I don’t know if you caught Eco Eye on RTE on February 25th last.
It was about Bus Connects.
The blurb for the programme on the RTE website said all the stuff about how big a deal it was.
And it said Bus Connects was “divisive” and had been met with “stiff opposition.”
So being one with reservations about what it might do to Harold’s Cross – where I live – and Rathgar and Terenure and Kimmage and Rathmines and, indeed, Glasnevin and Shankill – I tuned in eagerly.
But there was not a line about opposition to the scheme.
Oh, they spoke to a lady in Inchicore who had been worried about the removal of trees in that urban village. But Bus Connects changed their plan for the area and this lady was happy now.
That was it. Nothing from all the urban villages where many people are vehemently opposed to the plan.
To say I was seething is putting it mildly.
So I wrote to RTE to complain.
Before I got their official reaction, I was contacted by someone who had worked on the programme who told me they had spoken to ten people in Inchicore but couldn’t find anyone against the proposal. Of course not.
But I wonder if they drove from Rathfarnham through Terenure and Harold’s Cross and Kimmage and maybe on to Rathgar and Rathmines – not to mention Glasnevin and Shankill? That would have revealed dozens and dozens of homes and businesses displaying banners and posters opposing the scheme. But still, these professional television programme makers couldn’t find ONE person willing to go on camera. Or didn’t look.
RTE itself reacted first in a 700+ word response, which told me that elements of my complaint were “technically incorrect” before telling me that “Viewers clearly understood this was about the national gridlock issue and not just Bus Connect in Dublin.”
Wow. Imagine sitting there in RTE and knowing what viewers understood when they watched a programme. Amazing, up there with mind reading.
They went on to say that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland fairness code says: “It is not always the case that the omission of a viewpoint/perspective in relation to a particular issue will automatically result in unfairness and indeed, there is no requirement to cover every aspect of an item in order to achieve fairness.”
So I replied by asking them to point out ONE SENTENCE in the programme which reflected the “stiff opposition” mentioned in the online blurb for the programme.
This is what I got back:
Dear Mr. Murray,
You have been provided with RTÉ’s response.
We stand over that response and I am satisfied the programme complied fully with all the relevant statutory and regulatory Codes.
If you are dissatisfied with the response you are entitled to refer it to the BAI for independent review as set out in the reply sent to you.
Er, sorry for asking.
So I went the BAI route.
Firstly, they said they couldn’t consider the online blurb for the programme because it was, well, online and that’s outside their remit. Really. In 2020 if RTE promises online that a programme will be one thing and it turns out to be another thing, the BAI can do nothing. Or so it says.
And the complaint was rejected because “the broadcaster clearly established the parameters of the programme in its introduction and, in this context, it was transparent regarding the approach it adopted. The Forum was of the view that the broadcast did not infringe the Code of Fairness, Objectivity & Impartiality in the manner outlined by the complainant. As such, the complaint was rejected.”
Of course it was. I was reading in John Burns’ Atticus column in the Sunday Times that every single complaint made to the BAI in 2019 and 2020 was rejected. That’s right. Not ONE complaint was upheld by these denizens who appear to think that all is perfect in our broadcasting world.
The Eco Eye programme I complained about wasn’t funded by Bus Connects but it might as well have been. It was like a 25 minute promotional video for the scheme.
And it seems no criticism is permitted.
Vladimir would be proud.