A sketch about God that aired as part of the RTE New Year’s Eve Countdown show did not comply with the broadcaster’s own standards, RTE’s boss has said.
The sketch by satirical group Waterford Whispers News featured a mocked-up news report in which God was arrested over “ongoing sexual harassment scandals”.
RTE is to make a voluntary disclosure of non-compliance to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) following an internal investigation.
1. I am shocked that producer/editor of 'NYE Countdown Show' @RTE @RTEOne didnât realise how deeply offensive was a mocking 'news report' accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.— Eamon Martin (@ArchbishopEamon) January 1, 2021
Director general Dee Forbes 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 RTE, I fully apologise for that. We will now review the processes involved and engage constructively with the BAI.”
The broadcaster has already acknowledged that viewers were offended by the clip, which received 600 complaints and faced criticism from Archbishop Eamon Martin, who said it was “deeply offensive and blasphemous”.
In a statement on Thursday, RTE said that while the sketch was intended as satire, they will now “carry a public statement and apology, with due prominence, acknowledging this sketch did not meet the standards expected of the national broadcaster”.
A review by the RTE Editorial Standards Board found the sketch did not comply with a number of its provisions, including not broadcasting material that causes “undue offence”.
Satire, no more than any other aspect of our output, must adhere to our own standards.RTE statement
It also found that it did not comply with guidelines regarding sensitivity to people’s religious beliefs.
The sketch is to be removed from the RTE player.
The statement added: “It is RTE’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.”
The programme, broadcast on RTE One on New Year’s Eve, included a sketch involving a mocked-up news report featuring former RTE news presenter Aengus Mac Grianna claiming that God had been arrested over “sexual harassment scandals”.
Mr Mac Grianna later apologised for taking part in the sketch.
Mr Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, denounced the sketch in a statement on Twitter.
He described the sketch as “deeply offensive”, “outrageous” and “insulting to all Catholics and Christians”.
He wrote: “I am shocked that producer/editor of ‘NYE Countdown Show’ @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.
“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE, @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians.”
The archbishop tagged the RTE director general Ms Forbes in his tweets.
In the sketch, Mr Mac Grianna reads a mocked-up news story in which God has been arrested over “ongoing sexual harassment scandals”.
A man dressed as God is seen being led away by a member of the gardai, and is heard shouting: “It was 2,000 years ago.”
The sketch ran as part of RTE’s NYE Countdown show, which was presented by Kathryn Thomas and comedian Deirdre O’Kane.