RTÉ star Ray D’Arcy has conceded he needs to be more careful in what he says on air since moving to the state broadcaster … and it’s small wonder with the radio and TV host attracting far more complaints about his programmes since leaving Today FM.
A detailed analysis of more than six years of complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has shown that Ray D’Arcy – in his various broadcasting guises – has received more complaints than any other person or show.
Since re-joining RTÉ, he has been subject to 38 complaints, 33 of which have related to his daily radio slot on Radio 1.
Overall, he has had 51 complaints since the end of 2010, thirteen of which were about his morning show from when he still worked with Today FM.
The next highest number of complaints was made against the Six One News with 39, followed by the Late Late Show on 37.
Prime Time also attracted 37 complaints, while the Saturday Night Show received 35, the vast majority related to a controversial appearance by Rory O’Neill, aka Panti, on the Brendan O’Connor presented show.
As a result of that episode, RTÉ had to pay damages to a number of high-profile media commentators including Breda O’Brien.
Other programmes that attracted a significant number of complaints included Morning Ireland with 34, and TV3’s controversial Psychic Readings Live – which ran for just six months in 2012 – and in that brief time prompted 30 complaints.
Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme was subject to 26 complaints while the Drivetime programme on RTÉ Radio 1 was the target of 24.
Tonight with Vincent Browne was next with 24, followed by the Right Hook on 19, RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News also on 19, and the David McSavage satirical comedy show the Savage Eye with 18.
Other individual broadcasts that provoked a strong reaction were Prime Time’s Presidential Debate (14 complaints), Frontline’s notorious Presidential Debate (6), and TV3’s The Truth About Blood Sports (14).
Of the 51 complaints made against the Ray D’Arcy Show, whether on TV, Radio 1, or Today FM – only a very small number have actually been upheld.
Seven were upheld, three upheld in part, and another 19 were listed as “resolved”. A significant number – 21 in total – were rejected, with one final one withdrawn.
Ray D’Arcy has admitted that the chances of getting a complaint have risen significantly since he left Today FM.
In an interview with Tommy Tiernan last month, D’Arcy explained: “You just have to more careful about what you say. The same rules [apply to both], but people don’t listen forensically, you know what I mean.
“You could say something on Today FM and it just evaporates up into the ether, whereas in RTÉ there are people out there, that’s their job I think, they just listen to RTÉ and say you can’t say that, you can’t say that, balance, balance, balance.”
D’Arcy then joked that his remarks would probably get cut before the show was broadcast.
In a statement, RTÉ said the complaints process was important to them.
They said: “RTÉ welcomes the fact that its listeners and viewers hold it to the highest standards. RTÉ also notes the very small percentage of complaints against its output which are upheld by the BAI, evidence of the respect of its programme makers for the principles of fairness, objectivity, and impartiality.”
Of the 879 complaints listed by the BAI, RTÉ One was the subject of 309, followed next by RTÉ Radio 1 on 205. TV3 had 110, while Newstalk got 71.
Overall, only 88 complaints were upheld or upheld in part since the end of 2010. Another 367 were rejected, 15 deemed invalid, 20 withdrawn, and 389 were resolved.
Not all unhappy viewers or listeners have to give their names but for those that do, the most frequent complainant has been Dónal O’Sullivan-Latchford of the Family and Media Association.
He said he was actually surprised that he had not submitted more than the 21 listed under his name.
“We are concerned with fairness in the media, in particular in relation to fairness with regard to how the church is represented, and family-related issues,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan-Latchford said “faith-related issues and issues to do with the natural law” were frequently not represented either fairly or accurately.
“If one isn’t willing to defend fair play for everybody, one is putting oneself at risk too,” he said.
He said cases involving Fr Kevin Reynolds, who was defamed by the RTÉ report Mission to Prey, and more recently the case of Garda Maurice McCabe had given people a strong sense that anyone could find themselves the subject of unfair media scrutiny.
He said: “If any group, or ideology, is targeted and people see that as being unfair treatment, then it’s not that big a jump to say if it’s me they are attacking, then it could be somebody else tomorrow.”