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BAI upholds Casey complaint over Newstalk interview

Sunday Business Post, 23 May 2010  By Kieron Wood

The Broadcasting Association of Ireland has upheld a complaint by consultant psychiatrist Patricia Casey about a Newstalk 106-108 radio interview on clerical sex abuse.

The BAI’s compliance committee found that the interview by Karen Coleman on The Wide Angle last November was ‘‘unfair and non-objective’’. The radio station broadcast an apology following the interview.

Casey, who is a consultant at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, appeared as a guest on the programme with Joan Burton, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, and solicitor Gerald Kean. The guests reviewed the day’s newspapers following publication of the Murphy Report on clerical sex abuse. Casey expressed her abhorrence of the Catholic Church’s cover-up, and called for reform of the Church hierarchy and the resignation of bishops named in the report.

Coleman said she was receiving a lot of comments taking issue with what Casey had said. She read out a text from fellow Newstalk presenter Senator David Norris, asking whether Casey still thought gay people were not ‘‘fit to have children . . .after hearing about her so-called ‘pillars of society’ treatment of children’’. Coleman said that, while Casey was ‘‘not a defender of paedophiles’’, maybe she represented an element of society which had ‘‘probably forgiven, forgotten or ignored the kind of abuse that these people have been capable of over the years’’.

She asked Casey: ‘‘Could you be one of the people representative of society who has excused, hidden away or ignored the problems and conduct of the Church over the years?" Casey said she was astonished by the comments. She asked Coleman to repeat the question and she reiterated her ‘‘absolute condemnation’’ of the abuse.

The psychiatrist said she had been ‘‘unfairly and aggressively treated’’ by Coleman, and the text from Norris raised the suspicion of station presenters co-operating to ‘‘manipulate the direction of public discussion’’. In its response, Newstalk asked why, if Casey had been offended, she remained in studio and continued to participate in the programme. The station said that Norris was ‘‘a senior and very well-respected member of Irish society’’, and that Casey’s allegations about Newstalk’s editorial policy were ‘‘outrageous’’.

The BAI said Casey had not made any comments which justified Coleman’s statement, and her line of questioning had been inappropriate, unjustified and may have been perceived as critical of Casey’s past support of the Catholic Church.

It said the interview breached guidelines on fairness, objectivity and impartiality, and it upheld the complaint.

Radio Host Rapped over Interview

Irish Independent, 27 May 2010

A radio presenter was rapped over an unfair interview with a supporter of the Catholic Church over the clerical sex abuse scandal, it has been revealed.

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) found questioning by Newstalk's Karen Coleman with the patron of the pro-Catholic Iona Institute was inappropriate and unjustified.

Professor Patricia Casey made the complaint after she was invited on to The Wide Angle to review the newspapers in the wake of the Murphy report on clerical abuse on November 29 2009.

The psychiatrist claimed she was unfairly and aggressively treated by Ms Coleman, whom she alleged was determined to pigeonhole her, resulting in an unbalanced, hostile and unfair interview.

Despite dismissing all her complaints, Newstalk later aired an apology. But the BAI considered the interview had been conducted in an unfair and non-objective manner.

It stated that, while the presenter acknowledged Prof Casey was "not a defender of paedophiles", Ms Coleman later asked: "Could you be one of the people representative of society who has excused, hidden away or ignored the problems and conduct of the church over the years?"

"The committee considered this line of questioning to be inappropriate, unjustified and contrary to what the complainant had asserted at all times in the preceding discussion," the BAI complaints committee said. It also found Ms Coleman adopted a more challenging style of questioning with Prof Casey compared to her other guests, celebrity solicitor Gerald Keane and Labour TD Joan Burton, and said a comment that a "spate of texts" had been made against her was unfair.

Elsewhere, a complaint about a joke by actress Victoria Smurfit about Iris Robinson during the Irish Film and Television Awards was rejected.

Watchdogs said the script throughout the show - which included the line "It's hotter in here than Iris Robinson at a Jedward gig" - was based on humour, which at times was directed at well-known public figures.

"In this instance, the compere made a joke about Mrs Robinson who had resigned her ministerial seat in Northern Ireland due to the revealing of an affair she had with a young male," it stated. "Politicians can expect to be, and are regularly, subjected to parody. The humour was based on the much-publicised affair of Mrs Robinson."