Weekday afternoon presenter David Harvey has responded to a listener complaint about racist remarks during his radio programme on Classic Hits 4fm.
The BAI has investigated and upheld the complaint from Ms. Murphy which focussed on one occasion when the presenter stated “Look at the amount of Aid going to Africa to feed the black babies, blah blah…” The discussion related to wasted spending in the Irish economy and Mr. Harvey states that he reflected the views of some of the callers that Overseas Aid is excessive, given the current financial difficulties in the economy.
The incident happened in January, four months before David Harvey disappeared from the station schedule without explanation, but has since reappeared due to ‘listener demand’.
Mr Harvey states that this is a matter of genuine concern to some listeners and has been discussed many times on the programme. He states that in this instance he used a colloquialism, which was a part of the language used in Irish schools and general conversation throughout the country during the 1960’s – 1980’s.
Mr. Harvey says he’s been a radio and television presenter for over thirty years with an unblemished compliance record, and said that he is concerned that any negative finding will impact on his professional reputation and integrity as a broadcaster.
Ms. Murphy’s complaint, made on behalf of Galway One World Centre (GOWC), refers to what she claims were racist comments and that it is the view of many people that Classic Hits 4FM is becoming a platform for people to articulate their racist views towards African People and members of the Traveller Community under the pretence of refugee/asylum, welfare and unemployment issues.
The BAI Committee noted that callers to the programme of African ethnicity were treated differently to other callers. While these callers went on air to discuss discrimination in the workplace, each of them was questioned by the presenter or a caller about his or her legal status as a resident in Ireland. Other callers were not challenged in a like manner, thus creating an imbalance in the way in which callers of differing ethnic backgrounds were treated.
While the Committee considered that such questioning may have been appropriate in a context where the programme was concerned with asylum seekers and their manner of entry into the State, the treatment of these callers was considered inappropriate in a context where they had called to discuss a different topic, namely, discrimination in the workplace against immigrants from Africa and elsewhere.
The Committee did not agree with the complainant that the programme in question was evidence of a systematic failure on the part of 4FM to meet its requirements under the Broadcasting Act or that 4FM is responsible on an ongoing basis for facilitating and encouraging discrimination or hatred towards minority groups. The Committee did not conclude that the moderation of the programme and the contribution by the presenter constituted racism.
However, it was the view of the Committee that the failure to challenge what the Committee considered racist and prejudicial remarks, the treatment of certain callers by the presenter as well as the handling of the discussion by the programme makers across the duration of the programme was such that 4FM failed to meet the aforementioned statutory requirements and that listeners would have reasonably assumed that racist and prejudicial remarks of some callers to the programme were reasonable and acceptable positions to hold in contemporary Irish society.
Mr. Harvey went on to state that it is important to put the programme into some context. He said that the programme is specifically targeted at RTÉ’s Liveline audience and is generally based on the issues of the day. Hence, the sort of topics discussed include politics, social welfare, suicide, government waste, education as well as the topics to which the complainant specifically refers, namely attitudes to “Africans” and Travellers. These topics receive an amount of time proportionate in their output to other subjects covered.
Classic Hits 4FM states Ms. Murphy was given time to air her views and the right to reply live on the David Harvey Show on February 20th. The broadcaster claims that if their programme content was not fair, balanced and equitable they would be inundated with complaints, which is not the case.
The BAI, in the latest Complaints publication, has rejected complaints about RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland and Radio Kerry.