RTÉ received nine formal complaints about Liveline shows on transgender issues

Broadcaster insists station was fully compliant with broadcast statutory and regulatory obligations

RTÉ received nine formal complaints about its Liveline broadcasts on transgender issues earlier this year, it has told an Oireachtas committee.

None of the complaints were from Dublin Pride, which ended its media partnership with the broadcaster over what it claimed was “unacceptable and extremely harmful” anti-transgender content on Joe Duffy’s radio show in June, RTÉ said.

In a letter to the chair of the joint committee on media, Fianna Fail’s Niamh Smyth, RTÉ head of editorial standards Brian Dowling said none of the nine complainants referred their grievances to industry watchdog, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

In the correspondence, dated 21st September and seen by The Irish Times, Dowling said the deadline had passed for complaints, and that he was updating the committee on their outcome.


“RTÉ can now confirm the following: Dublin Pride did not make any broadcast complaint regarding any of the three Liveline programmes,” he wrote.

“RTÉ received approximately 110 contacts (emails and phone calls) regarding the three programmes and around two-thirds were positive and one-third negative. RTÉ responded comprehensively to nine formal complaints concerning the Liveline programmes.”

Dowling said RTÉ rejected all the complaints about three Liveline shows on 9th, 10th and 13th June, and insisted the station was “fully compliant with all the broadcast statutory and regulatory obligations”.

“RTÉ also advised each complainant, in writing, of their legal entitlement to seek an independent adjudication if they were not satisfied with RTE’s rejection of their complaint by way of referral to the BAI,” he added. “None of the nine complainants availed of referral to the BAI.”

Dowling said RTÉ does not publish its responses but had no issue with any of the complainants publishing them “and acknowledging that they did not contest the response.”

In its letter to Ms Smyth, RTÉ contradicted a claim relating to campaign group Uplift, which reportedly stated their members had made over 1,000 complaints to RTÉ. The broadcaster said it had not received any complaints from people who said they were members or supporters of Uplift.

“Each of the Liveline broadcasts included extensive participation from trans callers, the parents of trans children and supporters of the trans community,” Dowling said. “They availed of the open access that is the essence of Liveline to talk about their personal and family journeys, their life experiences and to respond to other callers.”

Jamie Kenny, operations manager with Dublin Pride, said the organisation “is a member of the trans equality together coalition and through that group a formal complaint was made.”

“I would say that RTE can either decide if they are going to stand by marginalised groups or not, that is a choice for them,” he added.

“Dublin Pride, however, will never throw our trans friends and siblings under the bus. Where our views align there is scope to work together but there are fundamental issues we will not budge on.”

A spokesman for Uplift said:  “A total of 1,187 people complained to RTÉ about this broadcast through the action page on our website.

“RTÉ may wish to lean heavily on the superficial separation of ‘formal complaints’ from ‘contacts’, but that does nothing to address the hurt and harm caused by their irresponsible treatment of sensitive issues relating to marginalised communities.”

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor