BAI rejects complaint about Micheál Martin’s comments on Newstalk

The Broadcasting Authority also dismisses complaints against Today FM and RTÉ

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has rejected a complaint made by journalist Gemma O'Doherty about comments made by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Newstalk 106-108.

Ms O'Doherty complained that, speaking on Newstalk's Lunchtime programme on May 10th last year, Mr Martin made a number of "derogatory and unfair" comments in relation to her investigation into the murder of Mary Boyle, including that "Gemma O'Doherty does not believe in An Garda Síochána and does not have faith in them".

Considering the complaint, the BAI’s compliance committee stated that “the audience would have understood that Deputy Martin’s remarks in respect of the complainant were clearly relating to the case of the disappearance of Mary Boyle rather than being remarks suggesting that the complainant had no faith in An Garda Síochána or the justice system as a whole”.

The committee noted that Newstalk had declined to give airtime to Ms O’Doherty to respond, but had offered to read out a clarification . “While the complainant wished to set out her views on-air, a decision as to who to place on-air is solely an editorial matter for broadcasters,” it said.

The BAI has published its most recent decisions on seven complaints about programmes aired on Newstalk, Today FM and RTÉ One TV, all of which were rejected.

The issues ranged from alleged bias in RTÉ's coverage of industrial action by the ASTI teachers' union to comments made by columnist Katie Hopkins on Today FM's The Last Word programme. The committee said the quotation of "clearly offensive" comments about migrants by Hopkins, and her support of these comments in the programme, was editorially justified as part of an item on the issue of free speech and hate speech.

A complaint that Newstalk presenter George Hook’s “ill-informed and irresponsible” coverage of the Gardasil HPV vaccine was contributing to a reduced take-up of the vaccine was rejected on the basis that the programme met the requirements of the Broadcasting Code, “but only in a barely minimal fashion”.

The BAI said the presenter “did not appear to have sufficient regard to the information that his guests were providing insofar as his approach was focused almost singly on the view that there was a link between the vaccine and reported side effects in Ireland and elsewhere. This was considered problematic by the committee, given that the topic under discussion is a matter of public importance and one which concerns the health of children.”

However, the committee was of the view that the contributions from a consultant paediatrician and a representative from the HSE ensured the discussion as a whole “was fair, objective and impartial”.

Comments about the Irish language on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show and coverage on RTÉ’s Six One and Nine News of the non-enrolment of a Traveller child in a Dublin seconday school were also the subject of complaints.

The BAI’s Executive Complaints Forum also considered and rejected 12 complaints, including an allegation of anti-Israeli bias in an RTÉ documentary about peacekeepers in south Lebanon.

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