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The Union of Students in Ireland has labelled as ‘absurd’ the position of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland on balancing arguments in broadcasts on current affairs, in a statement issued by USI President Laura Harmon.

“The ruling and position of the Authority is having a chilling effect on the ability of editors and broadcasters to produce programmes in which a person expresses a position on an issue which may become the subject of a referendum at some time in the future.

The BAI has established a new obligation on broadcasters to make every interview on a big issue a debate – a positive requirement to second-guess the whims of the Authority, which in a very real sense makes the Authority an editor for every current affairs programme. It makes a mockery of the possibility of free speech if, in order to have someone discuss LGBT equal rights issues, someone else must be found to say that LGBT people deserve less than equality.

USI worries that the ruling of the BAI could hand the power of veto and censorship to those opposed to equal marriage – by simply operating as a cartel to refuse appearances, anti-equality organisations could prevent the arguments for equal marriage even being heard, let alone debated.

This ruling places unncessary restrictions on the right of individuals to express their opinion in the absence of someone who disagrees with them. In this case, someone cannot argue for equal treatment because there is no-one to speak in favour of inequality.

Our call is for the BAI to see the absurdity at the centre of its ruling and to roll back, before the expectation of quality programming from talented broadcasters is completely foregone on our airwaves.”

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