Liveline’s funeral chat complaint upheld

The BAI has upheld a complaint against Radio 1’s Liveline after a discussion about people sympathising with the bereaved at a funeral.

The complainant – Martin Long, director of the Catholic Communications Office – states that during the chat, one caller said it is not permissible to offer sympathies to families of the deceased inside churches in the diocese of Meath and that this was at the direction of the Bishop of Meath. He states that this comment was incorrect and that the Guidelines on the Funeral Mass in place for the Diocese of Meath state “clear arrangements allowing people the opportunity to offer sympathy to the family of the deceased should be put in place in each parish”.

Martin Long also said that the diocesan office in Meath informed the programme makers of the guidelines on foot of the programme being broadcast and informed them that in many parishes in the Diocese of Meath, including in the Cathedral in Mullingar where Bishop Smith is Parish Priest, the congregation is always invited to sympathise with the family at the top of the church, at both the Removal and after Funeral Mass. The complainant states that it is disappointing that this response was not broadcast or that a clarification was not provided by the programme makers in a subsequent broadcast.

The complainant claims that he is aware that some callers to the programme, whose voices were not broadcast, sought to point out that there is no such diocesan prohibition. The complainant also outlined his disappointment at the delay he experienced in receiving a response from RTÉ to his complaint, to which RTE regrets.

The broadcaster states that a caller contacted the show to highlight an issue she had when arranging her mother’s funeral. The caller stated that her family were told by the parish priest that attendees at the funeral could not offer sympathies within the church; they could do so outside or at the graveside as this was what was allowed. The caller was of the view that this was as a result of a directive by Bishop Smith in the context of the religious guidelines for funerals.

The broadcaster states that prior to going on air the producer concerned did put a call into the Meath Diocese but there was no reply. A decision was then made to go on-air with the call from the listener. The broadcaster states that there were some other listeners who said that they were allowed to sympathise within the church but according to RTÉ’s records, they would not go on-air.

After reviewing all the facts, it was the BAI Committee’s opinion that the item did not meet the requirements for fairness in current affairs content and was not presented with due accuracy and should have been rectified by the broadcaster.

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