BAI partially upholds complaint over Drivetime Galway Harbour segment

Authority says there is an expectation that news discussions will not be one-sided

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has partially upheld a complaint against RTÉ radio's Drivetime programme for a segment it featured on the proposed redevelopment of Galway Harbour earlier this year.

The complaint concerned the discussion on May 5th which was hosted by presenter Sarah McInerney. The complainant believed the segment was not fair to all interests concerned, did not present the matter in an objective or impartial manner, and “parts of the broadcast were presented in such a way as to be misleading”.

“The complainant is of the view the segment was effectively an advertisement in favour of developing the port because there was no mention of any opposition to the plan and or the history of opposition to the development of the port,” the BAI said.

“The complainant notes that all the speakers were in favour of the development and the presenter’s commentary did not bring any balance to the discussion.”


In response, RTÉ said the two contributors outlined the proposed plan and “it was clearly said that the proposal to extend/relocate the port was subject to planning permission and that the project had been referred to the EU Commission in relation to the Habitats Directive”.

RTÉ added that the item was “not a debate” about the merits of the proposal and the presenter’s questions were neutral and sought information on the plans.

It said there is “no requirement” to have an alternative view in every item or report on a controversial or topical issue and the omission of a viewpoint or perspective does “not automatically result in unfairness”.

No examples of inaccuracies

The BAI said its executive complaints forum decided, “by a majority”, to uphold the complaint in part. The forum found no examples of inaccuracies in the report or of views or facts that were “misrepresented or presented in a way that could be misleading”.

It added that while the BAI’s Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality does not require programmes to feature all viewpoints in its treatment of a subject, there is an expectation the presenter or reporter will ensure news and current affairs discussions are “not one-sided and that alternative perspectives are presented including the views of those not in attendance insofar as appropriate and practical”.

“In this regard, the forum noted the selected interviewees in the broadcast all expressed positive views about the proposed development of Galway Harbour and moving the port,” it said.

“The presenter and reporter referenced positive views about the plans in their introductions to the segment. The reporter also quoted positive comments about the plans from the Galway Mayor and the local TD and Minister of State for Transport.

“The questions put to the interviewees did not challenge the positive perspective on the plans nor was there any reflection of the views of those who are critical of the plans. On this basis, the forum concluded that the broadcast did not feature a sufficient range of views to meet the requirements of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in the Code.”


Separately, the BAI rejected a complaint made against RTÉ One's Nine O'Clock News for an item it featured about the deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn reporting that four stillbirths had occurred in circumstances where Covid-19 had infected the placenta last March.

The complainant claimed the report was “emotional, not firmly based on observable phenomena, and the material was presented sensationally rather than factually”.

“The complainant believes the item was inaccurate in claiming a link between the four stillbirths and Covid-19 because, at the time of broadcast, no clear link had been established. The complainant believes the item took a misleading and sensational approach, which could cause unnecessary stress and worry for pregnant women.”

In response, RTÉ said Dr Glynn raised the matter at a public media briefing by Nphet. “The broadcaster notes the health authorities chose to publicise this matter and it would have been a strange, and arguably, highly irresponsible decision by the broadcaster to second guess that expert decision and to not report it,” it said.

“The broadcaster does not believe the item was sensationalist and noted the matter did not feature in the headlines or reports, instead it was dealt with in a live interview with the broadcaster’s specialist correspondent and included the most senior HSE medical expert on this issue, who was put forward for interview following the public statement by Nphet.

“The broadcaster states that its correspondent made clear these were preliminary findings and he noted that Nphet thought this was something people had to be notified of.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times