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Claire Byrne. Niall Carson

BAI rejects 15 complaints against Claire Byrne Live show over Covid-19 vaccine segment

A complaint against Red FM’s Neil Prendeville Show was partly upheld.

FIFTEEN SEPARATE COMPLAINTS were made about RTE One’s Claire Byrne Show in regard to a segment about vaccination – the BAI rejected each of the submissions.

During the television show, broadcast on October 18 last an interviewer and the presenter discussed isolating during a Covid-19 illness.

Complainants told the BAI that the discussion “isolated” those who chose not to get the vaccine, and how the interviewee referenced conspiracy theories.

In all the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has rejected 22 complaints against three shows across RTÉ One, Newstalk, and Clare FM – and partly upheld one against a Red FM show.

During the period from October 2021 to January 2022, 23 complaints were considered by the Compliance Committee of the BAI, with one complaint upheld in part and 22 rejected. Seventeen complaints were considered and rejected by the Executive Complaints Forum.

The BAI released details of the complaints today and outlined the nature of each and the reasons for their ruling. 

The shows and stations concerned were Clare FM: Morning Focus with Alan Morrissey, Newstalk 106-108FM: The Pat Kenny Show, RTÉ One: Claire Byrne Live and Red FM: Neil Prendeville Show.

In regard to the Red FM case it was lodged by Louise Harrington on behalf of the Cork Traveller Women’s Network Station.

The complaint was in regard to an item on the Neil Prendeville Show in which Councillor Ken O’Flynn was interviewed. 

The interview dealt with living conditions on Cork city’s Spring Lane halting site and followed a report, ‘No End in Site’, from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO).

The complainant’s submission claimed that the broadcast contained “inaccurate and misleading information and was presented in a manner that was not objective or impartial”.

Harrington’s complaint said she believed the interviewee made several “grossly” inaccurate and misleading statements, which were not challenged by the presenter.

The items listed included issues of illegal dumping, provision of housing as well as issues surrounding how locals interacted with building contractors at the site.

“The complainant states that the interview included many anti-Traveller stereotypes and characterised site residents as unreasonable, dishonest, criminal and violent.

“The complainant believes that the tone of the interview and the multiple accusations of criminality, antisociality and blame, stigmatise and create mistrust of Travellers in society.

“The complainant believes the interviewee implied that parents on the site are neglecting and abusing their children, which was not challenged by the presenter. The complainant states that this serious allegation caused grave offence to parents living on the site,” the BAI report stated. 

In a response from Red FM the radio station said “there are clearly very different opinions” on the factual content of the contributor’s interview made to the programme.

Red FM said that they had approached members of the Traveller Community in Cork but these people subsequently opted out of speaking on radio.

“The broadcaster notes that it cannot opt not to cover topics if the alternative
view is not available or willing to discuss it publicly.

“The broadcaster claims that this programme has always given the Traveller community members an opportunity to discuss such issues,” the BAI report stated. 

It also outlined that Red FM said its presenter had challenged the comments of the interviewee and had always endeavoured to provide balanced perspectives in radio discussions. 

The committee said that the presenter had failed to “sufficiently challenge” the interviewee’s view – it also said that the programme had not provided a “wide variety of views”. 

The BAI report said it did not find “sufficient evidence of inaccuracies or misleading content” but it said it noted that the contributor was allowed to make allegations without the presenter asking questions that would “reflect a range of perspectives on the subject under discussion”.

“The Committee concluded the broadcast had infringed rules 4.1, 4.2 and 4.22 of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs and Principle 5 of BAI Code of Programme Standards. Accordingly, the Committee upheld the complaint, in part,” it found. 

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