RTÉ rebuked for comments ’offensive to women’

RTÉ has received a dressing down for remarks fashion designer Paul Costelloe made on air that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland found offensive to women.

RTÉ rebuked for comments ’offensive to women’

Mr Costelloe, 69, caused anger during an interview on RTÉ Radio One’s The Business show in February when he spoke of young Irishmen in London “damaging” English virgins.

The designer, who lives in London, was speaking about the Irish in Britain. He said: “Certainly the Irish are never short of chatting up and, you know, we have that skill and I’m sure these young guys are doing great and damaging a lot of young English virgins, so there you are, and good luck to them.”

A complainant to the BAI said the remarks were “repugnant to women and dangerous” and said presenter George Lee had laughed off a listener’s text taking issue with what was said.

RTÉ argued that the remark was “a throwaway comment on a sidebar issue to the main purpose of the interview” in a fast-moving live show. “To have lingered any further on a passing remark by a guest would have fundamentally diverted the programme away from its core mission.”

However, the BAI upheld the complaint, saying: “The manner in which sexual relationships were described by the guest would cause undue offence.”

The BAI rejected complaints about an apology aired on RTÉ television’s Saturday Night Show over remarks by drag artist Panti Bliss, who made comments about John Waters, Breda O’Brien, and the Iona Institute.

Four complainants said RTÉ’s apology amounted to censorship but the BAI said RTÉ had legal responsibilities for the content of its shows and had to take particular note of the defamation laws.

Newstalk presenter George Hook was the subject of a complaint for comments he made on The Right Hook about Labour.

Mr Hook was found to have breached the code of fairness, objectivity, and impartiality when he told listeners: “You now have a Labour Party in Ireland which is essentially opposed to organised religion. They support, certainly they’re heading towards, abortion on demand, absolutely.”

The BAI noted his comments were challenged by a Fine Gael guest, but said Mr Hook had made “partisan assertions” that he failed to support in circumstances where there was no Labour guest on to rebut them.

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