Thursday, May 26, 2016

RTE found to be in breach of BAI standards following public complaints on their handling of the abortion issue

BLOG POST  by Marie Cummins
When will RTE adhere to the broadcasting laws of fairness and impartiality when dealing with the issue of abortion? Over the past six months, Ray D’Arcy, who presents an afternoon radio show for RTE, has twice been found to be in breach of the Broadcasting Authority if Ireland (BAI) standards in dealing with the issue of abortion and the right to life of unborn babies. 

The BAI decisions were handed down following a number of complaints by members of the public that D’Arcy’s handling of abortion was one-sided and biased. See articles in the Journal and the Irish Independent.

The first case arose during a programme on June 9th last year when D’Arcy interviewed Amnesty International’s Colm O’Gorman, in relation to the group’s pro-abortion report ‘She is not a criminal: The impact of Ireland’s abortion law’.  Following that interview  six complaints were lodged with the BAI on the basis that the programme was clearly in breach of Section 39 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which stipulates that ‘all news broadcast is reported and presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster's own views’.

Recently another complaint was issued to the BAI following D’Arcy’s interview of creator of Father Ted, Graham Linehan and his wife Helen, on 19 October of last year, regarding their experience of abortion. The interview focused on the fact that at 12 weeks gestation their baby had been diagnosed as having a so called ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ and on their subsequent decision to have an abortion. The Linehans who were living in England at the time took part in an Amnesty International video, the purpose of which was to remove all remaining barriers to, and decriminalise abortion, in Ireland. The BAI upheld both complaints in separate rulings and ruled that the radio programmes did not meet the requirements for ‘fairness, impartiality and objectivity'.

Both programmes were blatant attacks on Ireland's pro-life laws and in particular on the Eight Amendment of the Constitution, which grants an equal right to life to a mother and her unborn child. These programmes were presented by D’Arcy during a period when the pro-abortion lobby is working hard to overturn Ireland’s protection of the unborn and he failed to provide balance by inviting someone to present a pro-life view, neither did he adequately challenge the position of the guests on the show. On the contrary he seemed to be in agreement with them and gave them a very soft interview.

The whole affair raises a number of poignant questions . First, why were there no balancing views during the programmes, there are a number of groups such as ‘one day more’ whose members have experienced similar heartbreak as the Linehans but carried their babies to term?
Another critical question relates to the interview with the Linehans and we ask, if pro -life people came on the air, would they be given the same soft approach?
Probably not.

The Irish media in general appears to have embraced pro-abortion stance and seem to waste no opportunity in promoting their views. The position of RTE however is somewhat different to the media in general, in that they receive public funding and it is incumbent on them therefore to be more careful about the presentation of one-sided views on critical issues such as this.
It is high time that RTE are taken to task about their broadcasting policies and their monitoring of individual programmes when dealing with the issue of abortion if they are to continue to receive public funding.

It is also clear that the time has come for RTE to take action in regard to Ray D’Arcy.