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BAI rejects complaint over Niall Boylan comment on funeral mass being 'almost satanic'

The Catholic Communications Office claimed the broadcast was “distressing and hurtful”.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/ShapikMedia

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland (BAI) has rejected a complaint from the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) over a comment made by presenter Niall Boylan on his radio show which referred to a funeral as “almost satanic”.

The CCO had claimed that Boylan’s description of funerals and the rosary prayer on his show on Classic Hits FM was an “inversion of the truth, abhorrent to a Catholic audience and to acceptable public norms of radio listening”.

However, the radio station said that Boylan was not referring to all funerals, merely one he had attended. Furthermore, it said that it doesn’t believe the comments were disrespectful towards funeral mass or any church.

The BAI ruled that as this was a personal view being expressed and audiences were likely to expect comments like this on the show, it was rejecting the complaint.

Complaint

The lunchtime phone-in show invites listeners to discuss a particular topic. On the day in question in October, the topic was “is it appropriate to bring a child to a funeral?”

Boylan referenced a funeral he had brought his own children to some years ago. It was the case from the CCO that he stated that the ritual of reciting decades of the Rosary was “almost satanic”. 

The CCO told Classic Hits FM in an email: “Overall the tone of the programme – involving the presenter and contributors – was overwhelmingly negative and disrespectful towards the Funeral Mass.”

It contended that Boylan used “extremely offensive remarks”, and the broadcast was “distressing and hurtful”.

It further stated that it believed the programme had breached the BAI’s Code of Programme Standards Principles related to respect for community standards, importance of context, protection of children and respect for persons and groups in society.

It asked Classic Hits FM for a retraction and an apology.

‘Personal experience’

In response, Classic Hits said that Boylan began the discussion by talking about an experience had had on the topic. It said he regularly discusses his own personal experiences.

It said in an email to the CCO: “Yes, he went into detail in order to set the scene for listeners and also to give context to his story.

He explained his personal feelings and the reaction of his children to listeners at this one particular funeral he attended and described it as ‘almost satanic’. He was not stating that all funerals or rituals or the reciting of the Rosary prayer are ‘almost satanic’. We feel this was clear in the context of Niall’s story.

The radio station said he in no way made any reference to the Rosary prayer in a negative way. 

Refusing to broadcast an apology, it said it believed the discussion was “balanced and dealt with in a sensitive manner”. 

Conclusion

In rejecting the complaint, the BAI said it had considered the views of the CCO that the tone of the programme and the presenter’s remarks were negative and disrespectful towards a Catholic audience.

The BAI said: “The Forum noted that the nature of the programme is such that the presenter regularly discusses personal experiences. The Forum noted that the comments made by the presenter were in the context of a personal experience he had when bringing his children to a funeral mass.

The Forum was of the view that these comments were clearly presented as personal views and, considering the type of programme and the presenter’s style, audiences were likely to expect comments of this nature to be made during the programme.
The Forum did not consider that the programme infringed the Code of Programme Standards. On this basis, the complaint was rejected.

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Sean Murray

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