I got an opportunity today in the Dáil to speak on the Broadcasting Act and different aspects of the media. A strong, independent and objective media would contribute so much to the development of a good society, a more fair society. This is something that’s not easily got. Here’s my Dáil contribution - “In recent months we have seen how section 39 of the Broadcasting Act has been exploited by individuals and organisations seeking to further their own agendas and define the terms of the upcoming public debate on marriage equality. As the barrister Mr. Brian Barrington pointed out at the time of the "Pantigate" scandal, by its censorship of Mr. Rory O'Neill RTE has undermined confidence in its impartiality and has also made clear that it will not facilitate a free and fair debate. We found ourselves in the bizarre situation where members of the LGBT community were essentially being told they could not name homophobia when they see it, and that is was more offensive to call someone a homophobe than to experience homophobia itself. Under the international covenant on civil and political rights, everyone has both a right to hold opinions without interference and the right to freedom of expression. Yet RTE denied these rights to Rory O'Neill when it apologised for his comments, censored them and financially compensated the people who claimed to find his views offensive. It is clear that a debate about this whole issue is good and positive. On those grounds, I welcome Deputy Donnelly's Bill. On the other hand, we must also consider those who would use free speech to express opinions based on prejudice and intolerance. The democratic right to protect such views must not be portrayed as censorship. Earlier this week, a disgraceful column about the Traveller community was published in the Irish Daily Mail. The article was rightly condemned by the Traveller organisation Pavee Point for using strong hate speech and stereotypes. The Equality Authority described it as shameful and stated that it was not only untrue but was designed to be demeaning, hurtful and risk incitement. In response, the paper's group editor publicly defended the piece on the grounds of free speech, stating "We will continue to fight alone, if we have to, for the right of citizens to debate all matters of public policy without state censorship". That beggars belief coming from such a periodical. The author of the piece took to the national airwaves to claim that her critics were closing down debate and that she was the real victim of this controversy. It could easily be argued that Joe Duffy's "Liveline" show caused offence to the Travelling community. It could probably also be accused of causing harm in how it gave a platform for such racist views to be aired. There is a strange - or maybe we should say intentional - misconception that to criticise someone's views, especially when they have been given a public platform to express them, is to be an opponent of free speech. It is important to note that those who cry "censorship" are more often than not the people who hold positions of power. Ms Brenda Power has the platform of a national newspaper in which to express, as Pavee Point put it, inherently racist views. Members of the Travelling community are rarely given such a platform to defend themselves or to write about the damage that racist speech does, yet Ms Power is the one who claims to be targeted when her opinions are criticised for contributing to the extremely serious level of discrimination against Travellers. We also saw this narrative play out in the "Pantigate" scandal, as the individuals who were so offended by Rory O'Neill's comments, frequently used their positions of power in the national media to express discriminatory views about the LGBT community. Another prominent misconception is that the right to freedom of expression somehow carries with it an entitlement to a platform. In this regard, some Members may remember the occasion a couple of years ago when a university society in Dublin extended a speaking invitation to Nick Griffin of the British National Party. The invitation was withdrawn after democratic protests by students, staff and anti-racist campaigners. They were then accused of censorship. The right to freedom of expression does not mean that we must tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or any other type of discrimination. Another big subject we should examine concerns who is shaping the news. There is little doubt. For example, we know that Independent News and Media got a bailout of about €138 million from the banks. Over €50 million of this fell on the Irish taxpayer. If one searches the Internet to see what the newspapers or RTE said about this, it is bordering on impossible to find out the information. That is because people are afraid of the power and money of Mr. Denis O'Brien. He is worth billions and has incredible power to shape the news. I am surprised the Minister has not dealt with the fact that his control and influence to shape the news is too great for the health of our media. I do not think it is healthy that power and money have such an ability to shape the news. I would have thought that the Minister would agree on that aspect. Very good research was done by a Trinity College student who examined three years news coverage of austerity. Only 3% of the coverage stated that austerity was a bad idea for the Irish people, as well as being too harsh and unfair. Only 3% took that position, which is a frightening figure. It is something we need to be worried about because a healthy, objective media could mean an awful lot for improving how we do things in this country. The present situation leaves a lot to be desired. Aside from being vulnerable to the wrath of the Government of the day, the national broadcaster is also rather dependent on the commercial and big business sector for advertisement revenue. There have been times when the broadcaster should have shown a little more independence. Given that it is a State broadcaster, I would prefer to see a stronger streak of independence and objectivity.” Mick.