The BAI held a press conference in Dublin earlier today to present its media guidelines on how to report issues related to the upcoming same sex referendum. This reporter was in attendance there today, on behalf of TheLiberal.
Ahead of the two referenda due to be held during May (same sex marriage and age of presidential candidates), the BAI has today published its updated Guidelines in Respect of Coverage of Referenda.
This document supplements the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity, and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs, and provides guidance for media on how to cover and report all issues surrounding the referenda, particularly with regard to the enforcement of the quoted terms of objectivity, impartiality, and fairness.
The guidelines are not binding, and are simply provided to broadcasters to aid them in interpreting the code.
On behalf of TheLiberal, I put forward some questions to the speakers at the conference, and here are the answers they provided:
Q. If interviews are held with couples who are having children via sperm donation, should interviews also be held with couples who oppose it?
A. For the sake of fairness, all the views should be heard, though due to time constraints and interviewees availability, this may not always be possible. The BAI spokesperson did state, however, that there is no obligation to automatically balance two opposing views, and also that there is no requirement to allocate equal airtime to different speakers with different opinions.
Q. Should it be allowed to ask one side ‘hard’ questions, and ask less challenging questions to the other side?
A. Depending on the particular show’s format, presenter style, the issue itself, yes, it is allowed. Sometimes there is a need to ask harder questions to some people, again depending on what the issue is, the views held , and a wide range of other factors.
Q. Should political TV shows be held to account to a fair and balanced debate?
A. The broadcaster of the show, rather than the presenter, would be held accountable on that regard. The host should always be unbiased and impartial on all the views exposed.
The campaign for the same sex marriage referendum has just started, and will go on for some weeks to come. This reporter will follow the campaign and transmit the views and opinions of those participating in upcoming conferences and debates.