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Those with 'deep pockets' control the media - Clare Daly

Mick Wallace added: “People are afraid of the money and power of Denis O’Brien, he’s worth billions … His influence to shape the news is too great.”

Clare Daly
Clare Daly
Image: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV

INDEPENDENT TD CLARE Daly has said that the Irish media are failing to cover certain topics due to “threats and fear of litigation”.

Daly told the Dáil that sections of the media were “standing back at the slightest threat of legal action from those who have deep pockets”, adding that there are “very wealthy people … trying to block what goes into the media”.

Also speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Mick Wallace stated: “People are afraid of the money and power of Denis O’Brien, he’s worth billions … His influence to shape the news is too great.”

He said that a “stronger streak of independence and objectivity” is needed in Irish media.

“A healthy, objective media could mean an awful lot to improving how we do things in this country … At present, too much is left to be desired,” Wallace added.

Daly accused RTÉ of “bending the knee to those with deep pockets” by paying out an €85,000 settlement to journalists John Waters and Breda O’Brien and Catholic lobby group the Iona Institute after Rory O’Neill called them homophobic on the Saturday Night Show.

Offence

TDs were debating whether or not the word ‘offence’ should be removed from the duties of broadcasters section of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

The Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2014 was proposed by Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

“The word offence is deterring freedom of speech, the word offence is causing a chilling effect,” Donnelly said.

He added that it was damaging “people now know it’s worth complaining to RTÉ about offence caused”, saying this could cause media outlets to “avoid items” that may lead to complaints and “choose guests who won’t be as risky”.

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Stephen Donnelly (Pic: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV)

When responding to Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte’s claim that the Bill was lacking in content, Donnelly said that a Bill did not have “contain lots of words” to be “worthy of debate”.

Rabbitte said he welcomed the opportunity to debate these issues but described the Bill as “entirely inappropriate”.

“I said in the wake of the programme in question that the more objectively ascertainable test would be to impose a requirement not to cause “harm or undue offence”. This comment appears to have been whimsically latched onto by the Deputy who now, in this hurried one-section Bill, proposes simply to excise the term ‘offence’,” Rabbitte stated.

He told Donnelly: “Legislating from the hip for a passing headline is not appropriate in a complex area nor would it improve the quality of public debate. A more nuanced approach is required if broadcasting standards are to be maintained and we are to avoid broadcasters seeking controversy in the pursuit of ratings.”

Rabbitte added that “a delicate balance” needed to be struck “between ensuring that the constitutional rights of the individual to freedom of speech and freedom of access to information are maintained, while at the same time safeguarding individuals and groups of society from abuse”.

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Pat Rabbitte (Pic: Screengrab/Oireachtas TV)

Hate speech

Daly noted: “The right to free speech is not the right to hate speech.” She described an article about travellers written by Brenda Power in the Daily Mail this week as “reprehensible”.

Wallace echoed these sentiments, labelling the column in question “disgraceful”.

He noted that the Pantigate controversy gave off the impression that it is “more offensive to called a homophobe than to experience homophobia”.

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy said that public debate in the run up to next year’s Marriage Equality Referendum should not be “limited by one side rushing to their lawyers” as that would lead to “an increasingly sterile national conversation”.

Independent TD Finan McGrath remarked that Panti Bliss’s ‘Noble Call’ speech should be shown to every second level school in the country. He added: “At all times hard questions need to be asked and opinions need to be challenged.”

He also accused Rabbitte of “having a bad hair day”, saying: “I don’t know if it was the Queen’s pheasant in London that upset him, but he’s not in a good mood”.

The Government has said it will not be supporting the Bill, which is due to be voted on next Tuesday.

Watch: 100,000 people watch Panti video on homophobia in less than two days

Read: RTÉ receives 847 complaints about Panti appearance and apology to Iona Institute >

Read: RTÉ apologises for ‘distress’ caused by Saturday Night Show guest’s comments >

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Órla Ryan

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