That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Broadcasting Act 2009 to make it a breach of contract or licence under the Act to prohibit a member of the National Union of Journalists from communications media for reason or reasons of occupation, employer, or employment status.
I will share time with Deputy Crowe who is a co-signatory to the Bill. This legislation is in response to the blacklisting of journalists by Communicorp Media. In October, Deputies from all parties signed a joint letter to Communicorp Media urging an immediate end to the ban from its radio stations of certain journalists, including the highly respected and award-winning journalists, Tom Lyons and Ian Kehoe. The initiative had the support of all party leaders, including the Taoiseach. Three months on, however, nothing has changed. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, BAI, has not made any significant move to address the issue and it is clear that only a change in law will change anything.
The Bill proposes to make it an offence to ban a journalist who is a member of the National Union of Journalists, NUJ, from the airwaves for reason of occupation, employer, company or employment status. We limited its scope to members of the NUJ for a number of reasons. As we do not have a legal definition of "journalist" in law, to apply the legislation to journalists more broadly could open broadcasters to the possibility of court cases being taken by any person who uses the label "journalist". This could result in frivolous cases being taken that are designed to punish broadcasters for what might be a genuine reason for not including a person on a show. Limiting the scope of the Bill to NUJ members creates a certain standard or threshold as to who can or cannot avail of the legislation, if passed.
The second reasons is that we believe in trade unions and that all journalists should be in the NUJ and trade unions. People are stronger for being members of unions and the legislation supports this.
It is very important that this Bill passes. We cannot have certain media outlets banning journalists because they do not like what they have to say or because of who they work for. That is not how journalism or broadcasters should work. Every broadcaster has a responsibility to be fair and impartial, even if it is privately owned. That is not the case in this scenario. We hope to move the Bill during Private Members' time.