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Dáil: New bill to prevent radio and television stations from blacklisting other media outlets

Last month, Communicorp effectively banned journalists from The Currency appearing on the group’s stations.

Journalists Ian Kehoe and Tom Lyons at the High Court last year attending a court case involving Denis O'Brien.
Journalists Ian Kehoe and Tom Lyons at the High Court last year attending a court case involving Denis O'Brien.
Image: Leah Farrell

A NEW BILL to prevent broadcasters from banning journalists from appearing on their airwaves because of their employer will be brought forward in Dáil Éireann in the next two weeks. 

The bill has been proposed by Sinn Féin TD and party spokesperson for communications David Cullinane. 

Last month, media company Communicorp wrote to its staff to ask them not to invite journalists from news website The Currency onto any of the group’s stations.

Communicorp owns radio stations such as Today FM, Newstalk and Spin 1038. 

The proposed bill would amend the 2009 Broadcast Act to make it a breach of contract for a broadcaster to ban a member of the National Union of Journalists from its media because of their occupation, employer, company or employment status. 

Cullinane told TheJournal.ie that most people were “outraged” by the fact that journalists could be stopped from appearing on broadcasting organisations due to their employer. 

“We felt it was important to ensure broadcasters could not do that anymore,” Cullinane said. 

The TD added that there should be more fairness and impartiality to ensure journalists are being treated the same regardless of where they work.

The bill will be brought forward by Cullinane in the Dáil in around two weeks, with the exact date to be confirmed soon. 

“I can’t see any reason why they won’t be supportive of this,” Cullinane said of other TDs and political parties. 

“A blanket ban in any situation is never good,” he said. “There is a responsibility on broadcasters under the Broadcasting Act to behave responsibly… The only way to prevent this from happening again is to underpin it in legislation.” 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland said it would not be intervening in the situation with The Currency and Communicorp. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last month that he does not believe anyone should be banned from TV, radio or a publication based on their employer.

Earlier this year, Denis O’Brien, the owner of Communicorp, lost his legal case against the Sunday Business Post where the businessman claimed to have been defamed in articles published by the paper in 2015. Ian Kehoe, now editor of The Currency, was editor of the Sunday Business Post when the articles were published. 

A similar effective ban was issued to journalists from The Irish Times two years ago when the CEO of Communicorp wrote to staff to tell them journalists from the publication would not be appearing on any of the group’s stations after Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole criticised gender balance at the broadcaster. 

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