Rights groups denounce use of BAI complaints procedures to “chill” equality discussions

20 Nov 2014

Two leading human rights organisations, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Marriage Equality, have strongly criticised the use of Broadcasting Authority (BAI) complaints procedures to “chill” public discussions about equality.

The groups spoke out after the BAI Compliance Committee partially upheld a complaint against the Newstalk Breakfast Show (ref 101/14) today (20 November 2014).

In its decision, the Compliance Committee found that Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue had breached rule 4.22 of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs by indicating that he would vote in favour of any forthcoming referendum on marriage equality.

The groups note that this complaint was brought by a Mr Ray McIntyre, who professes to believe in “the importance of marriage as a social institution designed to provide children with a mother and a father”. ICCL and Marriage Equality consider that the use of the BAI’s complaints procedures to ventilate views of this nature, while ostensibly promoting debate, in fact operates to chill public discussion of equality issues.

ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is surprised that, on the same day that a Board member of the BAI has indicated that the Authority ‘is currently unable to meet and do business’ and cannot ‘function entirely in the manner intended by the Oireachtas’, its Compliance Committee has produced a decision that is capable of having a chilling effect on public discussion of equality issues.  Rule 4.22 of the BAI Code is intended to promote fairness, objectivity and impartiality, not to provide an alternative channel through which professed opponents of equality can muzzle free expression. This is a matter that the ICCL intends to raise formally with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland if and when its Board is properly reconstituted.”

Andrew Hyland, Director, Marriage Equality said:

“Marriage Equality is deeply concerned at today's decision. The BAI’s recent rulings have led to a fear factor in media especially when it comes to those who support marriage equality. This development is very worrying as we have not even moved into a campaigning period on the referendum.”


Note to editor

Writing in today’s Irish Times, Professor Colum Kenny, a Board member of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland indicated that the BAI ‘is currently unable to meet and do business’ and cannot ‘function entirely in the manner intended by the Oireachtas’. The full article is available at this link: