BAI complaint upheld against Near FM

Community station Near FM has had a complaint made by His Excellency, Ambassador Boaz Modai upheld.

Ambassador Modai made a complaint to the BAI concerning about a show which was discussing the Israel and the Palestinian population living in Gaza and the West Bank. The programme involved interviews with four individuals characterised by the complainant as ‘anti-Israel activists’. The complainant states that there was not a single neutral participant or advocate on behalf of Israel. He states that Near FM became, in effect, a propaganda platform for the self-styled “Gaza Action Ireland” group.

The complainant states that the presenter actively facilitated the biased comments of his interviewees and endorsed their viewpoint. The complainant further states that it is his view that the presenter identified with what his guests had to say and did not attempt to be objective or impartial.

The complainant states that the programme became a forum for the espousal of hatred against the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

In response, Near FM said it is their policy to ensure that as many different voices and opinions are facilitated. They are concerned to hear that the complainant may have been misadvised as to balance and fairness in their programmes.

Near FM quotes three broadcasts by them over the period October and November 2012 and January 2013 where they feel balance was achieved. Near FM takes its commitment to balance and fairness seriously and states that those who suggest otherwise are incorrect. The broadcaster states that the complainant was also invited onto the programme as a guest in the future.

Near FM told the BAI that the presenter was covering an event held by Gaza Action Ireland and the pieces were representative of this event. The broadcaster states that Ambassador Modai alleges that Near FM did not provide alternative views to the current situation in Israel and Palestine. The broadcaster cites three programmes highlighted by them to Ambassador Modai as evidence in this regard. The broadcaster states that the allegations that the presenter promoted a personal anti-Israeli stance are untrue as the statements attributed to him are merely restatements of the opinions of his interviewees. This style of presentation has also been used in the other programmes listed in their earlier response to Ambassador Modai.

The broadcaster states that, as the BAI’s codes allow that balance may be achieved over a number of related programmes, Near FM considers that they have met their obligations in this regard.

The BAI Compliance Committee considered the broadcast and the submissions from the complainant and the broadcaster. Following consideration of the material, the Committee has decided to uphold the complaint saying the programme made no references to the previous programmes mentioned in their complaint response or provided any context which would lead listeners to conclude that this programme was one of a series of related broadcasts that was dealing sequentially or thematically with the issue of Palestine and Israel.

The Committee also had regard to the fact that a significant span of time had passed between each of the individual programmes that were put forward by the broadcaster as related broadcasts.

Finally, the BAI noted that a presenter is entitled to bring his expertise and experience to bear on an interview and that the positing of a view on a issue is an appropriate tool whereby a presenter might drive a discussion because the view is based on fact or when playing the role of a ‘devil’s advocate’. However, the Committee found that that a number of the presenter’s own contributions would, when coupled with the failure to challenge the contributions of his interviewees, have reasonable left listeners with the impression that he endorsed the perspectives of the contributors.

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