Waterford Whispers News God sketch 'did not comply with RTÉ standards'

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Waterford Whispers News sketch 'did not comply with RTÉ standards'

Sketch did not comply with RTÉ's own standards and broader regulations

The RTÉ Editorial Standards Board has found that a sketch about God on the RTÉ New Year’s Eve Countdown Show, intended as satire, did not comply with RTÉ's own standards and broader regulations. 

In the report, God is described as being "the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals".

The clip, which was part of a Waterford Whispers News sketch, showed God being led away by gardaí for “sexual harassment” offenses.

The clip ended with a line that movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year sentence in the US for rape and sexual assault, had "requested for a retrial in Ireland".

Many viewers complained to the broadcaster that they found the sketch to be offensive.

The Board found that the sketch did not comply with the following provisions: 

  • The provisions of Section 39 (1) (d) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the BAI Code of Programme Standards in relation to material that causes “undue offence”.
  • The provision of Principle 5 in the above Code (Respect for Persons and Groups in Society) regarding “due respect” for religious beliefs.
  • The RTÉ Editorial Standards Board also found the sketch did not comply with the provision in the RTÉ Journalism and Content Guidelines regarding sensitivity to people’s religious beliefs. 

After consideration of the RTÉ Editorial Standards Board's findings, RTÉ has made the following decisions: 

  • RTÉ will make a voluntary disclosure of non-compliance to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and engage with the authority in this process.
  • RTÉ will request the Editorial Standards Board to review the processes involved in the broadcast and report on same.
  • RTÉ will remove this sketch from the RTÉ Player.
  • RTÉ will carry a public statement and apology, with due prominence, acknowledging this sketch did not meet the standards expected of the national broadcaster. 
  • It is RTÉ’s view that satire is an important part of the offering to our audience. However, satire, no more than any other aspect of our output, must adhere to our own standards and the standards set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009 and the BAI Codes. 

Dee Forbes, the director general of RTÉ, said: "We accept the findings of the Editorial Standards Board that this sketch was not compliant with our own guidelines or with our obligations under the relevant codes. On behalf of RTÉ, I fully apologise for that. We will now review the processes involved and engage constructively with the BAI."