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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Leah Farrell Labour Party TD Ivana Bacik during the Dublin Bay South by-election campaign earlier this year.
Dublin Bay South

BAI rejects Fine Gael complaint about Bacik appearing on RTÉ lifestyle show before by-election

The complaint was submitted by Fine Gael general secretary John Carroll.

A COMPLAINT BY the general secretary of Fine Gael against the inclusion of Labour’s Ivana Bacik in a RTÉ television lifestyle programme days before the Dublin Bay South by-election has been rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

First-time TD Bacik was elected in July this year after topping the poll at the by-election.

The general secretary of Fine Gael John Carroll submitted a complaint to the BAI about Bacik’s appearance on RTÉ’s National Treasures programme broadcast a number of days before the election. 

The programme features people going through rare or unusual items they have in their homes. 

In its latest batch of broadcasting complaint decisions, the BAI said Carroll outlined that it was unfair for the Labour candidate to feature in this lifestyle programme “where a person is unchallenged in their contributions and can be presented in a positive way”. 

The summary of the complaint said the complainant was not satisfied with a proposal from RTÉ to remedy the matter by having an extended report on Prime Time. 

“The complainant believes this would not offer comparable exposure to that given to the Labour Party candidate in the National Treasures programme and noted the Labour Party candidate would also feature in the extended report,” the report said. 

Carroll believed the only “acceptable recompense” would be to provide similar coverage to other candidates, the report said. 

The BAI said that RTÉ stated the airing of this episode of National Treasures featuring Bacik was an “inadvertent error and should not have happened”. 

RTÉ told the BAI that its election steering group became aware of the broadcast of the programme within minutes of it airing and “took action” to remove it from the RTÉ Player and RTÉ +One to limit its availability.

The broadcaster then commissioned an extended constituency report on the by-election to air on Prime Time on 6 July. 

RTÉ further noted that the Fine Gael by-election candidate James Geoghegan, along with the other candidates, featured across the broadcaster’s coverage on other TV programmes in the days leading up to the election.

The BAI Compliance Committee rejected the complaint for a number of reasons including the fact that Bacik’s politicial life, the by-election and politics more generally were not referenced in the National Treasure programme. 

The committee said this programme should not have been broadcast during an election period, but it was satisfied fairness was achieved across RTÉ’s overall by-election coverage. 

Other rejected complaints

The BAI’s Executive Complaints Forum also rejected 12 other complaints in recent months. 

One complaint said there was a “lack of objectivity and fairness” in a science section of the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk radio. It argued that there was a “one-sided promotion” of antigen testing and a “sneering” at NPHET positions. 

This complaint was rejected, along with another complaint towards the Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ radio.

A complainant said the presenter engaged in “lazy stereotyping” of England football fans. 

A number of complaints were also submitted against radio programmes in relation to coverage about a government review into abortion legislation. These were also rejected. 

A number of complaints related to programmes not featuring an equal balance of pro–choice and pro-life contributors when discussing the matter.  

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