In the most recent Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) report on media complaints, the BAI highlighted a complaint submitted by Joseph Fitzpatrick regarding an RTÉ One news article that reported about the Deputy Chief Medical Officer reporting four stillbirths had occurred in circumstances where Covid-19 had infected the placenta.
The complainant claimed the report was emotional, not firmly based on observable phenomena, and the material was presented sensationally rather than factually.
The complainant believed the item was inaccurate in claiming a link between the four stillbirths and Covid-19 because, at the time of broadcast, no clear link had been established.
The complainant believed the item took a misleading and sensational approach, which could cause unnecessary stress and worry for pregnant women. The complainant states the item fell well short of the requirement for news to be reported and presented in an objective and impartial manner.
However, RTE claimed the Deputy Chief Medical Officer raised this matter at a public media briefing by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
RTE noted the health authorities chose to publicise this matter and it would have been a strange, and arguably, highly irresponsible decision by the broadcaster to second guess that expert decision and to not report it.
RTE did not believe the item was sensationalist and noted the matter did not feature in the headlines or reports.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland REJECTED the complainants complaint but did say “In considering the complainant’s view the news segment was sensational, inaccurate and misleading, the Forum noted the introduction to the segment by the presenter was somewhat sensational in describing the news as “something of a bombshell”.
However, the Forum noted the correspondent and recorded interview were not sensational and the facts were carefully reported, highlighting that this was a public announcement by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and including important caveats on the reported information”.
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