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BAI rejects complaints Ray D’Arcy was biased in marriage referendum coverage

One listener wasn’t happy the presenter said he had cried with pride when the vote was passed.

File photo
File photo
Image: Joe Dunne/RollingNews.ie

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) has rejected two complaints about how the Ray D’Arcy Show covered the same-sex marriage referendum.

An individual submitted complaints about two editions of the radio programme, which aired on 7 and 25 May 2015.

On the first date in question, the complainant claimed there was an unbalanced and partial discussion about a photo of a family which had been used in a poster by Mothers and Fathers Matter advocating a No vote in the referendum.

The family featured in the photo objected to its use as they were personally in favour of a Yes vote.

D’Arcy read out comments made by Australian comedian Adam Hills, whose wife knows the couple, about the situation.

“Unfortunately, the image in the poster is a stock photo – which means anyone can buy it and use it for whatever purpose they so desire. As it turns out, the people in this photo are friends of my wife, and are appalled that their faces are being used, without their permission, to promote something they wholeheartedly disagree with. And yet there is nothing they can do about it.

Regardless of how you feel about the vote – what a weird, horrible, ridiculous world we live in, in which a loving, caring, open-minded family unit can be used to advertise the very opposite of what that particular family unit believes. If any of my Irish friends see these posters, just know this – the beautiful family on that poster is all for marriage equality.

In response, a statement from Mothers and Fathers Matter noted:

“Like many campaigns, Mothers and Fathers Matter has used a stock photo to give a human face to our message. In this case, that children deserve a mother and father wherever possible. Our posters all demonstrate the core issue in the marriage referendum debate rather than the rather simplistic messaging being used by the various Yes posters.

We don’t respond to third parties suggesting that they speak for the family who received payment for this photo but if the couple involved care to contact us directly we will be pleased to demonstrate how use of this photo will help insure that no child will be deliberately denied the love of a mother or father.

A subsequent statement from the couple was also read on air.

‘Tears of pride’

On the second programme, the complainant said D’Arcy breached BAI codes by saying he had cried tears of pride when the referendum passed. The presenter said the Yes vote sent out a message that the Irish people are tolerant and inclusive.

The complainant said that by celebrating inclusion D’Arcy was, ironically, excluding approximately 40% of the electorate.

In response, RTÉ noted that D’Arcy expressed the inclusive hope that those who had voted No would in time come to see it as positive.

23/5/2015 Gay Marriage Equality Referendums People celebrate the Yes Result in the Marriage Equality Referendum at Dublin Castle. Source: RollingNews.ie

In addition, by informing the audience that the following hour would contain a “celebration” of the result, RTÉ said D’Arcy gave listeners the opportunity to choose whether or not to listen to the occasion being marked in that way.

The broadcaster also noted that BAI guidelines in respect of referendum coverage being equally balanced ended once the polling stations closed.

In relation to the first complaint, the BAI noted that the criticisms of the couple were balanced by the statement of Mothers and Fathers Matter, and the presenter did not comment on the merits of the views set out by either party involved.

As for the second complaint, the BAI stated that the referendum campaign “had concluded and the matter, while one that constituted news or current affairs, was no longer deemed to be one of public controversy or debate at the time of
the broadcast”.

The committee noted that while the BAI’s regulations prohibit the articulation by a presenter of a partisan position, they do not prohibit a presenter, when dealing with a current affairs issue, from giving opinions.

Pregnancy discussion 

The BAI also rejected a complaint about a separate programme when D’Arcy spoke to Fine Gael councillor Kate O’Connell about her experience of a pregnancy involving a medical problem.

The complainant stated that the story told by O’Connell was of a sad situation that had turned out very well. However, they claimed D’Arcy focused on abortion as a solution, not only to fatal foetal abnormalities, but also in the case of pregnancies arising from rape and incest.

Having considered the item, the BAI committee was of the view that it was “predominantly a human interest item which explored the issue of abortion though the experiences of councillor O’ Connell”.

“While the content constituted current affairs, there is no automatic requirement to challenge the views of a contributor on a current affairs topic,” the ruling stated.

Read: Dean Strang defends Ray D’Arcy after interview criticism

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