Saturday 27 December 2014

Gay rights group fury at ruling on Mooney debate

Sam Griffin

Published 15/08/2014 | 02:30

RTÉ One nature series 'Secrets of the Irish Landscape,' presented by Derek Mooney, wins prestigious award
RTÉ One nature series 'Secrets of the Irish Landscape,' presented by Derek Mooney, wins prestigious award

GAY and lesbian rights groups have criticised a decision by the broadcasting standards watchdog to uphold a complaint made about a discussion around same-sex marriage on an RTE radio programme.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), which yesterday published the outcomes of 13 cases, ruled that a segment on the Mooney show was in breach of its codes relating to fairness, objectivity and impartiality.

The complaint, by Donal O'Sullivan-Latchford on behalf of the Family and Media Association, was made following a programme broadcast on RTE Radio One on January 20.

The complainant stated that the show's presenter, Derek Mooney, had made "several statements implicitly and explicitly supporting same-sex marriage" during a discussion on the number of civil partnerships in Ireland since 2011.

The complainant also said the show's guests, former RTE newsreader Michael Murphy and Tiernan Brady from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), had also made comments supporting same-sex marriage and that there were no opposing voices heard.

RTE responded that the segment was not supposed to be a debate on this issue, but rather a "personal viewpoint by Mr Murphy" on his experience of civil partnership. The broadcaster said it had not taken place in the context of a referendum on same-sex unions, as no date for such a referendum has been set.

The BAI's Compliance Committee found the discussion focused on "broader issues" arising from the introduction of civil partnership legislation.

"It was the view of the committee that in the absence of alternative views on this topic... the role of the presenter was to provide alternative perspectives to those of his guests and that this requirement was not met on this occasion," the BAI ruled.

It added that the discussion was not "fair, objective or impartial" and that a "partisan position" had been taken.

Glen director Brian Sheehan said the ruling "restricts public debate". He said he believed "all broadcasters will now be examining the way they deal with people". He said it now seems like no one can raise a topic or issue unless there is someone there in every instance to "contradict" them.

The BAI also rejected four complaints against The Centre - Katherine Lynch's controversial comedy. One complainant said she was "appalled and traumatised" by the programme.

Complaint against TV3 documentary ‘partly upheld’

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has partly-upheld a complaint made against a TV3 documentary A Search for Justice: Death in Bray.

The programme examined the death of Sebastian Creane, who was killed in a murder-suicide by Dublin student Shane Clancy in August 2009.

The complainant, Mr Clancy's mother Leonie Fennell, said that she had only agreed to contribute to the programme following a number of "undertakings" by the producer.

Ms Fennell complained that the documentary-makers broadcast material, including CCTV footage of her son's final hours, which she did not wish to be aired.

She also complained that she had been promised there would be no reconstructions of the events and said TV3 had misled viewers by discussing "a journal" attributed to her son which she said did not exist, among other complaints.

TV3 said the complainant had signed two release forms and that it had been too late to remove Ms Fennell's contribution to the programme, which she requested the day before it aired.

The BAI ruled the broadcaster had not "demonstrated due care towards the complainant". However, the authority rejected another complaint that related to a discussion that aired on the Vincent Browne programme following the documentary as the authority's deliberations were limited to the documentary itself.

Irish Independent

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