On 13 March 2018, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has published updated guidelines in respect of referenda coverage. The guidelines are published in advance of the planned referendum on abortion at the end of May 2018 (on the 36th Amendment of the Constitution) but will also provide guidance for further future referenda on constitutional amendments and reforms to local government.
The guidelines have been developed further to the provisions of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs published in 2013. The guidelines apply to broadcasters within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland and provide direction and advice to broadcasters as to how fairness, objectivity and impartiality can be achieved in their coverage of forthcoming referenda campaigns.
Among the matters covered in the updated guidelines are:
Broadcasters are also encouraged by the guidelines to include a range of voices and opinions in their coverage, including a mix of views representing gender and cultural diversity.
A moratorium on broadcast coverage will come into effect from 2pm on the day prior to voting and will end following the closure of polling stations on the day of the ballot. Worth noting is that particular care is necessary when commenting upon on covering newspaper reviews, online content or social media as they are not subject to the moratorium.
To promote the guidelines, briefings and workshops will be undertaken for broadcasters.