Tuesday 21 May 2019

Newstalk 'failed to act in timely fashion' after Hook's rape remarks says BAI

Regret: George Hook
Regret: George Hook
(Stock photo)
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

The broadcasting watchdog has found Newstalk failed to "take corrective action in a timely fashion" following comments George Hook made on air about rape.

In its latest report, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) upheld a complaint made by a listener to Mr Hook's 'High Noon' show over comments the presenter made on September 8 in relation to a UK rape case.

The incident that led to Mr Hook's suspension related to his wording about the sexual assault of a woman in the UK and the responsibility of women in general. The presenter went on to describe the rape as "awful" and later said: "But when you look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions. Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room? She's only just barely met him .... then is surprised when somebody else comes into the room and rapes her."

He later posed the question: "Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?"

Details of the criticism were published by the BAI yesterday, along with 10 other separate complaints made to the broadcasting watchdog. The complainant said it was not appropriate for Mr Hook to blame an alleged victim of sexual assault for being raped. Responding, the radio station stated that the day following the initial broadcast Mr Hook issued an apology.

And following a second, more detailed, apology, Newstalk suspended Mr Hook from the station. However, the BAI ruled: "The broadcaster had a responsibility to take greater care to prevent the possibility of undue offence and harm, including taking timely corrective action where content is likely to have caused offence."

In total, five complaints were upheld or upheld in part by the BAI, concerning programmes that aired on RTÉ One: 'Eco Eye'; Newstalk: 'Newstalk Breakfast'; RTÉ Radio 1: 'Morning Ireland'; and Newstalk: 'High Noon'.

The complaint upheld on 'Morning Ireland' was in relation to the description of journalist Kevin Myers as a "Holocaust denier". The BAI stated that the comment made in July last year misrepresented Mr Myers's views.

The complainant argued that the description was an absurd claim based on an article written by the journalist over eight years ago under a "misleading headline" that he didn't write.

The individual added that Mr Myers took issue with the word 'Holocaust' on account of its Greek origin, meaning 'destroy by fire'.

The broadcasting watchdog decided to uphold his complaint, noting "that while Mr Myers had described himself as a 'Holocaust denier' in a typically provocative newspaper article that he had written, it was evident from the article as a whole that his description did not in fact amount to a statement denying the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi regime."

An RTÉ spokesperson said: "RTÉ is surprised by and disappointed with this finding and are considering our response."

One complaint in relation to remarks by presenter Paul Williams on the Newstalk 'Breakfast' show on July 27, 2017, about water charge protesters at Jobstown, was upheld, while another was upheld in part.

The complaints objected to language used by the presenter when referring to protesters.

While Mr Williams apologised shortly after, the BAI said he had an editorial responsibility to adhere to the regulations.

Irish Independent

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