Complain about media
Irish television channels, newspapers and online newspapers mainly run without state interference or censorship. Instead, licensed media companies agree to follow codes of practice on how they should behave, and give guidelines on what they should and should not publish or broadcast.
This document explains what you can do if you want to complain about a television broadcast, a newspaper article or a piece of journalism that is published online.
The Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI) is the independent body that oversees television and radio broadcasts in Ireland. The Press Council is the independent body that oversees news publications. The BAI and the Press Ombudsman can investigate complaints and decide if the media company involved has breached the code of practice.
Freedom of expression is protected in the Irish Constitution. This is the right to freely express your convictions and opinions. However, Ireland also has censorship laws, which restrict freedom of expression in certain circumstances. You can find out more in our document on censorship in Ireland.
What you should know before you complain
If you want to complain about a radio or television broadcast, or a piece of journalism, you should first check if the media company involved is regulated in Ireland.
The following types of media broadcasts or articles are not under the control of the Press Council or licensed and regulated by the Broadcast Authority of Ireland:
- Television broadcasts that originate outside of Ireland (for example, BBC or Sky)
- Programmes and movies streamed on platforms such as Netflix. The exception is catch up TV services from channels that are regulated by the BAI.
- Foreign newspapers that are available in Ireland (unless they are Irish versions of these newspapers, for example The Irish Sun)
- Online news channels that are not members of the Irish Press Council
- Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
How to complain about a newspaper or online news service
If you believe that you have been defamed by a newspaper or online newspaper article, you may wish to get legal advice. Defamation is when your reputation is injured as a result of the publication.
The Press Ombudsman will not investigate complaints where legal action has begun.
How do I complain to the company?
First, send your complaint in writing, by post or email, to the editor of the publication, explaining why you think the article has breached the code of practice. You must also explain why the material directly affects you.
If you do not get a response within a reasonable amount of time (about 2 weeks) or if you are not happy with the response, you can make a complaint in writing to the Press Ombudsman. You can also complain about the behaviour of a journalist.
How do I complain to the Press Ombudsman?
You must complain to the Press Ombudsman within 3 months of the date of publication of the article or when the incident happened.
Your complaint to the Ombudsman should contain the following:
- Your contact details
- A summary of your complaint giving details of which part(s) of the Code of Practice you feel has been breached and why you believe this
- How you are personally affected by the article
- A dated copy of the print article or screengrab or link to the online article (if applicable)
- Copy of your letter or email to the editor
What happens after I make a complaint?
If your complaint is accepted, the Press Ombudsman will send a copy to the editor of the publication. It will then try to resolve the issue through mediation. This may take up to 6 weeks.
If agreement cannot be reached, the Ombudsman will carry out a more detailed investigation and make a decision. The decision will be sent to you and to the publication concerned. The decision can be anonymised if you prefer.
If the Ombudsman reaches a decision in your favour, the publication concerned must publish the decision, unless it has been appealed. The decision is also published on the Press Ombudsman’s website.
How can I appeal?
If you do not agree with the decision made by the Press Ombudsman, you can lodge an appeal with the Press Council of Ireland. You must appeal within 2 weeks of the decision.
The Press Ombudsman and Press Council have more information on complaining about the press.
How to complain about a radio or TV programme
If you believe that you have been defamed by a television or radio broadcast, you may want to get legal advice.
The Broadcast Authority of Ireland will not investigate complaints where legal action has begun.
How do I complain to the company?
If you want to complain about material that you have seen or heard on an Irish broadcasting service, you should make a complaint directly with the broadcaster first.
First, put your complaint in writing within 30 days of the broadcast. If you are complaining about 2 or more related broadcasts you must send your complaint within 30 days of the last programme. If you are complaining about 2 separate and unrelated broadcasts, you must complain within 30 days of the first broadcast.
When writing your complaint, you should provide:
- The date and time of the broadcast and the channel it was broadcast on
- Relevant broadcasting codes or legislation (or both)
- A short detailed summary of what caused offence
The broadcaster should have a set timeframe to provide you with a response (for example, 20 days).
If you don’t receive a reply, or you are not happy with the reply, you can complain in writing to the BAI for free.
Can I contact BAI instead of the broadcaster?
You can make a complaint directly to the BAI, without having to complain to the broadcaster first, where any of the following applies:
- The complaint relates to your privacy or the privacy of a person for whom you are responsible (for example, a child)
- The complaint relates to programmes or advertisement that mention you or your organisation
- A request for anonymity is granted by the BAI on your request
- You provide an acceptable reason why the complaint should be not be sent to the broadcaster first
How do I complain to the BAI?
The types of complaints that the BAI investigate include:
- Impartiality in news and current affairs
- Material that causes harm or offence
- Law and order
- Where you believe your right to privacy has been breached
- Codes of standards and practice in relation to advertising, teleshopping, sponsorship and commercial promotion
You cannot complain to the BAI about broadcasts received in Ireland but licensed in another country such as the United Kingdom. The BAI has more information about the broadcasting codes and standards.
You should send your complaint within 14 days of the broadcaster’s decision or after a reasonable amount of time has passed and you have not received a response.
If you send your complaint to the BAI after the 14 day deadline, it may still consider the case (at its discretion) but you will have to give an explanation for the delay.
When assessing your complaint the BAI will consider the following:
- The matters identified in the complaint
- The relevant Code
- The provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2009
- The provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive 2010/13/EU
- The procedures, practices and policies of the BAI
The BAI will decide if the broadcaster has respected the relevant codes and legislation. Both you and the broadcaster will be sent a copy of the decision.
The decision will be published on the BAI’s website and given to the media, unless the BAI considers it inappropriate to do so. The publication will include details of the decision and will include the name of the broadcaster, the programme or advertisement complained about, and the name of the complainant.
The BAI cannot award costs or expenses to any party.
Find out more about complaining to the BAI.