Wednesday 18 September 2019

RTÉ warned over coverage of abortion issue on D'Arcy show

Ray D'Arcy hosts the RTÉ show Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ray D'Arcy hosts the RTÉ show Photo: Steve Humphreys

Mel Finn and Chai Brady

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has issued a formal warning notice to RTÉ against The Ray D'Arcy Show's coverage of the abortion issue.

The notice from the broadcasting watchdog follows a third complaint against RTÉ relating to its coverage of the campaign to change Irish abortion laws and the discussion of abortion. The decision has been welcomed by the Pro-Life Campaign, who declared it "significant" in the ongoing campaign against media bias on the abortion issue.

"The dual issues of accountability and impartiality runs much deeper than 'The Ray D'Arcy Show'," the group said in a statement.

"With each new instance of one-sided coverage, public trust in RTÉ is evaporating. RTÉ's refusal to address the problem is also doing a huge disservice to those working in RTÉ who take care to be impartial."

The complaint relates to an interview on the radio show from June 9, in which Irish couple Gaye and Gerry Edwards discussed travelling to England for an induced delivery after their son was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality.

The BAI concluded that the audience of 'The Ray D'Arcy Show' should have been made aware that the interviewees were members of a campaigning organisation seeking to change Irish law, and not simply people telling their personal story.

RTÉ said in a statement yeaterday that "it notes and accepts the decision of the BAI as required".

"RTÉ will provide the BAI with a plan to ensure there is no reoccurrence of the issues identified," it said.

In its latest decision, the BAI pointed out that this "was the third occasion on which complaints have been upheld" in respect of abortion coverage on 'The Ray D'Arcy Show'.

Earlier this year, the BAI upheld a complaint relating to D'Arcy's interview with comedy writer Graham Linehan and his wife Helen, in which the pair discussed their abortion experience.

Formal sanctions may be made against the national broadcaster if the matter is not remedied by RTÉ to the BAI's satisfaction.

The committee also rejected RTÉ's contention that a subsequent interview on 'The Ray D'Arcy Show' corrected any imbalance that may have occurred, noting that this later interview did not touch on the abortion debate in any meaningful way.

In a statement last night, advocacy group Amnesty International Ireland said it was deeply concerned about the finding.

"The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has a responsibility to ensure that broadcasting serves the public interest, including people's right to seek information. Decisions like what has been reported today do not serve that function, and are deeply unhelpful," executive director of the organisation, Colm O'Gorman, said.

Mr O'Gorman said the BAI should support debate about the abortion issue on the national airwaves.

"Ireland has finally begun to have a vital national conversation on the issue of abortion. As the Citizens' Assembly deliberates, the media should seek to discuss it in a way that ensures the public get the accurate information they need," he said.

"Women with personal experience of abortion must be given an opportunity to share their stories. Women like Gaye Edwards who bravely shared her experience in order to encourage much-needed law reform.

"Discussions such as those which took place on The Ray D'Arcy radio show are sorely needed."

Irish Independent

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