Thursday 23 January 2020

Radio watchdog rejects Church complaint over 'satanic' rosary claim

‘Personal experience’: Classic Hits FM presenter Niall Boylan. Photo: Michael Donnelly
‘Personal experience’: Classic Hits FM presenter Niall Boylan. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Sarah MacDonald

The broadcast watchdog has dismissed a complaint lodged by the Catholic Church against a radio station over a jibe in which a presenter described the rosary as "almost satanic".

The spat relates to Niall Boylan's broadcast on Classic Hits FM on October 15 in which the presenter invited listeners to his phone-in show to discuss whether it was appropriate to bring a child to a funeral.

The presenter recalled his own experience of bringing his children to a funeral Mass some years ago where the congregation recited the rosary and he told listeners the ritual was "almost satanic".

In correspondence to Classic Hits FM, Martin Long, director of the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) - which acts for the bishops of Ireland - described the comments made by Mr Boylan on his show as "offensive" and "irresponsible".

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He criticised the overall tone of the programme saying it was "overwhelmingly negative and disrespectful towards the funeral Mass" and he accused Mr Boylan of using "extremely offensive remarks which demonised the rosary prayer".

Andy Matthews, the programme director of Classic Hits FM, rejected the Church's complaint.

"We are satisfied that the programme complied with all of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland code of programming standards," Mr Matthews stated.

He argued Boylan "was not stating that all funerals or rituals or the reciting of the rosary prayer are 'almost satanic'. He was explaining his own personal experience of one funeral and how he felt while attending".

The CCO appealed the radio station's decision to the broadcasting regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, under Section 48(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 2009, relating to harm and offence.

The CCO told the BAI that Boylan was "profoundly incorrect" and his explanation of the Rosary was "an inversion of the truth" which was "abhorrent to a Catholic audience and, more generally, to acceptable public norms of radio listening".

However, a ruling by the executive complaints forum of the BAI rejected the CCO complaint. The BAI said it did not believe the presenter's comments were disrespectful towards the funeral Mass or any church.

CCO director Martin Long said: "It is very disappointing when media agendas succeed in trampling over and insulting faith practice.

"A truly pluralist society ought to respect deeply held religious rituals like the celebration of Mass, and an important prayer such as the rosary," said Mr Long.

Irish Independent

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