Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fighting RTE censorship - making an official complaint

I came across a few things on Facebook about complaining over RTE bias and today I saw some more material and folks talking about the same so here is an overview of the process. If you dont like RTE bias or other media sources' treatment of Sinn Fein then politely and firmly challenge them. Use the mechanisms in place and within which they must react to put pressure on them. Who knows a multiple of favourable jdgements and things could change very quickly. Everyone can play their part.

Hope this helps some of you get complaints about RTE impartialty and force them to treat SF fairly.

For Broadcasters the relevant body is the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Complaining to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland:

(1) http://www.bai.ie/broadcasting_complaints.html

Information on their site about the  complaints process

The Complaint Form to use

I would suspect the categories objectivity; impartiality in news , and fairness and objectivity, impartiality in current affairs would be the main ones relevant here.

Once you identify a broadcast that you believes infringes one of the above then you have under 30 days from the date of broadcast to submit your complaint.

(2) http://www.bai.ie/broadcasting_complaints_complaintprocess.html

When you complete the form it can be mailed, faxed or emailed.

Your must inform the BAI of the name of the programme/advertisement, station, date & time of the broadcast and what legislative requirement/code you feel the broadcaster has not adhered to

The Station name is like : RTE One.

The legislative requirement would be: Broadcasting Act 2009, section 48 (1)(a)(fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs)

Programme name, date and time would be unique of course but make sure you use the correct name, date and time.
Seeing as how its impartiality thats the issue then that seems the best to use. Scroll down to the bottom to see some of the relevant legislation. Full link here - Irish broadcasting act
The specific point on which most complaints related to bias or impartiality against SF would be relate to F, O and I. In the making of any complaint it may be useful to repeat the language used by the BAI - they will have a language they use when assessing complaints and phrasing it using their language should be of benefit.

From the BAI.ie it states : Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality: There is a requirement that all news broadcast by a broadcaster is reported and presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views. In the treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy, or the subject of current public debate, broadcasters must ensure that they are fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast material is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views

That paragraph is effectively the rules within which your complaint will be considered. In order to have a successful complaint then you would need to point out how the broadcaster failed in one of those criteria.

The BAI in turn will evaluate the complaint see and the programme to determine that "every reasonable effort to present a range of significant viewpoints to the matters under discussion and be fair to all interests concerned" has been made. Again a statement within your complaint that it was your belief that broadcaster x on programme Y did not make reasonable efffort to present different view points/ establish impartiality/etc would help to place your complaint within a suitable framework.

The BAI committee may choose to either fully accept, partialy accept or reject your complaint once it gets to the end process so it may be worthwhile specifiying a number of elements to your complaint as done in this example. These case records would prove useful templates for preparing a complaint

It would also seem to be a good idea that the segments of the programme which your complaint is centered around is referenced in your complaint i.e at 14:36 into the show the presenter said ...
This approach would help focus the committee's evaluation to certain areas which they should treat. The whole show though should still remain an element of a complaint as otherwise it may be they will reject the stated instances and a good case might be lost.
what hapens when you make a complaint: It will get sent to RTE who will have to reply .

Their response can either be accepted or rejected by the person making the complaint i.e you. In order for your complaint to go to the BAI's excutive complaint forum then you would have to write to the BAI and confirm you are unhappy at the broadcasters response. Once thats done they will analyse your case seriously, discuss it and determine whether they will formally make a judgement against the broadcaster in question. In order to make an impact on the broadcasting policy of RTE a successful formal judgement , or a series of such judgements would be needed meaning that rejecting the broadcasters response in order to achieve a formal review of your complaint would appear the best way to ensure RTE abandoned its biased policy.

as per the BAI.ie :
Initial consideration: if you are not happy with the response to your complaint, you can inform the BAI and your complaint will be given initial consideration by the BAI's Executive Complaint Forum. In this regard, all written material on file, together with the relevant recording of the broadcast will be considered in a collagaite manner by the Forum. If the Forum determines that the issues as raise by you are not borne out by the broadcasting content, the complaint will be considered resolved. If the Forum decides that there are complaint issues borne out by the broadcasting content which require further consideration, the complaint will be referred to the Compliance Committee for assessment.

