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BAI calls for resolution over Communicorp station ban on Irish Times journalists

The Denis O’Brien-owned Communicorp has had the ban in place since 5 October.

Writer with the Irish Times Fintan O'Toole
Writer with the Irish Times Fintan O'Toole
Image: Laura Hutton via Rolling News

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) has today asked Communicorp Group Ltd (CGL) and the Irish Times to consider entering into discussions to seek a resolution in relation to the blanket ban placed on Irish Times journalists from appearing on the Communicorp’s radio stations.

The ban was instigated on 5 October in reaction to statements by journalists such as the Irish Times’ Fintan O’Toole with regard to George Hook and the comments he made about a rape case on his Newstalk show.

Hook subsequently took a sabbatical leave from Newstalk. He has since returned with a new weekend show on the station.

Following a request from the Authority, the BAI Compliance Committee considered the issue of the Irish Times ban. The committee considered these matters at its meetings in November and December 2017 and again in January 2018.

Following this, the committee concluded that, while the prohibition put in place by Communicorp is regrettable, “no compliance issues arose from the prohibition in the context of the provisions of the five contracts held by CGL, the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the principles and rules set out in the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs”.

The BAI said it was the opinion of the committee that there was no evidence to support the view that the prohibition was an impediment to the ability of the contractors for the five services in question to meet their programming commitments.

Despite this, the committee said that the decision to introduce the prohibition was contrary to the spirit of one of the key components of the BAI mission to “promote a plurality of voices, viewpoints, outlets and sources in Irish media”.

‘Seek a resolution’ 

At its meeting on 26 February, the BAI considered the committee’s deliberations.

The Authority agreed with the findings and said it shared the unease expressed by the committee on the situation that has arisen.

In a statement today, the BAI said:

As the regulator for the broadcasting sector, the BAI is committed to the facilitation of a mix of voices, opinions and sources of news and current affairs. The Authority has decided that it will seek to address the question of the operation of prohibitions of this nature in general policy terms.

The BAI said it noted that Communicorp has previously indicated a willingness to engage with the Irish Times with a purpose of resolving the issue between the parties.

The BAI would encourage both parties to consider entering into discussions to seek a resolution to the matter.

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Irish Times for comment.

Communicorp Media said it welcomed the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) Compliance Committee’s decision regarding the banning of The Irish Times journalists from its stations.

Read: BAI to write to Communicorp for a second time over station-ban on Irish Times journalists

More: Complaint from Communicorp over Irish Times article on George Hook controversy won’t go further

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