BAI hosts Discussion on Programme Standards in the Broadcast Media


Ireland is changing; broadcasting standards are not black and white; and respect for the individual and groups in society matters most to viewers and listeners.  These are the key findings of new research into public attitudes regarding programme standards in the broadcast media. The research was carried out by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), and the findings were presented as part of a ‘conversation’ on broadcasting standards that was hosted by the BAI today.

Watch a video of the event

During the event, the BAI heard the views of broadcasters, programme-makers, civil society groups and members of the public.  The event also featured input from Andrea Millwood-Hargrave, a renowned broadcasting standards expert, who provided insights into the concept of a community standard and the broader international experience in this area.

Speaking about the event, Bob Collins, Chairperson of the BAI, said: “The BAI has always regarded the public as its key stakeholder group.  What the research undertaken by Ipsos MRBI shows is that attitudes are not static.  What may have been regarded as being offensive in the past may offend fewer now; and what may have been regarded as acceptable some years ago may now cause considerable offence.  In setting and implementing standards, the BAI and broadcasters must have due regard to changing attitudes among the viewing and listening public.

“The research shows a mature and informed viewing and listening public, with many willing to accept the reality that they may be offended by something that is not regarded by others as being ‘offensive’.  The majority of those polled agreed with the statement that ‘broadcasters should cater for all tastes even if some of these programmes offend me’. 

“The conversation we are having today is just the beginning of the process of redrafting the Code of Programme Standards.  There will be full consultation with the public and with broadcasters over the coming months and everyone will have an opportunity to make their views known,” Mr. Collins added.

Some Key Findings of the Ipsos MRBI Research*

Ireland is changing; broadcasting standards are not black and white; and respect for the individual and groups in society matters most to viewers and listeners.

61 per cent of those polled regarded themselves as fairly or very liberal, while 37 per cent regarded themselves as being fairly or very conservative.

71 per cent agreed strongly or slightly with the statement ‘broadcasters should cater for all tastes even if some of these programmes offend me’. 

80 per cent were offended by scenes / descriptions of rape / sexual assault or cruelty; 50 per cent by explicit / graphic images; and 30 per cent by comedy or reality TV.

81 per cent agreed either strongly or slightly with the statement:‘I have different expectations of different channels in terms of the type of content they broadcast’.

Watersheds and pre-warnings are still regarded as good ideas and are the preferred restrictions.  The majority agree that broadcasters should bear full responsibility for what children see.

26 per cent are regularly or occasionally offended by how lesbian / gays / bisexual and transgender people are portrayed on TV.  Figures for offence taken at the portrayal of other groups include women (25 per cent); people with disabilities (24 per cent) and immigrants and Travellers (both 23 per cent).

In terms of language used, the words that people find most offensive are those relating to race, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

In 1987, 60 per cent of people stated they would miss the church if it was gone, compared to 34 per cent who would miss TV.  In 2012, only 30 per cent stated they would definitely miss the church, while 55 per cent would miss TV.

71 per cent claimed to be very or fairly computer literate, but there were significant differences among the age groups. While 95 per cent of those between 18 and 34 placed themselves in this category, just 35 per cent of those aged 55+ did so.

The vast majority of people (85.4 per cent) watched TV at home in the traditional way, with one in two having watched something pre-recorded on their TV in the previous week.

There has been a significant increase over the past three years in people’s use of social media, but this growth shows some sign of tapering off over recent months.

Further details of the research are available at the following link:

* Most of these findings were based on face to face interviews with 1,000 people aged 15+ carried out during October and November 2013. The research was complemented by an Ipsos MRBI Attitudes and Values Survey undertaken in 2012.


Media Queries to: Tony Heffernan/ Catherine Heaney, DHR Communications, Tel: 087-2399508 / 087-2309835