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‘Register of interests’ for broadcasters dropped from new BAI code

The new code for Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality drops proposals to make broadcasters disclose any commercial relationships.

Image: Maros Markovic via Shutterstock

A PROPOSAL to force news and current affairs broadcasters to compile a register of financial interests has been dropped from the latest version of the broadcasting code.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) had included the proposal in a draft version of a new code for fairness and objectivity in news coverage last year, but the clause has been dropped from the final edition.

The proposal would have required people with an editorial role in a news or current affairs programme to supply details of any financial or commercial relationships which could have been considered to represent a material influence on their work.

The final text of the code, published by the BAI this afternoon, drops the idea because of “concerns raised in the consultation process which were discussed with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and were subject to legal review”.

The authority said it would raise the issue of a change in Irish law, allowing for a possible register in the future, with the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte.

The new code does, however, include a section which requires broadcasters to “have and implement policies and procedures to address any conflicts of interests that may exist or arise” involving anyone with an editorial position in a show, whether on-air or off-air.

It provides that any “personal, professional, business or financial interest” of anyone with an editorial role in a news or current affairs show, which could call into question the fairness of that programme, “shall be brought to the attention of the audience”.

It will be up to broadcasters, however, to decide whether any interest concerned is significant enough to warrant a person’s withdrawal from a programme.

It also requires that any ‘personal view’ segment, where a presenter’s thoughts are presented as their own private viewpoint and not as if they were unquestioned fact, should be clearly identified as an opinion segment from the outset of the piece.

The new rules also require broadcasters to put appropriate policies in place for the incorporation of social media content into news and current affairs programming, wherever such content is sought from the viewing public.

The new code comes into effect on July 1, giving broadcasters just under three months to come into compliance with the new requirements.

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