BAI seeks clarity on Communicorp banning journalists from ‘The Currency’

Regulator’s compliance committee to examine NUJ complaint about radio group’s move

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is to investigate why journalists from The Currency website have been prohibited from appearing on Communicorp radio stations. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is to investigate why journalists from The Currency website have been prohibited from appearing on Communicorp radio stations. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is to investigate why journalists from The Currency website have been prohibited from appearing on Communicorp radio stations.

Séamus Dooley, Irish National Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretary, said the broadcasting regulator had agreed to examine the ban on journalists from the digital publication, set up by Tom Lyons and Ian Kehoe, appearing on stations such as Newstalk and TodayFM.

A BAI spokeswoman said its compliance committee had written to Communicorp and asked it “to provide clarity on its policy in relation to this matter”. She said the broadcaster’s response would be considered at its next meeting.

At an NUJ delegate conference in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Dooley said: “I want to take this opportunity to strongly condemn the ongoing ban by Communicorp on staff interviewing journalists associated with The Irish Times and with Tom Lyons, Ian Kehoe and those who work for the Currency”.

Communicorp, which is owned by businessman Denis O’Brien, in late 2017 instructed its staff that no journalists from The Irish Times should appear on its programmes. The move followed a column in The Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole which said Newstalk was “systematically sexist”.

The BAI committee looked into the matter at that stage and found “no compliance issues” had arisen as a result of the ban, either relating to the terms of the five radio licence contracts held by Communicorp, the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2009 or the principles and rules set out in the BAI code of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs.

Contrary

But the committee was also of the view that the decision to introduce the ban was “contrary to the spirit” of a key component of the BAI’s mission to “promote a plurality of voices, viewpoints, outlets and sources in Irish media”.

In September, Communicorp banned journalists from The Currency , which it said was a “competitor platform”. Lyons and Kehoe were involved in a defamation case taken and lost by Mr O’Brien against their former employer, the Sunday Business Post, earlier this year.

Mr Dooley wrote to BAI chief executive Michael O’Keeffe following the decision on The Currency to express concern at the regulator’s lack of intervention on the matter.

“It should be for producers and presenters not commercial managers to decide who is invited on air and the blanket Communicorp ban is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the BAI,” he said.