Written answers

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Broadcasting Sector

Photo of Mairead FarrellMairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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198. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status of the work her Department is undertaking to develop and implement further actions to support the positive portrayal and representation of LGBTI+ identities in broadcast media; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32036/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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I am committed to supporting progress on equality across society and in all areas under my remit. Ireland has made significant progress in recent years in terms of the greater respect shown to LGBTI+ people. 

Media policy and regulation plays an important role in protecting LGBTI+ people from hate speech and in supporting the representation of LGBTI+ people on broadcast and other media.

In this context, the existing statutory framework for the regulation of broadcasting services, as set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009, includes provisions regarding the appropriate representation of persons and groups in society. Under the Act, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is the independent regulator for broadcasting content in the State. Under section 42 of the Act, the BAI is required to make broadcasting codes governing the standards and practice to be observed by broadcasters. These codes include:

- the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs, which requires that the treatment of current affairs programming is fair to all interests concerned and presented in an objective and impartial manner; and,

- the Code of Programme Standards, which is designed, inter alia, to promote responsible broadcasting in which access to information, entertainment and education and a range of views are enhanced and undue offence and harm are reduced.

One of the principles underpinning the Code of Programme Standards is respect for persons and groups in society. In pursuance of this principle, the Code provides that ‘the manner in which persons and groups in society are represented shall be appropriate and justifiable and shall not prejudice respect for human dignity’ and that ‘programme material shall not stigmatise, support or condone discrimination or incite hatred against persons or groups in society in particular on the basis of age, gender, marital status, membership of the Traveller community, family status, sexual orientation, disability, race, nationality, ethnicity or religion’.

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022 provides for the dissolution of the BAI and establishment of a new regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, which will oversee updated regulatory frameworks for broadcasting and video-on-demand service and a new regulatory framework for online safety. Section 9 of the Bill amending section 46N of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides for the extension of the scope of broadcasting codes from broadcasting services to video-on-demand services. To reflect this, following the enactment and commencement of the Bill such codes will be termed media service codes. The Bill also provides that existing codes will continue in force until amended or replaced by Coimisiún na Meán. The expansion of the remit of codes will ensure that the principles underpinning the current Code of Programme Standards, such as the principle of respect for persons and groups, will extend to video-on-demand services registered in the State.

As part of the new framework for online safety, Coimisiún na Meán will devise binding online safety codes that will set out how regulated online services, including social media services, are expected to deal with certain defined categories of harmful online content on their platforms. These categories include 40 categories of offence specific content, including categories linked to the incitement of hatred under Prohibition of Incitement of Hatred Act 1989. This is intended to protect vulnerable groups, including LGBTI+ people, from hate speech online.

Section 53 of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022 provides that Coimisiún na Meán may impose a content production levy on certain media service providers to fund content production schemes. In particular, such schemes may grant support for new audiovisual programmes relating to human rights, including equality, diversity and inclusion, which would facilitate the support of programmes specifically relating to, for example, the experiences of LGBTI+ people. 

My officials have been engaging with the BAI regarding the actions they are taking to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the broadcasting sector in Ireland. The BAI is currently reviewing its 2018 Gender Action Plan and when complete, this review will inform the development of a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

The Deputy can be assured that I will continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders in order to further explore appropriate approaches to support equality, diversity and inclusion in the sector. 

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