The current legislation regulating the media coverage of both sides in a referendum has been branded a 'cranks' charter' at an Oireachtas Committee meeting on the subject today.

Watch the Oireachtas Committee hearing

Independent Broadcasters of Ireland Chairperson Willie O'Reilly said the current requirement to give equal treatment to both sides resulted in the media propelling unelected individuals into positions of significant exposure.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution held its first meeting today to examine how information on a referendum is imparted to the public.

Several media representatives indicated that their interpretation of equal and balanced coverage meant an absolute 50-50 divide, involving the use of a stop watch.

Broadcasting Commission of Ireland CEO Michael O'Keeffe said the BCI requirement specified 'fair and balanced' coverage but did not specify that it must be equal.

Labour Senator Alex White quoted the Coughlan Judgment, in which the Chief Justice of the time found that the scales should be held equally between those who support and oppose a referendum.

RTÉ Head of Public Affairs Peter Feeney released figures on how many main principal interviews all parties to the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty took part in.

According to his figures on the Yes side, Fianna Fáil had 42 principal slots, Fine Gael had 23, Labour had 4, the Green Party had 4 and the PDs had 3.

On the No side, Sinn Féin had 27 main slots, Libertas had 25, the People's Movement 12, Socialist Movement 9, Coir 7, People before Profit had 2, Peace and Neutrality Alliance 3, and a number of other individuals had one interview each.