Election Guidance From The Broadcasting Authority Of Ireland And The Data Protection Commission

Author:Ms Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Audrey Lynch and Seán O'Reilly
Profession:Ronan Daly Jermyn

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Guidelines

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (“BAI”) has published updated guidelines in respect of election coverage (the “Guidelines”). These new Guidelines will apply to the presidential election taking place on 26 October and to coverage of future elections that may arise over the coming years. The Guidelines apply to broadcasters within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland and shall not apply to other services commonly received in this State but licensed in Great Britain and Northern Ireland or in other jurisdictions. The Guidelines apply to broadcast content that makes reference to elections. They provide direction and advice to broadcasters as to how fairness, objectivity and impartiality can be achieved in their coverage of forthcoming election campaigns.

Social Media Contributions

The Guidelines do not regulate content on social media. However, a key development in the Guidelines relates to the on-air contributions from social media. Section 8 of the Guidelines states that when social media is referenced on-air in the context of election coverage, broadcasters must have in place “appropriate policies and procedures for handling on-air contributions via social media.” Broadcasters must now ensure that on-air social media contributions are accurate, fair, objective and impartial.

Editorial responsibility lies with the broadcaster and they must develop an internal process to ensure that they meet the requirements set out in the Guidelines when dealing with social media contributions. BAI Chief Executive Michael O'Keeffe has referenced the issues inherent in broadcasting unverified contributions from social media, as social media can be used to manipulate stories and manipulate situations.1

The new Guidelines seek to ensure that social media information presented on-air has been verified and to prevent false information being broadcast to the public. Though not expressly referred to in the Guidelines, they clearly seem to be directed towards avoiding a repeat of the Frontline controversy from the 2011 presidential election.

Programme presenters and social media use

Section 6 of the Guidelines also gives directions regarding programme presenters who reference election coverage on their personal social media accounts. The BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs requires each broadcaster to put in place and implement appropriate procedures and policies...

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