On March 5, 2014, I introduced legislation that would change the Broadcasting Act to prevent litigious-minded groups and individuals from shutting down public debate. The Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2014 removes any reference to the term “offence” from Section 39 of the Broadcasting Act, as a result, Broadcasters would no longer have to ensure that nothing that could be termed offensive is broadcast.
I do not believe that people should be censored for saying offensive things, whether that offence is reasonably caused or not. This issue came to light recently with the ‘pantigate’ scandal. The legislation in its current form gags free speech, harms public debate and means broadcasters can be bullied by the litigious and thin-skinned. The simple change that I’m suggesting is the removal of the term offence from our legislation.
There are probably some changes also needed to the Defamation laws, but this amendment would fix one of the biggest flaws in the current legislation and send a strong signal to broadcasters, minority groups and those they offend that Ireland values free speech.