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Let's make radio bland and by the book ... but who'd listen?

It's Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Report time of the year again, as that great bastion of fairness and impartiality on Irish TV and radio chastises those shows which have not measured up to its own exacting standards.

A year ago, let's not forget, a discussion took place on Joe Duffy's Liveline show about an article written by Fr Brian McKevitt of Alive!, a catholic monthly newspaper, in which he compared Enda Kenny to King Herod.

Fr McKevitt was invited on air to defend his position, but someone complained to the BAI that Joe himself was excessively antagonistic towards Fr McKevitt.

ISSUES

The BAI agreed, commenting that "the issues highlighted in the programme were those that were raised by the programme presenter alone rather than callers to the programme".

Which is shorthand for saying that Joe Duffy should keep his opinions to himself.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the BAI itself is anything less than fair and impartial in its judgments, but consider the following from its latest report.

Out of a total of 14 complaints by the public, four considered one single show - RTE's The Centre. All complainants took offence to the portrayal of transgenders, but the BAI rejected them, pointing out that the show was a "broad comedy", and that caricatures and exaggeration were part of that tradition.

A separate complainant, who contributed to a discussion on Niall Boylan's 4FM show about whether gay people should be allowed donate blood, felt offended by his treatment, particularly when Boylan dismissed him thus: "Will you stop mentioning bi-sexuals, tri-sexuals and all sort of sexual. Let's stick to the facts".

Again, while the BAI found that some of Boylan's "facts" were of dubious authenticity, they rejected the complaint on the basis that this sort of treatment was in the nature of a fast-paced, talk-radio show.

When Derek Mooney hosted a segment on his radio show which featured a couple talking about their experience as civil partners, however, one irate listener (on behalf of the Family and Media Association) complained to the BAI that nobody who opposed same sex marriage was invited onto the show to air their views.

While RTE argued that the show as not a discussion about same-sex marriages - it took place before a referendum on the subject had been called - the BAI upheld the complaint, stating that the one-sided nature of views expressed was "not fair, objective or impartial".

So if you follow the BAI's logic, your radio experience would be vastly different.

If RTE were to interview someone who had suffered abuse at the hands of a catholic priest, they would also be obliged to interview people who had not done so.

Or if they interview someone about the break-up of their marriage, they also have to give "balance" by interviewing people who had long and happy marriages.

Where will the madness end?


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