Sarah Carey had an opinion piece in the Irish Times during the week on this very topic. Since the Irish Times is still getting to grips with new media and this piece may disappear off into paid subscriber only material, let me give you a few quotes:
“For anyone relying on the Sunday Times for information on its continuing coverage of the Lisbon Treaty, they would do well to ask themselves [who is behind this and what is his or her agenda].
For over three years, I worked for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, which, like other British newspapers the Sun, News of the World and the Times, plus Sky television, is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. During my three years with the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, I was only vaguely aware that it was a distant outpost of Murdoch’s empire.
We seemed to be like the hobbits in Lord of the Rings. The Eye of the evil Lord Sauron was rarely fixed on our petty domestic issues and we got on with the business of political and social opinion without any comment from Wapping. Except for Lisbon.
Some months before the date for the referendum was announced, I told Irish editor, Frank Fitzgibbon, that I was eager to write a piece in favour of Lisbon. At the time, we seemed to be in agreement on the political imperative that the treaty be passed, though it’s possible I misunderstood his views. We also discussed the fact that Murdoch’s well known pro-US-hawkish views would obviously be the opposite, but we shrugged our shoulders.
Time passed, the date was set and I staked my claim to the pro-treaty column. But something had changed. Fitzgibbon told me that not only would I not be writing a pro-treaty column, but no other writer anywhere in the paper would either. This was not a matter for Sarah’s precious little ego, but a cover-to-cover ban on any pro-treaty comment. Apparently since our first conversation, Fitzgibbon had looked into his heart and discovered the democratic deficit. From seemingly being in favour of Lisbon, he was now cheerfully banning all opinion favourable to Lisbon from the paper.
He argued that only broadcasters were legally required to present balanced coverage, and that as a privately-owned newspaper the Sunday Times was under no legal obligation to offer opposing views. I countered that while this was legally correct, he was under an ethical obligation to provide an alternative view, especially when that view tallied with the extraordinary political consensus that Lisbon was good for Ireland. He claimed he was under no such obligation – and that was that.
I should have written the column anyway and resigned if he refused to print it. But I was in no financial position to go around resigning on a point of principle, and I backed off. So no kudos to me. Part of me accepted that Fitzgibbon had a point: everyone is entitled to their agenda. The problem only arises – which it did in this case – when it’s not really your agenda at all. […]
In whose interests did the Sunday Times campaign against the Lisbon Treaty to the exclusion of all favourable comment? Was it because they really believed that Ireland is best served by wrecking the treaty or because Eurosceptic views were imported, or worse, imposed, from Britain? [….]
If our entire political establishment was dismayed because Lisbon was defeated and the cheers from Wapping were ringing in our ears, doesn’t that make anyone wonder whether No was the right answer to the question?”
Case closed, wouldn’t you agree?