The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has launched on 9 April 2013 a Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.
The Broadcasting Act 2009 requires broadcasters to ensure that all news broadcast is presented in an objective and impartial manner, without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views. The Act also requires that current affairs programming, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of public debate, is fair to all interests concerned and presented in an objective and impartial manner without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views.
In February 2012, the BAI launched a consultation on a draft code, inviting broadcasters, journalists, political parties, voluntary and professional organisations and members of the public to share their opinions on fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs. In addition, the BAI commissioned a representative survey of public opinion on the draft code. The final code reflects the suggestions made during the consultation process.
The proposal contained in the draft code, which required each broadcaster to maintain a public register of interest - in which personnel with an editorial role in news must present commercial relationships that might have a material influence on them - was finally rejected. The final code incorporates a general principle of avoiding conflicts of interest. If conflicts of interest arise, the broadcaster is obliged to inform relevant individuals and the public. Broadcasters will be required to determine whether the interest concerned is of such extent as would warrant the withdrawal of any person from further involvement in the programme.
The prohibition on the expression of the presenter’s own views has been qualified in the final code, especially in relation to matters of public controversy or matters of current public debate. Any ‘personal view’ segment, where a presenter’s thoughts are presented as their own private viewpoint and not as if they were unquestioned fact, should be clearly identified as an opinion segment from the outset of the piece.
A new rule has also been added to the final code which requires broadcasters to put in place appropriate procedures for handling contributions to current affairs and news via social media.
The new code comes into effect on July 1.