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Complaints about RTÉ's Panti apology have been rejected by the BAI

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland said that making an apology was an editorial decision and not one for them to decide upon.

Image: Youtube/Rory O'Neill

THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland has rejected three separate complaints about Brendan O’Connor’s apology on the Saturday Night Show for comments made by Rory O’Neill about homophobia in Ireland.

The decision is one of five different complaints made against RTÉ that were rejected in the BAI’s latest round of decisions.

One of the complaints described O’Connor’s apology as “ludicrous”, firstly on the basis that the presenter was apologising on behalf of somebody else and secondly because O’Neill’s comments “were not problematic” having regard to the published views of those named.

It continued:

The apology was a clear indication that the programme sided with those individuals and the organisation and their beliefs, contrary to requirements for fairness, objectivity and impartiality.

As well as the apology, RTÉ paid out €85,000 to five people over defamation claims following the show.

The BAI said in January that it had received more than 100 complaints about O’Neill’s appearance and RTÉ’s apology. Most of the complaints were about the apology and the results of three of the sample complaints were published today.

Another complaint to the BAI alleged that the apology implied that someone is, “impeding free and fair debate if one describes opposition to equal marriage rights for LGBT persons as ‘homophobic’.”

The complainant further states that, “it is legitimate to describe views as ‘sexist’ or ‘racist’ and for RTÉ to prohibit the use of the term ‘homophobic’ is akin to restricting the legitimate use of the aforementioned terms.”

Source: Broadsheet Ie/YouTube

RTÉ’s response

RTÉ explained in response tho their complaints that The Iona Institute took the view that the use of the word ‘homophobic’ in relation to their views on homosexuality was defamatory and sought redress through legal representatives.

They argued that the apology was a “remedial action in response to complaints of offence”.

Despite this, O’Connor’s apology contained the line, “it’s an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues”

RTÉ argued that this demontrated that the apology was ‘equitable and offered no offence or harm to viewers’.

The BAI decided however that RTÉ has “editorial independence and has primary responsibility for its programming content”.

For this reason the committee decided that the broadcaster must be free to take measures if it feels it has infringed on legal obligations.

This freedom includes the freedom to air apologies as a legal remedy to claims of defamation.

“In this context,” the decision reads. “The committee did not consider it apt to make a determination on those aspects of the complaint dealing with the question of whether the decision by RTÉ to air the apology was appropriate or inappropriate.”

In essence, the ruling states that the decision to make an apology is one for the broadcaster alone. Furthermore, the BAI said that it was also not part of their remit to decide whether or not an apology was appropriate in this case.

Read the BAI’s decisions in full here >

Read: RTÉ bosses say that fighting Pantigate action would have been ‘foolhardy’ >

Read: Those with ‘deep pockets’ control the media – Clare Daly >

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Rónán Duffy

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