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Coverage of the Lisbon Referendum debate ‘showed up both the strengths and the weaknesses of Irish broadcasting’ – Independent Broadcasters of Ireland Chairman

Speaking at Does the Medium Matter, a conference organised by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland today, Mr. Willie O’Reilly, Chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland said that in a world where technology is increasingly just another commodity, what will matter most for media is not the medium but content.

“We already have an extraordinary array of devices through which to receive media and the likelihood is that the technological possibilities will multiply in the future. In the twenty first century gizmo’s are a given, content will be king. For broadcasters it has to be back to basics. The future is in quality content”, he said.

According to Mr. O’Reilly, the coverage of the Lisbon Referendum debate ‘showed up both the strengths and the weaknesses of Irish broadcasting’.

“While there was a great deal of excellent programming, broadcasters were straight jacketed into dividing time equally in a way that did not actually deliver balanced content. The mere fact of a question being put to the people in a referendum does not mean that genuine balance and effective scrutiny requires both sides be given strictly equal time on air. In the Lisbon debate I believe that this artificial requirement was a self fulfilling prophesy. By giving equal time to both sides we gave the No case more credibility and less scrutiny than it deserved”, he said.

“The rules for 50:50 balances in a referendum are a charter for every awkward squad. They make media a megaphone for any argument regardless of its own merit or the credibility of its proponents. The reasons there are laws on broadcasting is because we as a society rightly believe that there is a vital public interest at stake. It is surely not in the public interest to hand over half the air time as automatically to one side in the crucial issue of a referendum simply because they show up on the day”.

“Achieving real balance as distinct from a division of air time requires that broadcasters and government reflect deeply on these issues”, he concluded


About the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland
The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) is the representative body for Ireland’s independent commercial broadcasters, both television and radio. The mission of the IBI is to champion the agenda of independent broadcasters in Ireland and to be a distinct and coherent national voice in the ongoing campaign for competitive equality across the sector.

The independent voice of Ireland, over 63% of the population tune into independent radio on a daily basis. This translates into weekday figures of 2,296 million listeners. With more than 1500 people employed in the sector, independent broadcasters make a significant economic, social and cultural contribution to the Irish economy. The IBI represents 2 national radio stations, 1 national TV broadcaster, 4 regional radio stations and 27 local radio stations. For more information please visit:

Press Contact – Laurie Mannix, MKC Communications 01 703 8620

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