Political Censorship Section 31

EXHIBITION : HISTORY OF RTÉ

About this Item

A directive directive under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960 prohibits RTÉ from broadcasting anything that could be interpreted as supporting the aims or activities of organisations which "engage in, promote, encourage or advocate the attaining of any political objective by violent means".

  • Title
    Broadcasting Section 31
  • 1st Broadcast
    05/10/1971
  • Contributor
    John O'Donoghue (Presenter)
  • Clip Duration
    00:01:28
  • Material Type
    Video
  • Series title
    7 Days
  • Clip title
    Political Censorship Section 31
  • Extended description

    An extract from the current affairs programme 'Seven Days' reporting on the introduction of a directive to Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. Presenter John O'Donoghue sets the programme up by asking what does the directive mean for Irish broadcasting?

    The government has told the RTÉ Authority that it must, "Refrain from broadcasting any matter of the following class. That is any matter that could be calculated to promote the aims or activities of any organisation which engages in promotes encourages or advocates the attaining of any particular objective by violent means."

  • Information

    In the early 1970s, reporting on the increasingly complex politics of Northern Ireland created editorial dilemmas for RTÉ.

    On 1 October 1971, Taoiseach Jack Lynch issued the first directive under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960, which allowed government to communicate a formal written directive to RTÉ to refrain from broadcasting "matter of any particular class". In this case, the goverment prohibited RTÉ from broadcasting anything that could be interpreted as supporting the aims or activities of organisations which "engage in, promote, encourage or advocate the attaining of any political objective by violent means".

    The RTÉ Authority considered the wording of the directive was unclear but were unsuccessful in obtaining further clarification from the government.

    Section 31 eventually led to the dismissal of all nine members of the RTÉ Authority when, at lunch time on 24 November 1972, RTÉ Radio broadcast a report based on an interview by Kevin O'Kelly with a member of the IRA, Seán Mac Stiofáin.

    On 26 November, O'Kelly was imprisoned for contempt of court when, during the trial of MacStiofáin, O'Kelly refused to identify the defendant as the subject of the interview.

    In October 1976, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise O'Brien, issued a directive to RTÉ which supplied clarifications on the directive of 1971. O'Brien specified the particular organisations whose members were banned from broadcast.

    Breach of trust by infringing the 1976 directive of Section 31 was the basis for the dismissal of a 'Morning Ireland' journalist in 1988. Section 31 was repealed by Minister Michael D. Higgins in 1994.

    '7 Days', for ten years RTÉ television's flagship current affairs programme, began broadcasting on 26 September 1966. The programme's young production team was made up of producer Lelia Doolan, directors Eoghan Harris and Dick Hill, and reporters John O'Donoghue, Brian Cleeve and Brian Farrell.

    Muiris Mac Conghail became producer of '7 Days' in 1967 when the programme was merged with another current affairs programme,'Division'.

  • Local keywords
    Television, Broadcasting, Section 31, Northern Ireland, Government, Censorship, RTÉ, John O'Donoghue, 1970s
  • Geographical coverage
    Ireland
  • Topic
    Arts and Culture
  • Publisher Broadcaster
    RTÉ
  • First broadcast channel
    RTÉ One
  • Production year
    1971
  • Country of production
    IRELAND
  • Original identifier
    96D010490
  • IPR restrictions
    Rights Reserved - Free Access
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  • Item type
    part/extract
  • Item colour
    Black and White
  • Item sound
    Mono
  • Aspect ratio
    4:3
  • Language used
    English (eng)
  • Original language
    English (eng)
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