BAI upholds complaints over controversial RTÉ sketch about God being "convicted of sexual crimes" 2 months ago

BAI upholds complaints over controversial RTÉ sketch about God being "convicted of sexual crimes"

The broadcaster has since apologised for the New Year's Eve Waterford Whispers segment.

Eight complaints relating to an RTÉ sketch which saw God "convicted of sexual crimes” have been upheld by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

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The eight upheld complaints were in relation to the Waterford Whispers segment that was shown on RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve Countdown on 31 December.

The BAI announced details of the complaints, which had been considered by its Compliance Committee and the Executive Complaints, on Wednesday.

In what was a Waterford Whispers satirical news report, presented by former RTÉ News presenter Aengus MacGrianna, God was described as being "the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals".

Archbishop Eamon Martin took to Twitter at the time to complain about the sketch, which he said "accuses God of rape".

One complainant said the sketch was “offensive in the extreme" and "appeared to be an intentional and targeted insult directed at a group of people who hold Christian beliefs”.

The complainant added 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 complainant maintains that this programme was broadcast on a night when Irish audiences were asked to remain in their own homes, due to the Covid restrictions, and therefore the potential audience and age profile would have been larger and more diverse than usual," the report continued.

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Prior to the complaints being upheld, RTÉ had already issued a full apology through Director General Dee Forbes in January, saying it "did not comply with RTÉ's own standards".

The RTÉ Editorial Standards Board has since found the sketch did not comply with the provision in the RTÉ Journalism and Content Guidelines regarding sensitivity to people’s religious beliefs.

Dee Forbes, the Director General of RTÉ said in January: "We accept the findings of the Editorial Standards Board that this sketch was not compliant with our own guidelines or with our obligations under the relevant codes.

"On behalf of RTÉ, I fully apologise for that. We will now review the processes involved and engage constructively with the BAI."