FM104 broadcast ‘vile abuse’ of special needs children, BAI finds

Complaint upheld against Dublin station on which caller used terms such as ‘mongo’

A complaint against a FM104 radio show on which a caller used offensive terms to describe children with special needs has been upheld by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

Theresa Finn made the complaint about a discussion on the station's Phone Show on July 13th last which focussed on children with special needs and their exclusion from summer camps.

Mrs Finn said she was “appalled and disgusted” that what she considered “vile abuse” and “hateful comments” about children with special needs were broadcast.

The caller claimed children with special needs were “stupid”, “don’t have a mind of their own” and “you can’t put a mongo into a camp”.

Mrs Finn said she had personal experience in dealing with autistic children and was interested in listening to people's stories on the topic. She said she had expected some rude comments but did not expect to hear so many abusive words towards "vulnerable children".

Irresponsible

Mrs Finn said the broadcasting of such comments was irresponsible. She questioned if the broadcaster understood what it was like for a child to want to do things but “their little body can’t cope”.

FM104 responded to the complaint and said the topic was discussed after a Facebook page of a parent with child with special needs was sent to the station. It described how the parent was told the summer project she wanted to sent her child to did not cater for special needs children.

The station said the majority of calls were either from parents in a similar situation or from people who sympathised with the mother’s situation. It said the man in question was challenged by the presenter and other callers, and was eventually cut-off.

FM104 said the presenter called the caller’s views “idiotic”, “insulting” and “ignorant”.

The broadcaster denied “hyping anyone up” before going on air to be disrespectful.

FM104 claimed the topic needed to be highlighted for more acceptance of children with special needs. It said the show was aired after the watershed of 9pm and carried warnings it is unsuitable for anyone under 15.

“Notwithstanding this, the broadcaster unreservedly apologises for any upset caused to the complainant by the views of their listeners.”

‘Extremely offensive’

The BAI’s compliance committee said while the comments from the caller were challenged throughout the programme, the caller’s views were “extremely offensive”.

The caller the complaint was made about made the following statements during the show:

“What happens if he (a child at a summer camp) spazzes out...”

“They don’t have a head of their own… they don’t have a mind of their own.”

“They are kinda…stupid.”

“At the end of the day, you can’t put a mongo into a camp.”

“You can’t have a cabbage in a camp.”

“A cabbage won’t punch the head off of me, no mongo will punch the head off of me.”

The committee found the programme did not meet the requirement to respect community standards or avoid the use of language offensive to people, in particular people with disabilities.

“It should have also been clear from feedback from listeners that the caller was causing significant offence.”

The committee noted the “considerable period of time” before the callers comments were challenged by the presenter.

It determined FM104 would be issued with a compliance notice and the programme would be monitored by the BAI.