Operation Transformation doesn’t need to lose stones and pounds, says regulator

Complaint about pandemic film swearing on Radio 1 arts show also rejected by BAI

Operation Transformation, the RTÉ One television show that tracks people's attempts to lose weight, is not obliged by law to use metric units of measurement and can stick with imperial stones and pounds, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) compliance committee has ruled.

The verdict follows a complaint to the broadcasting regulator that suggested the reality TV programme’s avoidance of metric units – kilogram and gram – was not complying with a statutory instrument and that by focusing on imperial units, RTÉ was both breaching legislation and undermining the authority of the State.

In its response, RTÉ noted the EU legislation, introduced in 2005, allows for derogations reflecting cultural traditions and that stones, pounds and ounces are in everyday use in Ireland. It denied that Operation Transformation was undermining the authority of the State.

The BAI compliance committee agreed, saying there was no evidence to support the view that Operation Transformation either undermined the authority of the State or infringed the requirements of the BAI’s code of programme standards.

Separately, the BAI’s executive complaints forum rejected a complaint against RTÉ Radio 1’s arts programme Arena after it broadcast a clip of the pandemic-themed film Outbreak that included a character using the term “f***ing s***”. A complainant objected to the broadcast without warning of this language, which aired at 7.15pm, saying his three young children were listening to the programme at the time.

RTÉ said Arena was not a children’s programme and that, by definition, the arts often involved challenging material, including content that some might consider offensive. This was a well-established audience expectation, it said. In the context of a discussion about two Hollywood pandemic films aimed at adults – Outbreak and Contagion – it was not deemed necessary or appropriate to advise on the nature of the language in the clip.

The BAI agreed that Arena had not been “unduly offensive” by broadcasting Outbreak’s sweary dialogue.

Commentator’s error

Two other complaints were not upheld. Michael Tomney, a League of Ireland referee, complained to the regulator after RTÉ sports commentator George Hamilton mistakenly said during prematch commentary of the 2019 FAI Cup Final that he had not before refereed an FAI Cup Final. Mr Tomney, who refereed the FAI Cup Final in 1995, said the inaccurate remark had caused him personal harm and discomfort, and negatively impacted on his reputation.

RTÉ said the comment was human error and no disrespect or harm was intended. The BAI compliance committee said it considered it “unfortunate that this error occurred” but agreed with RTÉ that as the broadcast was not a news and current affairs programme, it was not covered by the BAI’s code of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs.

The BAI executive complaints forum also dismissed a complaint about a radio ad by the Road Safety Authority, which aired on Newstalk. The complainant alleged it was "misleading" to instruct pedestrians to always walk on the right-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic, if no footpath is provided.

Newstalk responded that RSA is the body charged with keeping road users safe, while the RSA’s advertising agency, BBDO, said the advice on pedestrian safety was based on the legal requirements, as contained in the RSA’s Rules of the Road.