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Broadcasters told to "focus on the issues" in marriage debate

The BAI believes debating can be done in a non-adversarial way.

Image: Bev Sykes via Flickr/CC

THE BROADCASTING WATCHDOG has told television and news outlets to be “fair, balanced and impartial” in the run-up to May’s referenda, but to focus on the issues.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) today released its guidelines for the referenda, which will cover legalising same-sex marriage and lowering the age at which a person can be president.

Speaking at the launch of the guidelines today, Michael O’ Keeffe, Chief Executive of the BAI said that broadcasters are “generally compliant” in adhering to the guidelines.

“The requirement to treat the views of referenda interests in a fair, objective and impartial manner remains an essential requirement.

“However, the BAI believes a focus on the issues may be of greater benefit to the democratic choice to be made by individuals, than an approach to coverage that is simply adversarial in nature.”

He was echoed by Declan McLoughlin who said that while there was no need for “automatic balance” in broadcasting, broadcasters could consider giving more airtime to contextualising the facts.

“Instead of it being adversarial and just presenting a for and against, time could be used to elucidate the issues and opinions.”

The guidelines also address the use of opinion polls, on-air contributions via social media and a prohibition on presenters encouraging listeners or viewers to vote in support of, or against, a particular outcome in the referenda.

As with previous guidelines, a moratorium on referenda coverage will come into effect from 2pm on the day prior to the opening of polling stations and will end following the close of polling stations on the day of the ballot.

Read: Irish students rang their Grannies for an honest chat about the marriage referendum

Read: DCU is changing its exam timetable to allow students to vote in the marriage referendum

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