Following the introduction of Section 31 '7 Days' examines the implications for Irish broadcasting.
In the early 1970s, reporting on the increasingly complex politics of Northern Ireland created editorial dilemmas for RTÉ.
Under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, it was forbidden to broadcast interviews with members of any organisations which
Engages in, promotes, encourages or advocates the attaining of any political objective by violent means.
In this extract from the current affairs programme 'Seven Days' presenter John O'Donoghue sets the programme up by asking what does the directive mean for Irish broadcasting.
The RTÉ Authority's reply confirmed receipt of the direction and recognised its (the Authority) statutory obligation to present objectively and impartially news or features related to matters of public controversy. They believe that in the present difficult national situation, they would be failing in that duty if they ignored the existence of any significant development in the community legal or illegal.
Reporter Denis Mitchell talks to Senator John M Kelly Professor of Jurisprudence and Roman Law at University College Dublin about the legal implications of the directive. Senator Kelly says that in the 11 years of the Act’s operation, Section 31 has never yet been invoked.
Having examined the Dáil reports in the year in which the act was passed, Senator Kelly says that the Minister for Posts & Telegraphs at the time had assured the Dáil that Section 31 would only be employed in very exceptional circumstances. The circumstances refer to national security and public safety, anything that was "inimical to the national interest".
I hope it doesn't mean inimical to what the government would like.
As Section 31 has never been used before, he believes that the public and the journalistic profession would not tolerate it if Section 31 was abused. On paper, Section 31 gives the Minister to ban anything.
Section 18 of the act says that RTÉ must be impartial on matters of public controversy. However, Senator Kelly does not believe there is any necessary conflict between Section 31 and Section 18.
This episode of 'Seven Days’ was broadcast on 5 October 1971. The presenters are John O'Donoghue and Denis Mitchell.
'7 Days', RTÉ's flagship currernt affairs programme, began broadcasting on 26 September 1966.
Section 31 was repealed by Minister Michael D. Higgins in 1994. Following the Government's decision to allow the Section 31 ban to lapse, RTÉ issued new broadcasting guidelines for its staff.