BAI upholds eight complaints over controversial RTÉ God sketch

Clip featured mock news item claiming God had been arrested for sexual harassment scandals

Management at RTÉ issued an apology in January after the back-firing attempt at satire attracted a flood of about 6,000 viewer complaints.

Management at RTÉ issued an apology in January after the back-firing attempt at satire attracted a flood of about 6,000 viewer complaints.

 

Eight separate complaints regarding a highly controversial RTÉ sketch in which God is reported to have been arrested for “sexual harassment scandals” have been upheld by the broadcasting watchdog.

Management at RTÉ issued an apology in January after the back-firing attempt at satire attracted a flood of about 6,000 viewer complaints within days of its airing on New Year’s Eve.

The ill-fated sketch featured former news presenter Aengus Mac Grianna reporting the arrest in a mock news bulletin. The Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin described it as “blasphemous” while the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Media, Niamh Smyth, sought its removal from the RTÉ media player.

On Wednesday, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) said it has upheld eight complaints, the only ones to be upheld that were made by members of the public between March and May.

One complainant said the sketch was offensive in the extreme, and a targeted insult at a group of people who hold Christian beliefs.

“The complainant states that if this had targeted another group in society like black, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu people or members of the Traveller and LGBT communities, there would have been a stampede to the airwaves to condemn it,” the BAI said.

Another complainant claimed the Catholic faith “has been under constant attack over recent times as a result of the secular society” and the broadcast was “another example of Irish media fuelling this”.

Another told the BAI that “portraying the act of rape as a comedy act is a crime against every woman: it humiliates, disrespects and discredits their testimony; it trivialises the crime of rape and shames the victim into silence; and, it prejudices respect for human dignity and stigmatises rape victims.”

In response, RTÉ filed a voluntary disclosure of non-compliance, effectively meaning it decided not to contest the complaints.

It also told the BAI that the sketch was reviewed by its Editorial Standards Board which found it did not comply with specific statutory and regulatory provisions.

Separately, the Compliance Committee of the BAI partly upheld another nine complaints and rejected 11.

A guest on the Brendan O’Connor weekend show on RTÉ Radio last November who referred to actor Paul Newman as playing a “half breed” in the 1967 film Hombre attracted a complaint that was partly upheld.

“The complainant was dismayed that the presenter let this offensive comment go with a simple chuckle,” the BAI said. RTÉ apologised for the offence caused.

A separate complaint incorporating four Newstalk Radio programmes and their handling of the repeal of the Eight Amendment claimed the number of interviewees and time allocated to each was weighted against pro-life views on the topic.

This too was partly upheld although Newstalk, in response, said the items in question did not set out to rerun debates during the referendum but rather to assess the impact of the referendum outcome two years later.

Other partly upheld complaints centred on both the Eight Amendment Referendum and the RTÉ God sketch.