Ahern fair game, but not Travellers, according to BCC

YOU can call Bertie Ahern a rat and a liar, but derogatory terms about the Travelling community are out of bounds — according to the latest batch of decisions from the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC).

It shows the fine line that journalists walk between what is fair and objectionable comment.

Comedian Patrick Kielty and children’s TV presenter Sinéad Ní Churnain came under fire for saying “tinker” and “knick-knack” on the Once a Week Show on RTÉ Two, co-presented by Dustin the Turkey.

Pavee Point Travellers Centre argued the use of the words in a discussion about passengers on the Holyhead ferry caused “extreme anger, upset and confusion among young Traveller children who might reasonably expect a Saturday morning children’s entertainment slot to be relatively free from casual or targeted racism against their community”.

RTÉ rejected the criticisms, arguing the tone of the programme was “inevitably irreverent” but the BCC ruled it was discriminatory, inappropriate and insensitive.

By contrast, two complaints about remarks made about Bertie Ahern were rejected. One viewer of Ireland AM on TV3 objected to presenter Mark Cagney referring to the then Taoiseach as the “rat in the anorak”, but the BCC ruled the context of the comments (a discussion on Mr Ahern’s old image) did not breach standards.

A listener to Saturday View on RTÉ Radio was equally miffed when Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar accused Mr Ahern of lying to the Mahon tribunal. The listener complained that presenter Rodney Rice failed to challenge the statement. The BCC agreed with RTÉ that Mr Rice was chairing a debate in which a government representative defended Mr Ahern.

The commission upheld six complaints against the Your Call show on News-talk Radio where presenter Brenda Power ran a “Get it Sorted” slot in which she rang various officials in government departments and public bodies and put them directly on air to address complaints phoned in by members of the public.

Newstalk defended the action as being in the public interest, but the commission sided with two officials from the Department of Health, one from the Department of Education and two from Dublin City Council who said their privacy had been breached and they were treated unfairly.

Among complaints dismissed was a gripe from a viewer of the Cracking Crime programme on RTÉ One who said a re-enactment of a double murder was “like providing a step by step guide to how to strangle someone” and one from a viewer who objected to footage of a prisoner being tortured with “waterboarding” during a report on torture on the 9pm news.

Pat Kenny was found not to have breached standards when he thanked the public for messages of support during his High Court land dispute with his neighbour.

Dunnes Stores, meanwhile, was cleared to continue using its slogan “Always Better Value” after the commission rejected a complaint that it was impossible for the store to always have the best value. The BCC ruled: “In all advertising there is a degree of hyperbole permitted.”

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