A caller to Dublin Talks on 98FM has complained to the BAI about the way she was treated whilst taking part in the show.
The complainant related her story on-air regarding her decision to terminate a pregnancy following a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality. She states that she was on holiday with her family when she received a call from the show asking if she would take part in the programme the following day. The complainant states that, having spoken to the production staff, she was assured that it would be a 10-minute chat with the presenter just to relate the story of her and her husband’s decision to terminate her pregnancy following a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.
But once on-air Jennifer [the complainant] heard comments from other callers including one which said she had the “audacity to take that child home”, “it’s killing an innocent child”, “abortion is murder – thou shalt not kill”, and “is this just a Walter Mitty pro-abortion story?”
The complainant states that the presenter finally took control of the discussion but decided to end her participation in the programme. However, he kept on-air the caller who had made offensive comments about her. The complainant states that this caller was permitted to comment on the story of another caller who bravely shared her story of having been raped and who had decided to terminate the subsequent pregnancy.
The complainant states that, having been subjected to what she describes as horrific abuse and cross-examination from a listener, she was then denied any right of reply by the programme makers. The complainant states that she would never have taken part in the programme had she known it would be conducted in such a disrespectful manner. The complainant further states that the manner in which the programme makers arranged her participation in the show caused her and her family significant distress and financial cost in terms of mobile phone roaming charges.
In Response, 98FM said it takes issue with the complainant’s characterisation of being forced to go on the show and that she was informed that it was a caller-based show and there would be other callers involved. Every opportunity was given to the complainant to decline participation.
The Broadcaster states that the complainant was given 20 minutes, uninterrupted, to discuss her experience and the presenter treated her with respect and sensitivity throughout.
The Broadcaster maintains that when other callers were introduced, the complainant was given an opportunity to respond to each one. When one caller went too far and questioned the veracity of the complainant’s story, the presenter intervened and stated that to suggest such a thing was outrageous. The presenter also made it clear that the only reason this caller was brought on was due to the statutory obligation to provide balance.
The Broadcaster does not accept the complainant’s allegations as set out in her complaint. As a gesture of good will, the broadcaster offered to pay the mobile roaming changes for the call taken while the complainant was on holiday.
The complaint was upheld in part, saying the programme makers had failed to take appropriate action so as to avoid undue offence to audiences and to the complainant.