Complaints over abortion discussion on Ray D’Arcy show upheld

BAI says it is unacceptable for RTÉ presenter to use his position to pursue an agenda

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a number of complaints against the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 in which the issue of abortion was discussed. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a number of complaints against the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 in which the issue of abortion was discussed. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a number of complaints against the Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 in which the issue of abortion was discussed.

Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International was a guest on the show last June following the publication of Amnesty’s report “She is Not a Criminal: The impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law”.

Those aggrieved by the content of the interview accused D’Arcy of a lack of balance, advocacy for a change in the Constitution to facilitate legal abortion and an absence of any challenge to Mr O’Gorman’s view.

RTÉ, defending the item, said the publication of the report, which was written by Amnesty’s senior legal advisor Christina Zampas, was a “significant” news story on the day because the organisation had used Ireland as a focal point for its campaign.

The study of abortion law in Ireland states the “near total abortion ban criminalises women for seeking the healthcare they need”.

Of six complaints regarding the content of the show and how it was handled by Mr D’Arcy, three were upheld, two in part, and one rejected.

One of those upheld argued the presenter “openly advocated a change in the Constitution” to favour legalised abortion, and a lack of balance.

“The complainant states that presenters such as Mr Ray D’Arcy can exert a strong influence on their listeners, particularly younger ones,” the BAI report noted in its summary of those views.

“It is therefore unacceptable to use his position to pursue an agenda, particularly this one which may again become the subject of a national referendum.”

The complainant also rejected the defence offered by RTÉ that the show’s interview with Ben Conroy of the Iona Institute 11 weeks later was a satisfactory claim of balance.

RTÉ said that interview allowed Mr Conroy to field a response to Mr Gorman’s views on the subject.

The BAI compliance committee upheld the complaints under section 48(1)(a) - fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs - of the Broadcasting Act 2009.