BAI upheld complaint in part for Newstalk

BAI’s Compliance Committee has part upheld a complaint against Newstalk Breakfast surrounding the discussion of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The single complaint was made by Mr. Brendan Cafferty who says that both breakfast presenters “attacked” An Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his decision not to participate in a public debate on the referendum proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann. The complainant states that one presenter compared in a negative manner An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, while the other presenter agreed and did not give an alternative view based on facts.

The complainant states that the presenters knew or should have known that no Taoiseach ever takes part in such debates outside of general election time and, in fact, there is much precedent for this stand by An Taoiseach.

The complainant states the presenters’ approach to this topic lacked impartiality and balance and that this was problematic as the discussion took place in the run-up to the referendum on the abolition of Seanad Éireann when the station is “bound by law to be objective, fair and balanced”.

In response, Newstalk 106-108fm said that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused an offer to take part in the RTÉ Primetime debate and does not believe their commentary on the Taoiseach were “attacks” as suggested by the complainant.

Newstalk also said the claim by the complainant that Taoisigh do not debate matters outside elections is not the case, and pointed out to the BAI a number of similar events over the years.

The BAI upheld the complaint in part saying the presenters made a number of comments that should have rightly been balanced by other perspectives. These included comments on the decision of An Taoiseach not to participate in a television debate, as well as the broader media communications decisions of An Taoiseach, as being akin to those of Mao Zedong.

However the discussion of these events was something audiences would be familiar with and was a legitimate focus of discussion, the BAI pointed out.

In view of the above, the Committee found that the programme discussion failed to meet the requirements of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs and the complaint has been upheld in part further to Section 4.1 of this Code.

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