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We asked Ray D'Arcy about criticism of his Eighth Amendment coverage

The RTÉ host stopped by TheJournal.ie for an interview…
Sep 20th 2016, 6:10 AM 39,475 243


RAY D’ARCY HAS responded to criticism of his radio show’s handling of the abortion debate over the last year.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld complaints against the RTÉ Radio 1 programme’s coverage of the issue on two occasions over the past 12 months (last December and in May). Other complaints against the show were either rejected or upheld in part.

The presenter returned to the national broadcaster from Today FM at the start of last year, and has come in for criticism several times since then for his coverage of contentious issues. The BAI also rejected two complaints that D’Arcy covered last year’s same-sex marriage referendum in an unfair way.

He has come in for particular criticism from the Pro Life Campaign for coverage of the abortion issue, and in a ruling last December the BAI found “listeners to the programme would have reasonably concluded that the presenter endorsed the views of his interviewee” during an interview with Amnesty’s Colm O’Gorman, who supports repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Asked about those BAI rulings in an interview with TheJournal.ie, D’Arcy said:

I think if you read back through the judgments over the last year you will find that, for example, the BAI say that we are allowed to have people on telling personal stories – you know? So that’s a slight change.

He also brought up, in his answer, a segment from the show that aired earlier this month featuring senator and pro-life campaigner Rónán Mullen.

Mullen took the opportunity during the course of the discussion to attack D’Arcy’s previous coverage of abortion – prompting fierce debate, once again, on social media.

Here’s what D’Arcy had to say about that item:

“The other thing about the repeal of the Eighth Amendment is – we had Rónán Mullen on, Senator Rónán Mullen on, recently and I was in the middle of the interview with him…

“So, me – [a] middle-aged man – talking to Rónán Mullen, who is a middle-aged man… Then we had a woman on the phone from England talking about post-abortion counselling – a service that her organisation were offering Irish women

And it struck me – I got this out-of-body thing – that this is a microcosm of the problem, you know that there’s two middle-aged men and a woman from England talking about issues that concern Irish women’s bodies.

Asked if he might have responded differently to Mullen’s comments, had the segment aired on commercial radio, he said:

It might have been a different interview if it was on Today FM, it may have been.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

There’s a higher degree of scrutiny for hosts on the national broadcaster, compared to the commercial sector, D’Arcy explained.

Asked about how he handled that change, moving from Today FM to RTÉ just as the marriage debate was gathering pace, he said that “when you move to a state broadcaster, it’s different – and it just took me a while to adjust”.

Management at RTÉ need to take a look at policies on balance and fairness, he said.

“Sometimes in debates we don’t serve our public best by being strictly black and white – we have somebody on from the Yes side – three minutes – somebody from the No side – three minutes.

Because a lot of things are nuanced, there’s a lot of grey, so it’s not just simply Yes and No, it’s not black and white – so I think we just need to have a chat about that, we need to have a discussion about that. That hasn’t happened yet.

The Ray D’Arcy Show returns to TV on RTÉ One this Saturday at 9.40pm. We’ll have more from our interview later in the week. 

–Camera work and editing by Nicky Ryan

Read: Ray D’Arcy reunites man with his late wife’s bracelet that went missing in the 1970s >

Read: Joe Duffy thinks they’re ‘lunacy’ – but this RTÉ boss has no problem with restrictive airtime rules >

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Daragh Brophy

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