Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ray D'Arcy Show acknowledges upheld BAI abortion complaint but pro-life group claims coverage 'slanted'

Presenter Ray D Arcy
Presenter Ray D Arcy

David Kearns

Pro-Life campaigners have dismissed an on-air statement by the Ray D’Arcy Show over a biased interview on abortion, claiming RTÉ only acknowledged the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's ruling because it was legally forced to do so.

Earlier today, the radio show read out live on-air a statement outlining the key findings of a report by the broadcasting watchdog, who, in December, said that the programme had “breached standards of fairness and impartiality” during an interview on abortion with Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland.

The complaint by Elaine Noonan said the discussion “was more of a chat between two people, who were agreeing totally on a subject” than an interview.

“It lacked any sort of challenging or balanced journalism,” it added.

Read More: Ray D'Arcy's RTE show criticised over fairness in abortion discussion

The statement read out at the beginning of the Ray D’Arcy Show today said that the BAI upheld five of six concerns raised by Ms Noonan.

Noting that the interview dealt with a matter of “public controversy and debate”, the complaints committee said that “criticism of Ireland’s legal approach to abortion went mostly unchallenged”.

“Listeners would have concluded that the presenter supported the views of Amnesty International and their campaign [to repel the 8th Amendment].

“Given the content of the programme and the role of the presenter, it was the view of the committee that this programme breached standards of fairness and impartiality.”

Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland
Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland

While welcoming today’s statement, a spokesperson for Pro Life Campaign said the on-air acknowledgment of the BAI's ruling only came about because “RTÉ were legally obliged to do”.

“The attitude in RTÉ seems to be to bury their heads in the sand whenever there is criticism about its slanted coverage on abortion,” said Cora Sherlock, PLC Deputy Chairperson.

“The real issue today is not the biased conduct of the Ray D’Arcy Show but rather the ongoing refusal of senior executives in RTÉ to take steps to address the deeply embedded bias in general at the station against the pro-life position.”

The BAI partially upheld a complaint against RTÉ over the June 9 2015 broadcasting of the Ray D’Arcy Show.

In its ruling, the watchdog found listeners to the programme would have concluded that Ray D’Arcy “endorsed” the views of Colm O’Gorman, and was articulating a “partisan position.”

Despite agreeing with RTÉ’s defence that the show included contributions by text  that were critical of the stance of Amnesty International on Ireland’s abortion laws, the BAI concluded the programme did not fully meet the requisite requirements for fairness, objectivity and impartiality.

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