Complaint upheld against Today FM after panellist calls J.K. Rowling transphobic
The panel was discussing tweets from Irish musicians Jedward when the comments were made.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has upheld a complaint against Today FM's The Last Word With Matt Cooper after a panelist called J.K. Rowling transphobic on air.
The complainant said that during the weekly panel discussion, one of the contributors stated that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was transphobic, "without providing any evidence to back this up."
The complainant also claimed the statement was not challenged by the presenter or any of the other panellists and the segment 'lacked balance, impartiality or objectivity.'
The broadcaster said that the specific story being discussed was a number of tweets made by the singers Jedward, in which they criticised several celebrities for comments they had made about Covid-19 and the wearing of masks.
During this discussion, the panel also mentioned that Jedward had tweeted about J.K. Rowling, specifically her comments regarding transgender people.
The broadcaster added that the panellist in question is of the opinion that J.K. Rowling exhibits some of the characteristics of transphobia, such as anxiety and discomfort regarding transgender people and is entitled to express this opinion on a part of the programme that requires guests to have a view on the topics being discussed.
The Compliance Committee decided to uphold the complaint after considering the broadcast and the submissions from the complainant and the broadcaster.
The Committee noted that the complaint was made under Rules 4.1 and 4.2 of the Code of Fairness, Objectivity, and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs.
The Code requires that current affairs content is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster's own views.
In the April 2021 Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Broadcasting Complaints Decisions report, they said: "While the principle of fairness does not require that all possible opinions on a topic are explored, or that artificial balance is achieved, the Committee noted that the nature of current affairs coverage is such that the presenter plays a critical role in challenging the views of guests and contributors, in the public interest.
"The Committee had regard for the fact that, in this instance, the presenter did not challenge the panel member or facilitate the exploration of alternative viewpoints.
"The Committee were of the view that, given the seriousness of the statements made by the panel member, and the lack of challenge by the presenter, the broadcast was not fair. As such, the Committee upheld this complaint."