It’s a free world, but is it a fair one?

Now we know what we knew all along but had not proved it. Irish print media has again shamed itself with its blatant unfairness. Three times more “YES” articles than “NO” articles on the country’s marriage referendum appeared in newspapers in the three weeks prior to the poll which takes place today.

The finding is based on independently conducted research commissioned by PR and Public Affairs company MKC Communications from Newsaccess Media Intelligence.

A detailed analysis of coverage of the Referendum in ten national titles – Irish Times, Irish Independent, Irish Examiner, Daily Mail, The Herald, The Star, Sunday Independent, Sunday Times, Sunday Business Post, and Mail on Sunday — showed that there was a total of 424 “Yes” articles across those titles in that period, with just 135 “No” articles.

A further 214 “Neutral” articles were carried in the same period by the same newspapers.

This is not an opinion poll. All articles were read and analysed by Newsaccess Media Intelligence in terms of whether the tone of the piece was in favour of a YES vote, a NO vote or a NEUTRAL analysis of the referendum.

Last night a statement from the company explained the motivation behind its research.

“Because of the enormous significance of tomorrow’s Referendum, and the welter of charge and counter-charge about the media’s treatment of the subject in recent weeks, we decided that it would be an important exercise to bring some scientific measurement and facts to the issue of how the Referendum debate was reported in Irish media. 773 articles were printed in the newspapers analysed in a three week period, and the level of coverage for a single topic is possibly unprecedented in recent times”.

Irish newspapers have no statutory obligation to be fair and balanced. In this case they reflected the political establishment which, officially, was totally lopsided in its support for the coalition Goverenment’s proposal. Secretly, however the two major parties had a number of parliamentary representatives who were going to vote against. A handful of these eventually declared themselves publicly and already there are calls for their expulsion. Freedom in modern Ireland is a very qualified comodity – and it is likely to become more so. 

“Unlike broadcast media, which must provide balanced coverage of referenda, the print media are not subject to such strictures and this research confirms the broad and widespread support in the Irish print media for a ‘Yes’ vote”, said Laurie Mannix, Managing Director.

For copy of the report, contact MKC Communications 01 7038600

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