Complaints on RTÉ's Prime Time transgender episode featuring Graham Linehan rejected

Three complaints submitted about the January Prime Time programme featuring Graham Linehan were rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

(right) Protester holding signs and trans flags outside RTÉ Prime Time episode featuring Graham Linehan (left)

The BAI (Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) has unequivocally rejected three complaints made about a recent controversial episode of Prime Time which discussed transgender issues. The latest decisions on these broadcasting complaints were published on Tuesday morning. The Compliance Committee of the BAI today stated that while the subject was of a “sensitive nature”, the topic was explored “through interviews with a variety of contributors and a range of views were presented.”

All three complaints had been made about the ‘Generation Gender’ episode of Prime Time which aired on RTE on January 22 of this year. The episode, which was focused on young transgender people, featured a panel made up of ten contributors who represented a range of views on transgender rights.

Also included was a pre-recorded interview with Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, which was the cause of many objections from members of the trans community and their allies. Linehan, an “infamous TERF” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist), has previously been given a police warning for transphobic harassment on Twitter.  

More than 4,000 people signed a petition encouraging RTE not to broadcast the interview, and the corresponding social media campaign, #TurnOffPrimeTime gained significant traction. 500 or so complaints were sent to RTE in advance of the broadcast. 

As per RTE guidelines, members of the public unsatisfied with the response to their complaint can forward it to the BAI. Three complainants took this action and the decision on their complaints was published earlier today. 

The first complaint, which was made by Irish Times columnist Roe McDermott, stated that the Prime Time episode was “not objective, based on the mix of contributors and how the discussion was framed”. She also commented on the lack of relevant expertise from many of the contributors, which led to comments being made “which were inaccurate, harmful and displayed prejudice against transgender people”.

RTE’s response was that they consider it “wrong to limit contributors to people with personal experience or expertise,” and additionally, “contributors represented a range of views on the issues being examined in the programme”. 

Similarly, the BAI rejected these as grounds for complaint, stating that RTE “retains editorial independence and, as such, is entitled to choose the contributors who participate in a programme”.

The second complaint argued that the programme had portrayed a clear link between transgender people and people on the autism spectrum, and was therefore unfair and offensive. This complaint was also rejected on the grounds that the programme “did not incite hatred or cause undue offence.”

The Compliance Committee also rejected the third complaint, in which the complainant argued that the inclusion of UK anti-transgender activists had been against the appropriate standard of due care by the broadcaster. 

The BAI committee stated that “audiences were given access to a wide range of viewpoints and considered that the subject matter was treated fairly and was presented in an objective manner.” 

This Is Me – Transgender Healthcare Campaign, who organised a protest outside RTE prior to the episode’s January airing, stated on the protest’s event page: 

“We are…worried about the misinformation that will be broadcast and the colossal damage that this WILL cause to the transgender community of Ireland. Trans lives are not up for ‘debate’. You either accept our existence or you do not!”

Tuesday’s news comes just a couple of days after the latest rally for ‘The Truth About Trans Healthcare,’ organised by This Is Me – Transgender Healthcare Campaign, was held outside the Dail on Sunday. 

The Executive Complaints Forum rejected a further 12 complaints about RTE and TG4 programmes across radio and television. 

If you are affected by the transphobic or homophobic discourse in the media, GaySwitchboard (01 872 1055) and LGBT Ireland (1890 929 539) offer confidential support each night. You can also find a support group near you on TENI.ie

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