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The Chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, Willie O’Reilly has called on the government to appoint a Referendum Commission ‘as early as possible in the forthcoming referendum campaign’ and has said that that government should strengthen the make up of the Commission.

Addressing the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland Annual Conference today, Mr. O’Reilly said; “Successive Referendum Commissions have complained that they did not have enough time to do their job properly and we cannot make the same mistake this time around. The Referendum Commission has a key role in giving information to the people in a referendum. It is composed of eminent officers of the state, who are of considerable ability and the highest integrity. However, none of their job descriptions is an ideal CV for running a major and crucially important public information campaign.

“One of the most important decisions Ireland will make is whether to vote Yes or No in the Lisbon referendum. We need a Commission which is impartial but which also knows how to communicate complex information effectively. The state has the services of a variety of people with this skills set in agencies like the Press Ombudsman and the Consumer Information Board. This dedicated expertise should be co-opted to the Referendum Commission to enhance its capacity without compromising its integrity”, he said.

Mr. O’Reilly added that the rerun of the Lisbon Referendum brings the consequences of the Coughlan Judgement back into focus and will require broadcasters in Ireland to think carefully when it comes to covering the ensuing debate.

“As an organisation we have already expressed our concerns about the Coughlan Judgement. While the guidelines of the Broadcasting Commission do not stipulate equal airtime, it does require ‘equal treatment’ and that both sides of the debate be represented in the same programme. There is a huge bias for contrarian opinion. It gives power without responsibility.

“For broadcasting to be balanced and for arguments to be probed, it is essential that the government and the Broadcasting Commission reflect on the effectiveness of the existing guidelines. It is essential that they do so urgently”.

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland is celebrating 20 years of independent radio this year. The independent voice of Ireland, 64% of the population tune into independent radio on a daily basis. This translates into weekday figures of 2.382 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.

“This year we celebrate 20 years on air. We know that broadcasting is a responsibility as well as a right. It is a responsibility we take very seriously. Our deep roots in every community are a real wealth of social capital. Independent radio is a social partner in Ireland. We have not run away in the downturn. We know our listeners because we live their lives”, he said.

“As broadcasters we know the reputational damage that has been done to Ireland and we know too the importance of public confidence in believing that we can rebuild this economy. Our role as broadcasters is to highlight the facts and not to whitewash them. Our obligation is to illuminate the truth and to be faithful to the story. When new facts emerge, when green shoots can be seen and when a story of recovery can be told, we will not only tell it, we will celebrate it” said Mr. O’Reilly.

The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland annual conference was held in the Four Seasons Hotel today. Sponsored by IMRO the conference was addressed by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

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For more information please contact MKC Communications:
Laurie Mannix: 086 814 3710
Gerard Howlin: 087 237 1839

About the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland
The Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) is the representative body for Ireland’s independent commercial radio broadcasters. 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, 64% of the population tune into independent radio on a daily basis. This translates into weekday figures of 2.382 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, 4 regional radio stations and 27 local radio stations. For more information please visit: www.ibireland.ie