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4.01.2021
RTE

EAI Press Release on RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve Sketch

RTEEvangelical Alliance Ireland notes with concern that our national broadcaster, RTÉ, thought it appropriate to mark the New Year by airing a comedy sketch that joked about rape, and about God being a rapist.

We have written to RTÉ, stressing that the airing of an item likely to cause offence (itself a breach of the law) was compounded by what appears to be a deliberate intention to cause offence.

Organisations such as Atheist Ireland have defended RTÉ’s actions on the grounds that the prohibition against blasphemy was recently removed from the Irish Constitution.

However, just because an action is not identified as illegal in the Constitution, that  in no way invalidates the Broadcasting Act’s provisions to prevent broadcasters from airing inappropriate content that is designed to deliberately cause offence.

A prominent Newstalk radio presenter’s career was effectively ended in recent years by insensitive comments he made about rape. Yet RTÉ treating rape as a subject for humour, solely in order to taunt people of faith, is apparently deemed acceptable in certain circles.

In a secular pluralist society, we should all be free to disagree with each other’s views. The ability to express that disagreement, and to engage in debate on such issues as faith and religion, is important. Few, if any of us, would exchange that freedom for the intolerance that is sometimes enforced by both religious and atheistic regimes.

But freedom carries responsibilities. And a national broadcaster should be mindful of those responsibilities.

Nick Park
Executive Director, Evangelical Alliance Ireland


Dear RTÉ

RTÉ is obliged under Section 39 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to ensure that:

(c) anything which may reasonably be regarded as causing harm or offence, or as likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State, is not broadcast.

I wish to protest about the sketch in your New Year’s Eve countdown show which portrayed God as a rapist.

Not only did this breach the Broadcasting Act in that it was clearly going to cause offence, but it would appear that causing offence was the sole purpose of the sketch. This ‘joke’ could not be described as remotely funny in any way other than as when children shout curse words through the open doors of a church and then run away. If you take away the intention to cause offence, then any rationale for the ‘joke’ also evaporates.

If RTÉ had unintentionally caused offence, then I would understand. We should all be free to laugh at absurdity, including the absurdity that is sometimes apparent in the ways people practice religion. Comedy can sometimes overstep the mark and mistakes are made. But this sketch was much more than an overstepping of the mark. It was a quite deliberate giving of the middle finger to Christians, with no other motive than to enjoy the subsequent outrage.

Furthermore, making jokes about rape is never funny. I don’t believe that RTÉ would sanction joking about rape in any other context. Does the desire to taunt Christians justify overriding all other decency and sensitivities as well?

I would respectfully request that RTÉ go beyond a bland statement that you are sorry that people were offended, and take measures (including an assessment of contributors to future shows) to ensure that our national broadcaster does not become a vehicle for the deliberate provocation of people of faith.

Regards

Nick Park
Executive Director, Evangelical Alliance Ireland
nick@evangelical.ie