The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland this week partially upheld two complaints against Newstalk for their ongoing biased coverage of the abortion issue.

The BAI decision relates to two separate interviews conducted on the same day (10th December 2020) on Newstalk’s Breakfast presented by Ciara Kelly and the Hard Shoulder presented by Mark Cagney.

Newstalk was forced to read out on air apologies yesterday morning and afternoon referencing the BAI rulings and the fact that both presenters expressed partisan views on abortion.

During her interview with Eilís Mulroy of the Pro Life Campaign last December, Ciara Kelly expressed her delight that the Eighth Amendment had been repealed and that Ireland was now “more tolerant and compassionate towards women in crisis pregnancies.” When talking about Ireland’s abortion law later the same day on The Hard Shoulder, Mark Cagney said “there is still a lot more work to be done” and “the job isn’t done yet, folks”, referring to his wish for wider access to abortion in Ireland.

It’s a positive development that the BAI at least partially upheld the two complaints, but it is disappointing that they were not fully upheld as the two programmes were way more biased than the BAI concluded. It raises questions about the relevance of the BAI as currently established since current affairs presenters on radio and TV know they can get away with almost anything provided they hold back on stating their own personal opinions.

Ciara Kelly’s interview with Eilís Mulroy is a case in point. The presenter kept interrupting her guest and selectively using statistics, presenting them as facts even though they were nothing more than campaigning points. The BAI did not find against her on these points even though the bias was utterly blatant.

Even though the BAI is far from perfect and needs to be reformed, it is still worthwhile lodging complaints whenever programmes step out of line when covering right to life issues.

Congratulations to the pro-life volunteers who took the initiative to submit complaints against the two Newstalk programmes that were forced to apologise this week. Your efforts were not in vain and will hopefully encourage others to do likewise whenever the opportunity presents.