March 13, 2008


AN RTÉ Two comedy sketch show which featured a man in a straitjacket trying to hail a taxi outside the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum stigmatised and stereotyped people with mental illnesses, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) has ruled.

Headline, the national media monitoring organisation for mental health, complained to the BCC that the programme, I Dare Ya, was insulting to those with mental health problems and perpetuated negative and uninformed stereotypes.

I Dare Ya is a Candid Camera-style show in the genre of US series such as Jackass and Punk*d, according to RTÉ. In the programme, one comedian dressed as a nurse calls a taxi for another comedian dressed in a straitjacket. When the taxi arrives, the man in the straitjacket refuses to get into the taxi and hides behind a tree while the taxi driver (an unsuspecting member of the public) and the other comedian try to persuade him to get into the car.

In its defence of the show, RTÉ said it was the nature of comedy that jokes were made at the expense of everyone in society. "Comedy pokes fun at everybody, whether it is Catholic priests, bald men, fat people, Kerry people, librarians, women drivers, taxi drivers etc."

The BCC upheld the complaint and said while it accepted the programme "is classified as a comedy show", the station had not taken measures to ensure people with a disability were not stereotyped.

The BCC received two complaints in relation to this programme and upheld both. It rejected the other 21 complaints before it last February.

In one of these complaints, RTÉ had been accused of discrimination against the Traveller community by broadcasting the word "knackery" during an edition of the talent contest You're a Star.

One of the show's judges, Brendan O'Connor, told a contestant she had a "knackery accent from Wicklow" and he couldn't understand a word she was saying. RTÉ accepted the term was inappropriate but said it was used in a non-derogatory manner.

The BCC accepted Mr O'Connor had not intended to be derogatory and had used the word to "highlight his puzzlement".

The BCC also rejected a complaint made in relation to the discussion of penis enlargement on the Gerry Ryan Show on RTÉ 2FM. The complainant said the interview with a cosmetic surgeon showed no modesty or reserve and that Ryan appeared to "relish the repetition of the word penis".

The BCC said a warning had been given at the start of the broadcast.

© 2008 The Irish Times