Thursday 29 September 2016

Complaint upheld by BAI over Ray D'Arcy interview with Father Ted writer Graham Linehan and his wife Helen about abortion

Published 25/05/2016 | 14:55

Graham Linehan and his wife Helen attend an Amnesty International event in Belfast calling for a change to Ireland's strict abortion laws
Graham Linehan and his wife Helen attend an Amnesty International event in Belfast calling for a change to Ireland's strict abortion laws

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has upheld a complaint against Ray D'Arcy's Radio 1 show regarding an interview with Father Ted writer Graham Linehan and his wife Helen.

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The couple appeared on the show on October 19 last year to talk about their experience of having their unborn child diagnosed with a fatal fetal abnormality and their decision to end the pregnancy.

They also said that they supported the campaign to remove the Eighth Amendment, which outlaws abortion, from the Constitution.

Two complaints were lodged with the BAI, the first of which stated that "the presenter promoted his personal view in respect of abortion" and added that his guests' comments on abortion should have been challenged.

Ray D'Arcy
Ray D'Arcy

She complained that D'Arcy was "completely unfair and biased" during the interview.

In response, RTE argued that the item was a "human interest" interview and that the editorial format "does not generally include the hosting of debates between antagonists".

The State broadcaster also said that the "focus of the interview was primarily on the personal trauma endured by the couple" and stated that they had received and read out statements from the Pro-Life Campaign and Every Life Counts during the show.

However the BAI upheld the complaint, stating that they did not agree that it was "predominantly human interested in nature" as the interviewees had created a video in support of a campaign to change the Irish Constitution (run by Amnesty International), which was discussed during the programme.

The BAI argued that the experiences of Graham Linehan and Helen were "set out so as to encourage support for the Amnesty International campaign and the interview could not therefore be considered simply or primarily as an exploration of the interviewee's personal experiences".

A second complainant argued that the programme featured an "attack on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution".

He also argued that Ray D'arcy did not challenge the position of his guests and said the "interviews were soft in their approach" and asked "if pro-life figures are on air will they be treated to equally soft interviews?".

The BAI also upheld complaints against the show in December following an interview with Amnesty International director Colm O'Gorman, also regarding the issue of abortion.

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