Broadcasting and free speech


Sir, – In “Hook affair shows free speech is a two-way street” (Analysis, September 16th), Fintan O’Toole ends up in a cul-de-sac when he refers to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s code of practice, which states that “harmful material is material that has an ‘effect’ – content that causes mental, psychological or physical harm. Individuals should not be harmed by programme material.”

The same authority recently decided not to censure the Late Late Show for allowing the Rubber Bandits to refer to the Eucharist as “haunted bread”, which caused offence to many Catholics.

According to the BAI, they were merely expressing a personal opinion.

In the (unlikely) event of a similar joke being made about another religion, the outcome would have been somewhat different, and the Rubber Bandits would probably be facing cancelled gigs and a storm of opprobrium from the increasingly illiberal liberals, for whom certain sections of the population are off-limits while others are fair game. – Yours, etc,


Athlone, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – The apparent pleasure with which the news that corporate sponsors have withdrawn their advertising from George Hook’s programme is ill considered and unfortunate. Would there have been such delight if they had withdrawn it from a progressive, left-of-centre feminist columnist? Surely the real problem here is that advertisers can have such a direct influence on media content. In other countries it would be called censorship. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Your piece (September 16th) on the death of the great JP Donleavy reminds us that the theatrical adaptation of The Ginger Man was closed after three performances at the behest of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. That was in 1959, a period most Irish people look back on with some embarrassment. This week a broadcaster has been taken off the air at the behest of a small group of professional offence-takers. Some weeks ago a columnist was taken off a newspaper at the behest of a similar group of the perpetually outraged.

Have we really moved as far as we like to think in the last 60 years, or are we rapidly reverting back to those dark days of censorship of free speech? – Yours, etc,


Lucan, Co Dublin.