Oliver Callan’s ‘white trash’ song ruled okay by BAI

Broadcasting body dismisses complaint about satirist’s country singer pastiche

Oliver Callan used the term “white trash” several times in a song for his  RTÉ television sketch show ‘Callan’s Kicks’.

Oliver Callan used the term “white trash” several times in a song for his RTÉ television sketch show ‘Callan’s Kicks’.

 

Confirmation, if it was needed, that the phrase “white trash” can be used on Irish television, at least in a satirical context, can be found in the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s latest complaints bulletin.

It details its executive complaints forum’s dismissal of a viewer complaint that RTÉ television programme Callan’s Kicks had been racially offensive when it featured a song that made numerous references to “poor white trash”.

Pastiche

Dessie’s DollsOliver CallanGarth Brooks

The sketch, shown around the time of the Brooks concert controversy last July, prompted a complaint to the BAI on the grounds that it supported and condoned discrimination on the basis of race and was therefore in breach of the code of programme standards.

The forum acknowledged that the terms “white trash” and “poor white trash” were often used to disparage people of a particular race and socio-economic background.

But it agreed the term “poor white trash” was appropriated self-deprecatingly by certain country singers and had to be taken in the context of the programme, which, after all, is a post-watershed sketch show.

“Good comedy is sometimes likely to be close to offensive,” RTÉ said. “The justification for this has to be found within the comedy itself.”