The BBC and RTÉ have come under fire for airing blasphemous and “deeply offensive” programmes over Christmas and the New Year.
The BBC was the first to be hit with complaints from viewers after its broadcast of The Goes Wrong Show Christmas special resulted in viewers being shocked at the content of the 30-minute programme, which featured the Angel Gabriel supernaturally impregnating the Virgin Mary.
Many viewers condemned the show, which featured the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society putting on a disastrous Nativity, with one Twitter user branding it ‘appalling and an insult to the Christian religion’, while another said it was a ‘disgrace’, adding: ‘I am a Christian and found the show totally unacceptable’.
In response, the BBC said: “While it’s never our intention to offend or upset our viewers with what we show, it is perhaps inevitable that some aspects of our programmes will occasionally strike some in our audience as inappropriate. This is especially so within comedy; one of the most subjective areas of programming.
“Our Editorial Guidelines uphold the right to freedom of expression and the right of programme-makers to include material which some members of the audience may find inappropriate or offensive.
“However, we are always very conscious of how jokes might resonate with those with direct experience of the subjects we cover, and we never set out to mock or undermine their beliefs and experiences.”
Meanwhile, RTÉ has apologised for a short satirical clip in which God is depicted as a rapist.
The controversial mock news report, which was produced by satirical news website Waterford Whispers News, was broadcast on the channel during a New Year’s Eve countdown programme and featured a man in a white robe with white hair and a long white beard being dragged away from a courthouse and into a police vehicle.
Meanwhile, a ‘newsreader’ is heard saying: “In another shocking revelation this year, God became the latest figure to be implicated in ongoing sexual harassment scandals.”
The Primate of All-Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, condemned the sketch, branding it “deeply offensive”, “blasphemous” and “insulting to all Catholics and Christians”.
“I am shocked that producer/editor of NYE Countdown Show didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape and reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately and denounced by all people of goodwill,” he said.
“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God and Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season and on the Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians.”
In response, RTÉ said: “RTÉ acknowledges that a number of viewers were offended by elements of the Waterford Whispers sketch segment in the RTÉ One New Year’s Eve countdown programme.
“RTÉ recognises that matters which can cause offence naturally differ from person to person, within comedy and satire in particular. Having reviewed the feedback and complaints received up to this point, RTÉ wishes to apologise to those who were offended by the segment. The formal complaints received by RTÉ are being entered into our complaints system and will be responded to in accordance with the relevant statutory process.”
However, as The Catholic Universe went to press, it was understood that the clip would not be removed from the version of the New Year’s Eve show available to watch on the RTÉ Player.
The all-Ireland political party Aontú criticised the decision, saying leaving the material on the RTÉ Player meant the apology was nothing more than an “empty gesture”.
“The sketch was completely offensive to millions of practicing Christians in Ireland,” said spokesperson Becky Kealy. “It is inaccurate according to any book of faith. It makes little of sexual crime at a time when it is a real, serious and prevalent issue for so many.”
Ms Kealy said it is hard to believe that RTÉ would deliver such an offensive sketch targeted at any other religion.
“Imagine the outrage that would emerge if RTÉ broadcast a sketch caricaturing Allah, Krishna or the Dali Lama as a rapist. At a time when Christians are being targeted, attacked and killed all over the world, this is not acceptable.
“Ireland is a pluralist republic. That diversity is part of the richness of Ireland. All our citizens to be allowed to be who they are to the full extent without having to hide. Yet this casual discrimination and continuous ridicule against many who hold the Christian faith dear is creating a chilling effect pushing religious expression into the closet. This is wrong and RTÉ should remove the material.”
Picture: BBC logo.