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March 25, 2015
BAI Issues Guidelines on Referenda Coverage


Wednesday, 25th March 2015

BAI Issues Guidelines on Referenda Coverage

In advance of the two referenda to be held in May 2015, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has today (25.03.15) published its updated ‘Guidelines in Respect of Coverage of Referenda’.

The Guidelines supplement the BAI ‘Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs’ and provide direction and advice to broadcasters as to how fairness, objectivity and impartiality can be achieved in their coverage of the forthcoming referenda on marriage and on the age of presidential candidates.

The Guidelines have immediate effect and include a number of requirements that broadcasters must comply with when covering the referenda. These include a prohibition on political advertising, requirements on the transmission of any party political broadcasts and the obligation to carry announcements made on behalf of the Referendum Commission.

The Guidelines also address considerations such as the use of opinion polls, on-air contributions via social media and a prohibition on presenters encouraging listeners or viewers to vote in support of, or against, a particular outcome in the referenda.

As with previous guidelines, compliance with a moratorium on referenda coverage will come into effect from 2pm on the day prior to the opening of polling stations and will end following the close of polling stations on the day of the ballot.

The Guidelines also encourage broadcasters to put an emphasis on the issues that the public must decide upon rather than taking an approach that is limited to ensuring the various referenda interests receive equitable airtime.

Speaking about the publication of the guidelines, Michael O’ Keeffe, Chief Executive of the BAI said: “The requirement to treat the views of referenda interests in a fair, objective and impartial manner remains an essential requirement. However, the BAI believes a focus on the issues may be of greater benefit to the democratic choice to be made by individuals, than an approach to coverage that is simply adversarial in nature”.  

In conjunction with the issuing of the Guidelines, the BAI has also established a dedicated email address for queries about the referenda guidelines and their implementation. Requests for guidance on the application of the regulations can be emailed to referenda@bai.ie.

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