Monday 15 July 2019

RTE Prime Time programme on transgender issues second most-watched of season amid controversy

Outspoken: ‘Father Ted’ writer Graham Linehan. Photo: Rob Monk/Edge Magazine via Getty Images
Outspoken: ‘Father Ted’ writer Graham Linehan. Photo: Rob Monk/Edge Magazine via Getty Images
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Tuesday’s episode of RTE’s Prime Time was the second most watched of the season, despite controversy over the inclusion of an interview with Father Ted creator Graham Linehan.

The programme drew an average audience of 348,000 for its 40 minute slot from 9.35pm on RTE One.  A further 20,000 watched on RTE One +1.

The previous three episodes drew an average of 332,000 viewers: 339,000 on January 17, a season high of 393,000 on January 15 (for the Westminster Brexit vote) and 264,000 on January 10.

Tuesday’s programme focused on young people who want to change gender and featured ten contributors representing a broad range of views on trans rights.

However, members of the trans community, and their friends and families, objected to the inclusion of a pre-recorded interview with Mr Linehan, which they deemed offensive.

The controversy revolved around comments he made: “You do not tell kids that they have been born into the wrong body just as you don’t tell anorexics that they are fat.”

More than 4,000 people signed a petition calling for Mr Linehan’s interview to be dropped and dozens of transgender activists also gathered at the Donnybrook campus last night in protest.

Many people also tweeted in support of the accompanying #TurnOffPrimeTime social media campaign, which called for people to not watch the programme. Among the supporters on social media were Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan, radio and TV presenter Muireann O’Connell, and author Emer McLysaght.

RTE received around 500 emails regarding the programme in advance of broadcast, and 35 so far following transmission. 

The broadcaster has received just one official complaint since the programme was broadcast last night.

It remains available to view on the RTE Player.

Members of the public who complain to RTE and are not satisfied with the response from the broadcaster to their complaint, can then complain to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

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