The broadcasting watchdog has rejected three complaints against a Prime Time feature on transgender issues that sparked a protest outside RTÉ studios in Dublin last January.
The broadcast featured contributions from transgender people, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, and Fr Ted writer Graham Linehan.
The inclusion of Mr Linehan, in particular, prompted complaints and a petition seeking his removal from the segment, and protesters argued that his views on the subject are transphobic.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s eight-member compliance committee met in May to consider three formal complaints against the broadcast, the outcome of which was published by the BAI today.
The complaints claimed the feature was one-sided, inaccurate, and harmful, and displayed prejudice against transgender people.
“The complainant argues, in particular, that some contributors did not have any relevant expertise or experience on the subject matter,” one complaint summary states.
The complainant believes that giving a platform to such contributors resulted in comments being made which were inaccurate, harmful and displayed prejudice against transgender people.
“Further, the complainant is of the view that the report failed to be objective or fair as it allowed many contributors to make negative comments about transgender and non-binary persons without being challenged or without an opposing viewpoint being offered,” it said.
Another complainant “is of the view that the programme portrayed transgender people as having mental health problems or as being on the autism spectrum” and gave a platform to promote hate speech.
A third said “the language used was divisive and denigrated transgender women” and “considers the inclusion of anti-transgender activists from the UK to be inappropriate”.
RTÉ rejected the criticisms and said it would be remiss not to explore the topic fully.
Addressing complaints about its choice of contributors, RTÉ said it “emphasises the important role commentators play in public debate and considers it wrong to limit contributors to people with personal experience or expertise”.
The BAI’s committee unanimously rejected the complaints. It said RTÉ, as an editorially independent broadcaster, is entitled to choose the contributors to its programming.
“The Committee acknowledged that some comments made by contributors were controversial, however, at the outset of the programme the presenter provided context for the topic and outlined the nature of the discussion,” the BAI said.
“The presenter also issued a verbal warning, stating that some viewers may find the content difficult or distressing. Therefore, the Committee considered that audiences were likely to expect the inclusion of some contentious views.”