Media bias and the numbers game

Last week I was complaining about media bias. This week it’ll have to be media numeracy.

On Wednesday night of last week, I was curious to see how the media would report on the media bias protest outside Dáil Éireann. RTÉ News that night gave it a littlecoverage and estimated the turnout at around 1,500. UTV Ireland’s Ireland Live at 10 gave it reasonable coverage, but reported only ‘over 500’. Somebody can’t do the math!

I thought the event deserved much more prominence, as it was unprecedented – so many people turning out on a cold March night to protest about the media. On the many current affairs shows I heard on the Thursday, I came across nothing about it. In a way, that supports the point the protestors were making.

In relation to media bias, I’ve given Newstalk’s Breakfast Show a hard time (deservedly) but I must compliment their promotion of the ‘Bumbulance’. This is an initiative to provide the best of ambulance services for very ill children and deserves all the support we can give. There’s lots of lip service paid to ‘child protection’ but this is an example of how to get caring for children right.

Last Saturday, I thought I detected signs that RTÉ was taking the media bias thing a little more seriously. On Friday’s John Murray Show, the host chose to mention Senator Eamonn Coughlan’s story of ‘coming out’ as the father of a gay son. Murray didn’t link it specifically to the referendum though the original newspaper report did.

I suspected we’d be hearing more of that, what with all the celebrity endorsements of same-sex marriage, and sure enough Coughlan was heard, as was his son, on Marian Finucane (RTÉ 1) last Saturday morning. This time he was promoting same-sex marriage big time, but Finucane did ask some challenging questions and later in the show we heard from Keith Mills, a gay man against same-sex marriage who continues to be one of the most effective speakers on that side of the argument. He supported civil partnerships because he thought they were a ‘better fit’ for gay couples, and because they recognised the diversity of relationships.

Then, on Sunday with Miriam, we got another statement of support for same-sex marriage, this time from Royston Brady, former Lord Mayor of Dublin. It was largely unchallenged with Miriam merely asking the usual “What about people who would say…”

On last Monday’s Morning Ireland there was a significant intervention by journalist Bruce Arnold. His analysis had already led to the Government changing the Irish wording of the referendum (which arguably confined marriage to same-sex couples), and now he maintained the referendum was being rushed, giving the yes side “an extraordinary advantage… they are able to speak blandly and excessively about something that is little understood”. Primarily, he argued that the referendum should be postponed until after a current Supreme Court case on the children’s rights referendum, a case which could have implications for all such polls.

After all that you’d need an uplift. ‘Seinn’ is an initiative of the Dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe to promote liturgical music in second-level schools, much like it’s Emmanuel equivalent in Dublin. It involves hundreds of teenagers singing liturgical and gospel music under the enthusiastic direction of Ian Callanan.

Like the media bias protest, it’s largely unprecedented, and I thinks deserves more media attention. Nationwide gave it some coverage last Friday and the enthusiasm of the young people was palpable. Fr Richard Purcell pointed out how the young people can bring this music back to their parishes.

Callanan outlined the different kinds of music – chant, traditional and uplifting joyful songs, the kind of music we needed to bring new life to the Church.

Still talking music, last Sunday on BBC 1 Songs of Praise marked Mother’s Day, with a nod to St Patrick as well. There were the usual hymns, but the surprise act was Archbishop Eamon Martin who sang a hymn in Irish, and gave us an insight into his vocation story, which included being strongly influenced by Pope John Paul II.

I was also impressed by the item on a faith-inspired adoption initiative ‘Home for Good’. Founder Krish Kandiah expressed special concern for those children left behind because of special needs or other reasons.

Once again, a striking example of how we should be caring for children.


Pick of the Week

Life Matters

RTĖ Radio 1, Sun, March 22, 7.30pm

Exploring current religious and ethical matters.

My Life, My Religion: Christianity

BBC 2, Tues (night), March 24, 5.30am

Children speak about their Christian faith. Part of a late night series this week on children from different faith backgrounds.

Unreported World

Channel 4, Fri, March 27, 7.35pm

A unique and devastating insight into the last days in the battle between Kurdish fighters and Isis for the Syrian town of Kobani.