Wednesday 26 October 2016

RTE staff warned not to post views on same-sex marriage referendum on social media

Published 02/04/2015 | 17:04

Same-sex marriage referendum to be held on May 22 (Stock photo)
Same-sex marriage referendum to be held on May 22 (Stock photo)

STATE broadcaster RTE has warned staff to take care not to air their views on the upcoming referenda on social media platforms.

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Anyone working for the radio and television station who express a position on the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage - or on reducing the age of eligible presidential candidates - would contribute to a perception that the organisation holds a point of view on it, it claimed.

In an update to staff David McKenna, RTE’s head of broadcast compliance, said: “In that context, for the duration of the campaign debate, you should not state on social media your views on either of the two referendums; this includes banners, retweets, twitter avatars, watermarks and so on.”

Mr McKenna said that anyone who felt restrained should remember that it is to protect “public trust in our delivery of fair debate and coverage of these referendums”.

He said staff members and those sub-contracted by independent production companies were viewed by members of the public as members of the RTE community.

“When you walk into the polling station on Friday May 22, you are a private citizen exercising your right to vote, to change or not change the Constitution. For the duration of the campaign debate, your observance of these limits on self-expression is a necessary contribution to that right,” he stated.

It comes as the countdown to the ballot gets underway, with factions for and against increasing media appearances and frequency of comments on the key referenda.

In a statement RTE said its social media guidelines were published in 2013 and, like guidelines issued by other public service broadcasters, it draws to staff’s attention the risks of the public expression of personal views damaging trust in the fairness and impartiality of the station.

“Staff are routinely reminded about guidances in the run-up to elections and referendums in particular,” said a spokeswoman.

“RTE’s core guiding principle in this matter, as in all, is fairness and impartiality, and this is a sound statement of principle for RTE.”

The broadcaster said fairness and impartiality is at the core of its obligations to the audience, adding that it also assures audiences, contributors, and commentators that RTE will play a fair role in the impartial coverage of a diversity of views and opinions.

“It might be useful to note that the guidelines do not extend necessarily to public figures (eg musicians, actors or other personalities) whose public profile precedes involvement with RTE but who may from time to time appear on RTE in non-presenter or other roles,” It added.

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