Complaint over 98FM’s ‘Dublin Talks’ show upheld

Phone-in programme featured call from 13-year-old girl when discussing adult issues

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a complaint over an edition of Dublin Talks, 98FM's phone-in programme, and a subsequent promo for the programme, which featured a contribution from a 13-year-old girl.

Dublin Talks is broadcast from 10am to midday and from 10pm to midnight. The complaint concerned an edition broadcast on the morning of April 1st.

The complainant said her 13-year-old daughter phoned the show without her knowledge and was placed live on-air. She said the subject matter under discussion was of a sensitive nature and that her daughter was encouraged by the presenter to voice opinions.

The broadcaster was subsequently phoned and informed of the age of the complainant’s daughter. During this call, a researcher for the programme said that she was not aware of the age of the complainant’s daughter and apologised.


However, the following day, April 2nd, the complainant said her daughter’s voice and excerpts of her conversation with the presenter were used as promos for the programme.

She said her daughter received a call from 98FM on April 8th to tell her that one of the girls at the centre of the topic that was under discussion during the broadcast on April 1st had died by suicide and the programme then asked her daughter for a comment.

The complainant said her daughter had thankfully declined to comment but was asked to phone the show if she “heard anything.”

98FM responded by saying it was their policy to ask all callers if they were over 16 and they did so in the case of the complainant’s daughter when she phoned the show. They state she confirmed she was over 16 and while they acknowledged it was not possible for them to be 100 per cent certain of this, they believed her.

They said when they have callers on a specific issue that provide an opinion, they log their details to call them if the topic arises again. This is why the complainant’s daughter was called and asked to comment on a teenager-related story.

98FM also said it was typical for clips of the phone-show to feature as promotional footage. They said because the complainant’s daughter was an engaging and informative contributor, this piece of the show was used as the promotional piece.

Genuine mistake

They said it had removed contact details for the complainant’s daughter and any recordings of her from their systems. They acknowledged they had already been informed that the complainant’s daughter was only 13 years of age and they apologised that she was contacted after this. They stated this was a genuine mistake on their part.

98FM told the BAI that because Dublin Talks was a "live and fast-paced" talk show, it was almost impossible to get parental consents or verification of a person's age. They said they rely on the honesty of their callers.

The BAI noted that the broadcaster was obliged under the BAI Code of Programme Standards to take additional steps to ensure that children who participate in programmes or who are likely to be part of the audience are afforded protection.

It said the topic under debate on April 1st was adult in nature and dealt with, among a range of issues, the issue of ‘sexting’, child pornography and the role of children in the dissemination of such content to their peers using social media.

While the target audience for the broadcaster is over 25, the BAI said the programme was broadcast during the Easter holidays and because it was on a topic in which teenagers would have been involved, teenagers would have been more likely to have been part of the audience and more likely to want to contribute.

As such, it said, the approach to the programme required additional care under the code.

The BAI found, however, there was no apparent evidence of the additional care required and that the programme production measures stated by the broadcaster to protect audiences were wholly inadequate.

In particular, it noted that during the programme the presenter was heard to ask another caller her age. When the caller stated her age – 14 – the presenter continued to speak to her about the topic under discussion, which was the issue of child pornography.

From its review of the programme and the response provided by the broadcaster, the BAI said it was clear that the broadcaster took no apparent steps to seek the consent of the parents, guardians or other relevant parties before placing the complainant’s daughter or the identified 14-year old girl on-air.

It said it had a particular concern that the broadcaster is of the view that it was “almost impossible” to get parental consent due to the “fast-paced” nature of the programme.

Complaints against RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prime Time, Sunday with Miriam, The John Murray Show and This Week were rejected as were complaints against The Right Hook and The Pat Kenny show on Newstalk.

There were also complaints made against The Sue Nunn show on KCLR, and Ireland AM on TV3 which were also rejected.

Under the Broadcasting Act 2009, viewers and listeners can complain about broadcasting content, which they believe is not in keeping with the BAI’s broadcasting codes and rules. Complaints must be made within 30 days of the date of the broadcast.