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Complaint that Joe Duffy ‘harrassed a priest on air’ upheld by watchdog

The Broadcasting Association of Ireland upheld two complaints about Joe Duffy’s Liveline radio show on 5 March this year.

Image: Photocall Ireland!

TWO COMPLAINTS ABOUT Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme on RTÉ Radio One have been upheld by the Broadcasting Association of Ireland (BAI).

Both complaints related to the treatment of Fr Brian McKevitt, a guest on the show on 15 March this year. The first complainant, a Mr McGuinness, claimed that the priest, who is the editor of Catholic magazine Alive!, was harassed by the presenter while on air. He also said that the line-up of callers abused the priest.

The second complaint – from a Mr Fanning – dealt with the same issue. He believes the programme “degenerated into a character assassination”.

According to McGuinness, the broadcaster abused its position and orchestrated a “well-organised ambush” on Fr McKevitt in order to discredit a voice “that challenges their own ethos”.

RTÉ argued that there was a “robust discussion” after Fr McKevitt defended an article published in his magazine that linked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to King Herod. The broadcaster told the complainants that it believes the discussion was handled in a fair and impartial manner.

In its responses to the watchdog, RTÉ noted that the initial caller Joan – who described the article in question as ‘very nasty’ – also said Alive! was “an excellent magazine”.

The BAI found that Duffy interrupted Fr McKevitt on a more regular basis than he did other callers who alleged the Herod article was inappropriate.

Those callers made ‘strong, lengthy uninterrupted comments in respect of the perceived intentions and motives of Fr McKevitt and his publication’, according to the BAI. It was the decision-making committee’s view that listeners would have benefited had such contributions been examined and challenged by the presenter.

The watchdog also noted that the presenter brought up a number of other issues other than the article, including an alleged libel against an RTÉ producer in a previous edition of Alive! and the familiarity of Fr. McKevitt with priests from the Dominican Order convicted of child sexual abuse.

In upholding both complaints, it concluded that while “the article in question merited a serious, challenging and robust discussion and that Fr. McKevitt was a very able contributor equipped to engage in a discussion of this nature, it was also its view that on balance…the manner in which the discussion was handled was not in the interests of listeners and lacked fairness, objectivity and impartiality, contrary to the requirements of the Broadcasting Act”.

Four other complaints about RTÉ programmes were rejected by the BAI in the same period. Eight more were resolved at the Executive Complaints Forum.

Download the complaints document here>

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