Double brush with criticism for RTÉ over Cowengate coverage

AS RTÉ is quickly realising, you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) findings published yesterday have shown the national broadcaster received a double rap on the knuckles from the public over the Cowen caricature fiasco — first for showing the portraits, and then for apologising the next day.

In the latest batch of decisions from the TV and radio watchdog, a quarter of the 16 complaints referred specifically to RTÉ’s reporting of the story over March 23 and 24, claiming that while the paintings showed the Taoiseach with no clothes, the reporting showed the state broadcaster with no shame.

After the initial tongue-in-cheek coverage of the naked disregard for the Fianna Fáil leader by part-time artist Conor Casby, who managed to have his mock portraits hung in the national gallery, Thomas Loomes, Sean Ruane and Harry Boland all claimed there was a lack of respect towards Ireland’s political leader. In particular, they argued, the coverage turned the country into a “laughing stock” and that those responsible should be sacked.

However, after RTÉ issued a public apology on the Nine O’ Clock News the following day, Montrose management was subjected to the same complaints by those who insisted it was “shocking to see a broadcaster bow to political pressure”.

The result left RTÉ not so much stuck between a rock and a hard place as a mock and soft, fleshy spot. However, despite the public concerns, the BCC rejected all complaints on the matter.

While none of the latest batch of complaints to the BCC were upheld by the broadcast watchdog, they have again highlighted the close attention the public pays to coverage on the nation’s TV and radio stations.

Among the more surreal complaints included the suggestion that No Nonsense Car Insurance adverts — which jokingly assure customers they won’t have to pay for gypsy curse cover — were taking advantage of the “vulnerable Gypsy/Romani ethnic group”.

In another complaint, it was claimed that radio presenter Gerry Ryan — who hosts RTÉ’s popular morning chat show — was inciting looting by encouraging shoppers to break into a furniture store to obtain their purchased goods.

However, the BCC rejected both suggestions on the grounds that the messages had been misinterpreted and that no laws had been broken.

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