Newstalk’s claim that the piece was an “evolving element” in the show is comic in itself. Do BCC decisions give leave to on air apologies? NT106 did get the Cardinal Ratzinger piece correct in historical(?) terms. I have not heard this piece of raido sketch, I wonder what Mitchell McLoughlin and Jeffrey Donaldson said on hearing the news.
Summary of Complaint:
Fr. Moriarty’s complaint, under Section 24(2)(b)(taste & decency) of the Broadcasting Act 2001, refers to a “newsflash” during an interview on the Northern Ireland peace process with Mitchell McLoughlin and Jeffrey Donaldson. The “newsflash” stated that Pope John Paul II was clinically dead and that Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge for the time being. Fr. Moriarty states that he rang the station and enquired as to the content of the “newsflash” and he was told it was a just a joke. Fr. Moriarty found the “joke” distasteful, anti-catholic and insensitive to people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and/or arthritis. It also displayed gross disrespect for the leader of the Catholic Church. It is Fr. Moriarty’s contention that any reference to the death of a leader of a world religion ought never to be viewed as potentially comic or humorous as it infringes good taste and decency.
NewsTalk 106 in their response state that the sketch Fr. Moriarty heard on the ‘Breakfast Show with Eamon Dunphy’ was a new aspect on the show and is an evolving element intended to add humour to an excellent current affairs programme. NewsTalk 106 however, accept that the Pope sketch could and did cause offence and apologise to Fr. Moriarty for any offence caused.
Decision of the Commission:
The Broadcasting Complaints Commission upheld the complaint made by Fr. Moriarty. The Commission was of the view that NewsTalk 106 did infringe Section 24(2)(b)(taste & decency). This sketch, in the format of a ‘newsflash’, started with an announcement that the Pope was clinically dead. The humour throughout the sketch was based on the failing health of the Pope with its ‘punch-line’ being a purported unintelligible speech made by him, during which canned laughter was used. Basing humour on the real illness of an individual, and announcing his ‘clinical death’ in a spoof newsflash is not acceptable. Not only is it insensitive, it is asinine and highly offensive. Also, the manner in which the piece was presented gave cause for concern. It was not until near the end of the ‘sketch’ that a listener would have been aware that it was a ‘spoof’ comedy sketch. Such crass treatment of the Pope’s grave state of health was unwarranted and in extremely bad taste. In the opinion of the Commission this sketch was extremely offensive to the Pope, to people and their families and relations with such illnesses and also, to people of religious faith. The complaint was upheld.