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FOR GOD'S SAKE

BAI upholds complaints made against RTÉ sketch about God being arrested for sex crimes

One complainant said she found the sketch “to be offensive in the extreme”.

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) has upheld eight complaints regarding RTE’s New Year’s Eve programme which featured a sketch about God being arrested for sex crimes. 

The satirical news sketch featured on the national broadcaster’s New Year’s Eve Countdown Show.

It concerned God being “the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals”.

The report showed a scene outside a courthouse of a Garda manhandling a handcuffed person, dressed to appear as God, into a police van, while he shouts “that was two thousand years ago”.

The news reader then says: “The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young Middle Eastern migrant, allegedly impregnating her against her will, before being sentenced to two years in prison, with the last twenty-four months suspended.”

Directly following the sketch, an image of Harvey Weinstein was shown on screen.

The complainants said the satirical news report mocked the Catholic faith. 

One complainant said she found the sketch “to be offensive in the extreme and it appeared to be an intentional and targeted insult directed at a group of people who hold Christian beliefs”. 

In response, RTÉ said that this sketch was reviewed by its Editorial Standards Board and on 7 January, a statement was issued by RTÉ on foot of the findings of the board. That board found the sketch did not comply with specific statutory and regulatory provisions.

An apology from the Director General of RTÉ, Dee Forbes, was published on 7 January 2021 and was carried across the broadcaster’s news programmes and its website.

It stated: “We accept the findings of the Editorial Standards Board that this sketch was not compliant with our own guidelines or with our obligations under the relevant codes. On behalf of RTÉ, I fully apologise for that. We will now review the processes involved and engage constructively with the BAI.”

Other complaints which were either upheld or partially upheld included radio segments looking back at the most influential moments in the last 20 years in Ireland. The repeal of the Eighth Amendment featured heavily in these discussions. Complainants claimed that the segments on Newstalk were not objective.

The complainant was of the view that the selection of interviewees and the time allocated to various perspectives across the programme schedule demonstrated bias against pro-life views and lack of impartiality on the part of the broadcaster. 

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