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Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble died last year Alamy Stock Photo

BAI rejects complaint about RTÉ's use of Elvis song as part of tribute to David Trimble

The complaint concerned an episode of Prime Time.

RTÉ COULD HAVE chosen a more “appropriate” song than Elvis Presley’s ‘Trouble’ to accompany a David Trimble tribute but was not in breach of broadcasting standards, the broadcasting watchdog has found.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has released its decisions on several recent complaints, including one aimed at RTÉ for its tribute to Northern Ireland’s first First Minister after his death on 25 July 2022.

An episode of Prime Time that aired the following night included a tribute to Trimble with Elvis Presley’s song ‘Trouble’ playing in the background.

The BAI received a complaint from a complainant by the name of Karl Martin saying that the use of the song during the tribute was offensive and suggested a bias.

“The complainant believes that the inclusion of the Elvis Presley song ‘Trouble’ during the tribute was offensive and that a more appropriate Elvis Presley song could have been chosen,” the BAI said.

“The complainant states that the words ‘because I’m evil, my middle name is misery’, ‘well I’m evil’ and ‘I’m evil, evil, evil, as can be’ were sung as images of David Trimble appeared on screen.”

In response, RTÉ told the broadcasting authority that during its research for the segment, it found that Trimble “was a fan of Elvis Presley and that his favourite film starring Elvis Presley was ‘King Creole’.”

“The song used during the tribute, ‘Trouble’ is the most well-known song from ‘King Creole’ and was used to reflect David Trimble’s wide range of interests.”

The BAI rejected the complaint on the grounds that it did not find the programme to have infringed on the relevant codes of fairness and standards.

It detailed that ‘offensiveness’ is subjective, although broadcasters must not cause ‘undue offence’. It added that the Code of Programme Standards regards ‘harm’ as “less subjective than offence and harmful content is that which causes mental, psychological or physical harm”.

“The Forum acknowledged that while the words of the song are not offensive in and of themselves and the choice of song is an editorial decision for the broadcaster, the broadcaster may have chosen a more appropriate Elvis song to accompany the footage in question,” it said.

“However, considering the broadcast in whole and in context, the Forum concluded the broadcast did not cause undue offence.”

The BAI also rejected two complaints about a Morning Ireland item on RTÉ Radio One that covered the news of Dublin Pride ending their media partnership with RTÉ as a result of three Liveline broadcasts discussing transgender people, which Dublin Pride described as featuring “unacceptable, triggering, and extremely harmful anti-trans ‘discussions’.”

One complaint to the BAI about the Morning Ireland report from a complainant by the name of Colette Colfer, said the segment was “not objective, impartial or accurate in how it described the discussions on Liveline” and that an unfair portral was made of callers to Liveline, of whom she was one.

The BAI outlined that RTÉ responded that “the item on Morning Ireland reported on the reaction and views of various groups in response to the Liveline programmes… this item was not, and did not purport to be, an analysis or discussion of the views aired on Liveline and that it was clear to listeners this was a short news report arising from a statement issued by Dublin Pride the previous evening”.

In its decision, the BAI said that “considering the broadcast in its totality and in context, the Committee found no evidence of a lack of fairness, objectivity or impartiality as described in the complaint”.

A second complaint from a complainant by the name of Karl Martin said that the Liveline discussions were inaccurately described on Morning Ireland as being anti-trans without challenge and that this amounted to defamation of some of the contributors.

RTÉ again noted in response that the item was a short news report rather than an analysis or discussion, and the BAI found no evidence of a lack of fairness, objectivity or impartiality.

The BAI released details of three other complaints in its new report, all of which were rejected.

The complaints related to an interview on the Brendan O’Connor Show about the use of equine therapy for autistic children, an interview on This Week with a transgender rugby player following the IRFU’s decision to ban transgender women playing in the female category, and a report on the Six One News about Orange Order parades on 12 July.

The full details of the complaints and the BAI’s decisions are available online.

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