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BAI rejects complaint over description of Joe Biden as 'President Elect' in November news bulletin

Another complaint relating to an on-air jingle on Today FM was also rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Image: Carolyn Kaster/PA Images

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) has today published the results of four decisions it has made on foot of complaints made by members of the public.

Three of the four complaints relate to RTÉ broadcasts which referenced former US President Donald Trump. The other relates to a jingle on Today FM which the complainant claimed had contained sexist remarks.

All four were rejected. 

Trump

One of the complaints was made in regard to the RTÉ Six One News on 9 November 2020. 

The complainant took exception to the description of Joe Biden as President Elect. This broadcast was made after Joe Biden’s victory speech and after major outlets had declared him the winner of the electoral college. This victory was later certified by US Congress.

The BAI said: “The complainant maintains that when an election outcome is unclear or disputed nobody should refer to any of the candidates as the ‘President Elect’. The complainant maintains that, at the time of broadcast, the incumbent president, Donald Trump, had not conceded the election. Further, the complainant maintains that there are on-going reports of voter irregularities.”

The complainant also said that bias was shown during reporting regarding alleged voting irregularities.

In response, RTÉ said that the description of Biden as President Elect was appropriate and valid. Furthermore, it said its reporting was factually accurate, fair and impartial. 

The BAI rejected this complaint.

Another complainant took exception to a segment on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne which featured commentary on a report that Trump had made disparaging remarks about the US military during a visit to France in 2018.

The BAI rejected the claim that the topic was presented in a one-sided manner, and that facts were omitted or presented in a manner which would mislead.

A third Trump-related complaint centred on a segment on Liveline with featured an interview with former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. The complainant said the 45-minute segment amounted to a party-political broadcast for the Democratic party. 

RTÉ said that the programme featured callers and contributors both in support and against Donald Trump. 

The BAI said it “did not find evidence in the broadcast to support the view of the complainant that the presenter displayed bias or that the programme was unfair, unobjective or partial”.

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On-air jingle

A fourth complaint related to an on-air jingle played on Today FM’s Dermot and Dave show. 

The BAI said: “The complainant states that there is a weekly segment in which one of the show’s female producers provides an overview of upcoming shows on TV. A jingle is played before and after this segment which, in the view of the complainant, contains offensive, discriminatory and sexist remarks.

“The complainant particularly takes issue with the lyrics ‘you are fired’ and ‘put on the kettle’. The complainant found both remarks derogatory and offensive and is of the view that the jingle sends the wrong message to female listeners. The complainant further notes that the show does not include similar references aimed towards men.”

The producer in question provided a response, as she co-wrote the jingle. She stated that the jingle is not designed to cause offence and was a play on the producer-presenter relationship. 

The BAI added: “The jingle is a joke which plays on the fact that the producer is the presenters’ manager and, as such, could not be fired by the presenters. In addition, the kettle reference is a cheeky play on the presenters asking their boss to make them a cup of tea. The broadcaster states that gender has no relevance to the content of the jingle.”

In its decision, the BAI said it listened to the jingle and considered it was light-hearted and would be understood by listeners as a joke.

It said: “The Forum noted that listeners would be familiar with the style of the programme and the content of the jingle was likely to align with audience expectations. Further, the Forum did not consider that the content emphasised gender or discriminated against women. In this regard, the Forum did not consider that the jingle was likely to cause undue offence.”

The BAI also rejected this complaint. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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