was any literary merit, or artistic or political merit in the publication. So you could have a situation where a magazine, such as Phoenix, for example, publishes something and was prosecuted but it could argue that this was some kind of a political statement or that it had literary merit and perhaps, at the end of the day, they’d get off for that reason. But I mean even if it got off, even if we leave aside the question of criminal prosecution, there is a requirement I think on all journalists to be sensitive to the feelings of all religious communities but that certainly doesn’t justify what happened in Paris yesterday.”

Listen back here


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

10620771_1459657094313369_1268485771302695233_nBuzz O’Neill


Enraged by the BAI decision to uphold a complaint of a non-gay’ imbalance during a radio discussion on same sex marriage

Buzz sez writes:

“”Irish media and its overseeing body is yet again running scarred of bullying solicitors letters from those opposing the referendum..We would like to use this FB page [link below]  to let the world know what is going on with our opponents, our media and our fellow LGBTQ campaigners. We ask that you don’t troll, and keep the debate civilised. Please add your taped up up mouth pic also….”

Not easy taking that off, in fairness.

Don’t Silence The Debate (Facebook)

Previously: The Balance Sheet


90303535(Top) Nora Bennis of Catholic Democrats, RTÉ broadcaster and psychoanalyst Michael Murphy

The Broadcating Authority of Ireland has rejected a complaint made by Nora Bennis on behalf of Catholic Democrats that statements made by RTÉ broadcaster Michael Murphy on RTÉ Radio One’s Mooney Show were “misleading and offensive and were seen as an incitement to hatred towards heterosexuals“.

On ‘The Mooney Show’ of January 20 2014, the complainants claim that Mr Murphy was allowed on the issue of civil partnerships to label a whole group of people who hold opposing views to him and there was nobody on the programme to bring balance to the discussion. Mr Murphy said in relation to the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality:

“…if I could quote the Church – [homosexual people] are intrinsically disordered with a tendency towards evil.”

Mrs Bennis states that Church teaching is clear on the matter:

“homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered [because] they are contrary to the Natural Law”…..”men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies…Must be accepted with respect”.

In reaching its decision to reject the complaint, the Compliance Committee was of the view that Mr Murphy’s interpretation of the teachings was reasonable and did not require a counterbalancing perspective.

Nora Bennis is the general secretary of Catholic Democrats and was listed as a substitute for Theresa Heaney in the Ireland South constituency.

Listen to ‘The Mooney Show’ here.

Download the BAI’s decision here.

Previously: Rightest Of The Right

Avert Your Gays

Good Gurl Theresa

Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland