RTÉ wrong to portray Nazi as war criminal


The Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) has upheld a complaint that an RTÉ television Hidden History programme, broadcast last January, was "inaccurate and unfair" in its portrayal of the late Helmut Clissman as it could have given the impression he was a war criminal.

It rejected two complaints made against the Future Shock - Property Crash programme, broadcast by RTÉ television last April, and one concerning a promotion for the Tubridy Tonight Show, also broadcast in April.

The complaint the BCC upheld, made by Elizabeth Clissman, Clissman's widow, concerned Ireland's Nazis, which was broadcast by RTÉ One on January 16th. The BCC found that "Mr Clissman was a Nazi. However, he was never accused of, or tried for, being a war criminal.

"On viewing the broadcast material, the commission was of the opinion by reason of the context in which reference was made to Mr Clissman, that the impression was created that Mr Clissman was a Nazi war criminal. At no stage in the broadcast was his treatment adequately separated from that afforded others who were the subject of the programme. There was no clarification made that he was not a war criminal."

The BCC acknowledged "there was no claim made in the course of the broadcast that he was a criminal. However, in the context of the overall programme, a viewer could have reasonably assumed that Mr Clissman was a war criminal."

Of the two complaints against the Future Shock - Property Crash programme, broadcast on April 16th, one was from Alan Cooke, chief executive of the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute, but acting in a personal capacity, while the other was from David D'Alton.

Rejecting both complaints, the BCC found, in both cases, that "this programme achieved an overall balance of argument. The viewer was made aware from the start that the main thrust of the programme was hypothetical. The potential for a property crash was presented as such. Those who believed a soft landing was the likely outcome were also heard." It said "the subject matter was treated fairly".

Vivienne Newsome compllained about a promotion by comedian Patrick Kielty for the Tubridy Tonight Show, broadcast on April 21st, as it contained the word "shagging" and was shown at 6.15pm. The BCC found "the word itself is one that young children are unlikley to comprehend in the circumstances" and "as this item was broadcast during the main news bulletins, which attracts mainly an adult audience, it was unlikely to cause offence".

It also rejected a complaint of editorial bias against RTÉ radio's News At One on May 6th where it was said the EU ambassador to the US, John Bruton, was being questioned on the EU constitution among other issues. Brendan Price contended that as there was only a rejected draft EU constitution, RTÉ was attempting to rewrite history. The BCC found "no evidence of editorial bias".

It rejected a complaint from Berenice Moran that Paddy Power advertising stings, broadcast by Channel 6 on April 24th, were misogynistic and found the stings "did not denigrate on the basis of gender".

It rejected complaints by Dr Ian Lawler about a Fáilte Ireland advertisement on RTÉ One on May 7th. He claimed that while promoting Kerry, some of it showed Clare and a whale depicted was not a humpback as described.