RTE Denies Use of Bible Image Was Offensive

By Ann O'Loughlin
Irish Independent
February 14, 2006

RTE has gone to court to challenge a decision of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission that it infringed its own taste and decency regulations by using a graphic of a Bible and rosary beads in a TV news broadcast on the Ferns Report.

A member of the public complained about a broadcast on RTE's Six One News on October 25 2005 concerning publication that day of the report of the Ferns Inquiry into complaints of child sexual abuse against Roman Catholic clergy in the Ferns diocese.

The complaint related to RTE's use, via a graphic backdrop to the news report of an image of a book appearing to be a Bible or a breviary together with Rosary beads.

In his letter of complaint of October 29, 2005, Mr John Whelan, of Edenbrook Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, claimed the use of the images amounted to a profane use of sacramentals and he found it offensive.

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission studied the complaint and sought and procured a response from RTE in which the State broadcaster rejected any breach of taste and decency guidelines. However, the Commission upheld the complaint and found that RTE's own regulations regarding taste and decency standards had been violated.

RTE's application in the High Court yesterday was grounded on an affidavit from Ed Mulhall, RTE's managing director of news and current affairs, who said the publication of the Ferns report and its contents were matters of great public interest and concern and were widely reported.

Mr Mulhall said he was legally advised that, in deciding that RTE's use of a graphic image of a book appearing to be a Bible or a breviary, and Rosary beads, breached RTE's programme maker guidelines non taste and decency, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission had acted either with no jurisdiction or in excess of its jurisdiction.

He said RTE had its own guidelines regarding taste and decency in programming. When it became clear to RTE in April 2004 that the Commission had not prepared guidelines, RTE, while regarding the situation as unsatisfactory, had suggested that until a code was prepared, RTE's programmes should be evaluated in accordance with its own guidelines.

He said he was also advised the Commission acted without jurisdiction in assuming the complaint related to questions of taste and decency when, in reality, the complaint alleged offensiveness to religious beliefs.


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