Compliance Committee: In assessing a complaint, the Authority considers all written material on file together with the relevant broadcast material. The issues are discussed in a collegiate manner at a meeting of the Compliance Committee. If the Committee agrees with the complaint, it will be upheld. If the Committee disagrees, the complaint will be rejected.

A copy of the decision will be sent to the complainant and the broadcaster before its publication

The legislation also provides that broadcasters must broadcast decisions of the Compliance Committee where a complaint has been fully or partially upheld. Broadcasts of this nature must be made within 21 days of the Compliance Committee issuing its decision

48 a

) a complaint that in broadcasting news given by it and specified in the complaint, a broadcaster did not comply with one or more of the requirements of section 39(1)(a) and (b) (

b ) a complaint that in broadcasting a programme specified in the complaint, a broadcaster either did not comply with one or more of these requirements or was in breach of  the prohibition contained in section 39(1)(d)

C  ) a complaint that on an occasion specified in the complaint, there was an encroachment by a broadcaster contrary to section 39(1)(e)
d  ) a complaint that on an occasion specified in the complaint,

a broadcaster failed to comply with a provision of a broadcasting code providing for the matters referred to
in section 42(2)(a) to (d) and section 42(2)(f), (g) and (h)

(2) A complaint under subsection (1) shall be in writing and be
made to the Compliance Committee not more than 30 days after—
a  ) in case the complaint relates to one broadcast, the date of the broadcast,(

b ) in the case of 2 or more unrelated broadcasts, the date of the earlier or earliest, as the case may be, of those broadcasts, or

) in case the complaint relates to 2 or more related broadcasts of which at least 2 are made on different dates, the later or latest of those dates.

(3) The Compliance Committee may, at their discretion, refer the complaint in the first instance to the broadcaster, for consideration in accordance with a code of practice prepared under
section 47(3)
 Section 39:


) all news broadcast by the broadcaster is reported and

presented in an objective and impartial manner and without

any expression of the broadcaster’s own views,


) the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including

matters which are either of public controversy or the subject

of current public debate, is fair to all interests concerned

and that the broadcast matter is presented in an

objective and impartial manner and without any

expression of his or her own views, except that should it

prove impracticable in relation to a single broadcast to

apply this paragraph, two or more related broadcasts may

be considered as a whole, if the broadcasts are transmitted

within a reasonable period of each other,


  1. Well done to all who complained to RTE etc., Pearse Doherty was om Primetime tonight and again put across the Sinn Féin analysis impressively...From the condescending approach taken by Joan Burton it looks like Labour's strategy to try and deal with SF will be a) we supported the Bank guarantee and then we saw the errors of our ways and came over to their position and b)SF is in Gov in the north and supported cuts and c) if their put on the spot to answer a direct question on their economic approach to ignore it and waffle on about how they would be responsible in Government.

  2. Agreed a chara, everybody who helped put the pressure on RTE helped get Pearse onto Prime Time last night.

    Labour are like a fat man in a candy store. They are getting greedy. They dont know whether to hold onto the their votes and try to be a left party or just go centrist and fight over the carcass of FF (right, centrist and left voting blocks) with Fine Gael. My gut feeling is that when a Labour rep and a SF rep are on together then naturally they will be combatitive but generally Labour will hold fire on SF because they wont want to be seen as pidgeoned into the left but will instead try to continue to focus on broad issues and FF so as to keep open for the centrist-right vote.

    I think SF will be able to challenge lab quite strongly because left leaning voters or those concerned a lab vote is a FG proxy vote will drift to us. But will labour turn its fire on SF and risk being seen as a left wing party fighting for the left wing vote thereby ceding all those lovely votes spilling from FF to FG.

  3. The big opportunity for SF is the election after teh upcoming one. Labour will no doubt be the big winners next time, but we should make gains based on our left wing analysis. When labour go in with FG, it will be the spring tide all over again, and they will betray the working class, and we will be left as the only REAL left party at the following election.

  4. Starry Plough. It will be better than that, SF will be the only political party of any size that has not overseen the economic destruction of the country. Hard not to do well off the back of that. Labour and FG will be hated after 5 years, rightly or wrongly, Gandhi and Mandela would be hated as well,if they had to be in power for the next 5 years. It is the ultimate poison chalice.