At the outset, I clarify that my responsibility is for broadcasting legislation. Defamation legislation is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.
The commitment I gave during the debate in the Seanad on 18 February 2014 was to amend section 39 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. That section requires every broadcaster to ensure that nothing is broadcast which might reasonably be regarded as causing offence. This seems an unfeasibly rigorous approach. Some people may be easily offended even where offence was not intended and is not objectively ascertainable. The amendment I am considering would require broadcasters to avoid causing undue offence, which represents a more objective test in tune with the realities of modern public debate.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland was established by the Broadcasting Act 2009 to regulate content across all Irish broadcasting services. Section 24 of the Act provides that the BAI shall be independent in the performance of its functions. Section 23 obliges the authority to draw up and adopt a code of conduct in respect of controls on interests and ethical behaviour to apply to each member of the authority, statutory committees, advisory committees and members of staff. In common with all public service bodies and in accordance with paragraph 31.1(iv) of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland affirms on an annual basis that its code of business conduct is in place and has been adhered to. A copy of the authority's code of business conduct is available on that body's website. Furthermore, authority and committee members, as well as staff, are subject to sections 21 and 22 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which provides for the disclosure of any conflicts of interest. Section 20 of the 2009 Act places duties of accountability to Oireachtas committees on the chief executive and chairperson of the authority and on the chairpersons of the statutory compliance and contract awards committees. These obligations and controls are sufficient and, as such, I see no need to for further legislative proposals in this area.