BAI's Long Winded Complaints Process Unhelpful

Red Tape seems the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's (BAI) middle name. New rules for the complaints process would deter the most sane complaint from continuing an arbitrary process. In May 2011 the newly form Authority enforced its new complaints policy. In many ways this was to reduce the work load of the Complaints department at the BAI, which came out of the merger of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC).

This week the BAI upheld a complaint made against RTÉ by the HSE in relation to a Liveline programme, it took the BAI six months to make a ruling on the complaint. This does take into consideration the date on which the HSE contacted RTÉ, neither RTÉ nor the HSE were willing to provide such a date to CCÉ News. The BAI received the complaint in March, 3 months after the stated Liveline Broadcast.

The BCC had a straight forward approach to complaints, you complained to them directly and you received a judgement. The BCC required a response from the Broadcaster. The judgements on such complaints were published practically each month. Now however it seems the work load has been reduced.

2003 saw the publication of 4 reports on complaints to the BCC, 2004 also saw 4 reports, 2005 saw 5 reports, 2006 saw 9 reports, 2007 also saw 9 reports, 2008 saw 10 reports and 2009 saw 7 reports from the BCC. The BCI and BCC then merged to form the BAI, since then only 4 reports have been published by the BAI. The last report was published in September 2011.

Between May and September 2011 the BAI upheld 3 complaints and rejected 18, while 7 were resolved at the new Executives Complaints Forum (ECF). In total 28 complaints were considered by the BAI between May and September 2011. In all 89 complaints were forwarded to the BAI in 2011. (This may increase in 2012 due ESO.TV's Phychics Live, and such complaints will likely spillover into 2013 due to the new process.)

Compared to the Same period in 2009 when the BCC upheld 1 and rejected 44, in total 45 complaints were considered between May and September 2009. In total 162 complaints were received directly by the BCC in 2009.

To be fair to the BAI while they did receive less complaints in 2011 in comparison to 2009, the new process seems to have a higher number of complaints upheld, in comparison to the old system, perhaps the new system helps to filter those complaints that are clearly important, from those that are at times nonsense. Though, should it be up to the broadcaster to decide wheather or not a complaint is legitimate?

The old system also allowed some anonymity between complainants and the broadcasters, this new system seems to lack that need for privacy that people may want between them and the broadcaster.

So how do you make a complaint about a TV or Radio Programme?

1. A complaint must be made directly to the Broadcaster (e.g. TV3, RTÉ, Today FM etc).
2. The broadcaster has 21 days to reply to a complaint
3. If the reply is not satisfactory the complaint can be forwarded to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)
4. The BAI send the complaint back to the broadcaster.
5. The broadcaster has 21 days to reply to the complaint.
6. Once the BAI receive a reply they return it to the audience member
7. The audience member has 14 days to inform the BAI if the reply is satisfactory or not.
8. If the reply is not satisfactory the complaint is returned to the BAI, who pass it on to their Executive Complaints Forum (ECF)
9. If the ECF feel that the complaint needs to be investigated further the complaint is passed on to the BAI's Broadcasting Compliance Committee.
10. If the Broadcasting Compliance Committee uphold the complaint the Broadcaster may be asked to inform their audiences of the complaint and issue an apology. The complaints will be published on the BAI's website.