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Letter of Complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

I have written to the BAI and urge you to do so too.

 

To the members of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland,

I wish to lodge a complaint over the recent apology provided by RTÉ and subsequent compensation paid to Iona Institute and other named individuals, broadcast on The Saturday Night Show this month.

The context of the apology is well documented. However, the ramifications are unclear. In the coming year, RTÉ will be required to provide an important public service as it broadcasts discussions from all sides in the forthcoming referendum on gay marriage. RTÉ has a duty to present a balanced argument, fair to both sides, under its remit as a public service broadcaster and as a consequence of the McKenna Judgement.

In doing so, RTÉ cannot stifle either side in the debate. The opinion expressed on the programme was that the Iona Institute are homophobic. This opinion is a matter of public interest, as the Iona Institute are a very small but quite visible lobby group advocating institutionalised inequality (see for example their submission on the proposed review of Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to the Equality Authority). It was expressed as an honestly held opinion with consideration of the definition of homophobia as the treatment of homosexual people in a different way to others.

RTÉ acknowledged in their apology that “it is an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues.” That these views, honestly held and fairly expressed, led to an apology and payment of compensation marks a low-point for RTÉ. Counter to the intentions expressed in its apology, RTÉ has been complicit in the stifling of the debate around this issue and likely other issues where opinions on either side derive from strong personal convictions. I request that RTÉ are asked to explain their rationale for this apology and the awarding of compensation to the Iona Institute to the Broadcasting Authority as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Seery

Cc: complaints@rte.ie