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BAI considering proposals over introduction of register of journalists' interest

Broadcast personnel with an editorial role in news and current affairs may have to provide details of financial and commercial relationships.

Image: AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/PA

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland is reviewing public submissions ahead of publishing new guidelines on fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs which could see registers of interest being introduced for journalists.

In February, the BAI launched a draft report for public consultation which outlined proposals for the new guidelines.

That draft report included proposals requiring broadcasters to maintain a public register of interests under which journalists and other broadcasting personnel would have to provide information about some of their financial or business interests.

Under the provisions, “each broadcaster shall maintain a public Register of Interests in which personnel with an editorial role in news and current affairs shall enter details of all financial or commercial relationships that might be perceived as representing a material influence on them in, or in relation to, the performance of such editorial role, together with an indication or any individuals or companies to which the personnel in question may be deemed to owe a fiduciary duty.”

The deadline for submissions of responses to the draft document was 14 March, and Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte says that the BAI is currently considering those responses from the public “and will publish the finalised Code in due course”.

Rabbitte was recently asked in the Dáil by Labour TD Thomas Broughan whether he would consider introducing legislation to ensure that journalists working for national newspapers and broadcasters and comment “regularly on important issues of national policy” maintain a register of interests.

“I have no role in relation to journalistic standards in the print media,” Rabbitte replied.

“In this regard, I would note that the Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman were established by industry to safeguard and promote professional and ethical standards”, he added, and said that they are formally recognised under Section 44 of the Defamation Act 2009.

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