THE BROADCASTING WATCHDOG has upheld a complaint about an episode of RTE Radio One’s Liveline in which a priest defended an article he had written about Enda Kenny in a Catholic newspaper.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland found that the discussion involving Fr Brian McKevitt on 5 March was not in the interests of listeners and lacked fairness, objectivity and impartiality.
The BAI had already upheld two other complaints about the same programme last month.
The programme began with a caller saying that she found an article in Alive! newspaper to be offensive to the Taoiseach. The caller said that the article made an association between King Herod, who initiated a murder of all the infants in Bethlehem according to the Bible, and Enda Kenny.
Fr Brian McKevitt, who edits Alive! and who wrote the article in question, took part in the phone-in radio show to discuss the piece. Fr McKevitt said on-air that the article did not directly compare the Taoiseach to King Herod but it outlined why people might think of Herod in the public discussion on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation.
The complainant to the BAI said that Fr McKevitt was repeatedly interrupted and that the presenter repeatedly changed topic, using interview techniques which were unfair.
RTE said that presenter Joe Duffy put “challenging” questions to Fr McKevitt and gave him every opportunity to respond and rebut the points. The broadcaster also said that four callers criticising the article and four supporting the article went on air, offering balance to the programme, and that the presenter’s questions were an appropriate line of enquiry.
In its ruling published today, the BAI said that there was a difference in how callers who supported the views of Fr McKevitt were treated, noting that they were often interrupted and challenged by the presenter when other callers were not. It ruled that the article merited a serious and robust discussion and that the priest was a “very able contributor” equipped to engage in the discussion, but that the way in which the discussion was handled was not in the interest of listeners and was contrary to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act.
Four other complaints to the BAI were rejected and one was resolved.
One person complained about an sketch by impressionist Oliver Callan on RTE Radio One’s New Year’s Eve countdown concert in which he joked that the blood of Christ was found Katie Taylor’s urine during a test.
The BAI said that some listeners may have found the item offensive and said there should have been greater sensitivity shown in the sketch, but ruled that it had been done in a “humorous and playful manner” and the target of the comedy was Katie Taylor rather than the religious symbols of Christianity.
A complaint about Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3 which argued that an episode of the programme did not represent the views of former or current sex workers fairly was also rejected by the BAI.
The programme featured one anonymous former sex worker who, the complainant said, perpetuated a harmful myth that prostitutes who are raped or beaten up face being arrested if they go to the Gardaí. The BAI ruled that the programme showed a range of views on the issue of prostitution and that the remarks made by the woman about Gardaí did not lead to unfairness or a lack of impartiality or objectivity.
The BAI said it was dissatisfied that TV3 had not responded to the original complaint within the 21-day limit set out in the code of practice for broadcasters in handling complaints.
A complaint about an overly-negative approach to the Irish language in an edition of Prime Time broadcast in March was also rejected by the BAI which ruled that there was no evidence to support the view of the complainant.
Another complaint about The Frontline on RTE One dealt with the use of the word “incompetents” by panellist and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to describe a political party, which was then misquoted by a second panellist as “gangsters” and then again misquoted by the presenter of the programme Pat Kenny as “chancers”.
The complainant argued that the three “consequential and consecutive falsehoods” meant that RTE acted in an unfair manner to the audience, the viewers and the “fundamental concept of truth and accuracy” – which was rejected by the BAI.