Complaint over ‘racist’ comments on 4FM upheld

BAI finds statements made by callers to the David Harvey Show went ‘largely unchallenged’

Broadcaster David Harvey . Photograph : Matt Kavanagh / The Irish Times

Broadcaster David Harvey . Photograph : Matt Kavanagh / The Irish Times

 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has found that a radio programme aired earlier this year failed to challenge “racist and prejudicial” statements made by callers to the show.

The complaint, by Sharon Murphy on behalf of Galway One World Centre, referred to the David Harvey Show of January 16th 2013 aired on Classic Hits 4FM.

During the programme callers made contributions on the issue of immigrants and their right to seek employment in Ireland.

The BAI’s listed some callers’ comments aired during the coures of the show, remarks like ‘Blacks’ are “very lazy”, ‘Blacks’ have a certain DNA related to their work ethic and practices and Filipinos in Ireland are “scammers”.

The BAI found that that these remarks and others like them were “largely unchallenged” by the presenter. Although it noted that the programme also had comments from callers which were critical of such remarks, it said they were not sufficient in number to counter-balance the remarks which the committee said were “both racist and prejudicial”.

In its submission to the committee Classic Hits 4FM said The David Harvey Show was an open forum discussion platform for listeners to air their opinions on every day issues that affect the average person.

It “unequivocally” disagreed with the complainant’s contention that the broadcaster facilitated and encouraged hate comments saying that the station “prides itself on maintaining a balance, ensuring every controversial comment is challenged and never shying away from topics its audience deems to matter”.

In his submission David Harvey, who is also a businessman, chairman of the National Library of Ireland and a former RTÉ Crimeline presenter “strongly” rejected the complainant’s allegations of negative disinformation about Africans and the Traveller community.

“The programme resolves around the opinions of listeners - sometimes strong, sometimes measured and occasionally unreasonable.

“Their policy is to stimulate debate, elicit opinion and offer a platform. This is done in a balanced manner and, where appropriate, a right of reply is offered,” he said.

The committee said it did not agree with the complainant that the radio station was responsible on an ongoing basis for facilitating and encouraging discrimination or hatred towards minority groups.

It also found that the moderation of the programme and the contribution by the presenter did not constitute racism.

However, the BAI concluded that “the failure to challenge what (it) considered to be racist and prejudicial remarks, the treatment of certain callers by the presenter as well as the handling of the discussion by the programme makers across the duration of the programme was such that 4FM failed to meet its statutory requirements”that “listeners would have reasonably assumed that racist and prejudicial remarks of some callers to the programme were reasonable and acceptable positions to hold in contemporary Irish society”.