RTÉ's Editorial Standards Board finds New Year's Eve sketch did not meet standards

RTÉ's Editorial Standards Board finds New Year's Eve sketch did not meet standards

In a statemen, RTÉ acknowledged that the mock report had caused offense and will remove the sketch from the online player. File Picture

RTÉ's Editorial Standards Board has found a sketch that aired on RTÉ's New Year's Eve show does not comply with RTÉ's own standards, and broader regulations and will be removed from RTÉ Player. 

Speaking about the decision, Dee Forbes, the Director General of RTÉ said the broadcaster accepts the findings of the Editorial Standards Board and has apologised on behalf of the network. 

We accept the findings of the Editorial Standards Board that this sketch was not compliant with our own guidelines or with our obligations under the relevant codes. 

"On behalf of RTÉ, I fully apologise for that. We will now review the processes involved and engage constructively with the BAI," she said. 

The programme has remained available on the RTÉ Player with a warning, despite an apology from the broadcaster and calls for it to be removed.

The Editorial Standards Board found the sketch did not comply with two provisions: 

  • The provisions of Section 39 (1) (d) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the BAI Code of Programme Standards in relation to material that causes “undue offence”;
  • The provision of Principle 5 in the above Code (Respect for Persons and Groups in Society) regarding “due respect” for religious beliefs. 

The board also found the sketch did not comply with the provision in the RTÉ Journalism and Content Guidelines regarding sensitivity to people’s religious beliefs.

Since the findings of the board, the broadcaster has decided to make a voluntary disclosure of non-compliance to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and engage with the authority in this process. 

The network is to request the Editorial Standards Board to review the processes involved in the broadcast of the sketch and will also carry an apology and public statement with due prominence acknowledging the sketch did not meet editorial standards.

RTÉ has said the sketch is intended as satire and described the comedy genre as an important of their offering to their audience. 

A statement from the broadcaster said: "It is RTÉ’s view that satire is an important part of the offering to our audience. 

However, satire, no more than any other aspect of our output, must adhere to our own standards and the standards set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the BAI Codes.

RTÉ has previously apologised for airing the mocked-up news report as part of its New Year's Eve programming. 

The sketch, created by Waterford Whispers News, featured former RTÉ reporter Aengus Mac Grianna reading a report explaining that god had been arrested over "sexual harassment scandals."

Archbishop Eamon Martin criticised the sketch after it was aired. File picture. 
Archbishop Eamon Martin criticised the sketch after it was aired. File picture. 

In the piece, Aengus Mac Grianna reads: “The five-billion-year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young middle-eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will, before being sentenced to two years in prison, with the last 24 months suspended.”

A man dressed as God is seen being led away by a member of the gardaí, and is heard shouting “It was 2,000 years ago.”

The former news broadcaster Aengus Mac Grianna has since apologised for his part in the sketch. 

It is understood that more than 4,750 complaints were lodged with the broadcaster over the piece. 

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