Irish broadcast watchdog wants pro-gay messages ‘balanced’ with anti-gay ones

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The National Union of Journalists has attacked  the Irish broadcast regulator, for insisting that pro-gay voices are ‘balanced’ with anti-gay ones ahead of the country’s equal marriage referendum.

The Republic of Ireland, which introduced civil partnerships in 2011, is set to vote next May on extending civil marriage to same-sex couples.

However, the Broadcast Authority of Ireland has been accused of heavy-handed in its approach leading up to the referendum.

Irish Times journalist Una Mullally claimed today that the regulator’s guidance means all on-air discussion of her book about equal marriage, ‘In the Name of Love’, has to be counter-balanced with voices opposing marriage equality.

The NUJ says the regulator’s rules are “having a chilling effect on public discourse around marriage equality”.

NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley said: “This is precisely the absurd consequence which the NUJ warned of.

“We now have a situation where station managements, programme editors, and journalists are being forced to self-censor as a result of the requirement to second guess the BAI in relation to any issue which may or may not be the subject of a referendum at an unspecified date in the future.

“This seems to arise from the BAI determination in the Mooney Show and the circular issued in relation to coverage of the referendum on marriage equality.

“No one would have predicted that the BAI would have issued such a narrow set of guidance notes.

“It is therefore of little surprise that station owners should wish to tread doubly carefully as they look to their future licence renewals.

“Statements from the BAI about the intended consequences of their rulings are of little comfort, it is the substance of the rulings themselves which needs to be addressed.”