GLEN hits out at broadcasting ruling on 'balance' issue in same-sex marriage discussion

Derek Mooney

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) is hitting out a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland ruling on a same-sex marriage discussion.

The BAI upheld a complaint from the Family and Media Association - a group which promotes Christian values - that the item was unbalanced.

The discussion took place on the Mooney show on RTE last January. It contained an item discussing the latest civil partnership figures with broadcaster Michael Murphy and Tiernan Brady from GLEN.

The complainant objected to a statement by Derek Mooney that: "I hope you do get gay marriage…I hope it does come in" on the grounds that it was "a direct expression of a personal opinion on the matter by the presenter" and therefore breached guidelines on fairness and objectivity.

However, Brian Sheehan - the director of Glen - said it should be possible to discuss gay and lesbian issues without somebody having to oppose them.

"Our concern is that this restricts this debate and that from this day on lesbian and gay people will not be able to talk about their lives or their aspirations as Irish citizens, or about their experiences of love and commitment without someone on the same programme opposing them," he said.

"That doesn’t seem to us like a good way to have an open, public debate."

In its decision, the BAI said: "While the Committee noted that aspects of the programme were factual and of a human interest nature (particularly in respect to the personal experiences of the guest and of the legislative details and practical aspects of Civil Partnership), the discussion of same-sex marriage constituted current affairs content on an issue that was of current public debate and controversy.

"While agreeing that a referendum campaign is not currently underway, as a matter of current affairs, the general requirements for fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs set down in the Broadcasting Act and the BAI’s code on news and current affairs were applicable."

Full text of the decision here.

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