A Complaint Letter to RTE

Taryn De Vere
Jan 27 · 7 min read

Please use the bits you want from this for your own letter. RTE apparently treat copy and paste letters as 1 complaint so feel free to use bits of this but make sure you personalise your letter too. The email address is complaints@rte.ie

RTE have a specific format for complaints, so you’ll find guidelines here if you’re doing your own letter. It’s important to cite the bits of the code and broadcasting act that have been breached.

Dear RTE,

I would like to make an official complaint about the show Prime Time which aired on 22.01.19 and specifically the segment on trans people.

I make this complaint because I believe Prime Time was in breach of Section 39 of the Broadcasting Act and of BAI codes on fairness, objectivity, impartiality and accuracy and section 48 of the Broadcasting Act.

I believe the show broke RTE’s own rules with regard to programming involving marginalised groups.

“Programme-makers have a responsibility to portray accurately society” — Currently in Ireland there is very little negative discourse about trans people. The Chair of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said that, “The issues which have arisen in the uk do not exist here, due to respectful debate and an understanding of inclusion through education.” So Trans people themselves do not believe that there is divisive and hurtful “debate” in Ireland.

So an “accurate portrayal of society in Ireland” would have been a programme based on how the trans people of Ireland are for the most part seen as a normal part of Irish society. Instead as Ms Philips from TENI said, Prime Time “chose to highlight in, many instances, a negative view of trans lives in Ireland.”

I would argue that the show was based around a deliberate attempt to import a hurtful and harmful debate from the UK — and the fact that Britain was mentioned several times and that some of the guests on the show who were critical of trans people reside in the UK I believe backs up this claim.

Add to that Mr Diamond’s interview on 2FM where he said a number of times that Mr Linehan had been invited onto the show because he would “speak directly to the issue”. As the focus of Mr Linehan’s input seemed to be in criticising trans teens accessing healthcare and concern for women’s safety in women’s toilets and jails. So if Mr Diamond was correct in saying that Mr Linehan was needed on the show as he would “speak directly to the issue” — then this was defining the main issue of the show as being an issue that currently does not exist in Ireland. Therefore this is not in any way an accurate portrayal of life in Ireland.

I believe RTE also broke it’s own rules with regard to “Honesty in Programming”

“It is vital to the future of public service broadcasting that the audience’s trust in RTE is not diminished in any way.”

Also The Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs section 17 and 19 were, I believe breached, with regard to the accuracy of the information provided by RTE and the views and facts that I believe were misrepresented by Prime Time. The following is a list of ways in which I believe misleading information was supplied as fact, without fact checking or clarification from the show.

A number of claims were made during the show, like the use of the term ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’, a term which has been discredited.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health released a statement on this term, stating: “The term ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)’ is not a medical entity recognised by any major professional association.”

Research on how many trans children desist was quoted, with Stella O’Malley saying that 70% of children who experience gender dysphoria reverting back to the gender they were assigned at birth. The studies she refers to have been widely discredited.

As Dr Stuart Edser says, desistance rates could be as low as 4%, a far cry from the 70% stated by Ms O’Malley on Prime Time.

“Australian work from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne which reports that from 2003 to 2017, they only had a 4% desistance rate among kids and that 96% of kids persisted with their transgender or gender diverse self into late adolescence. That’s fourteen years of data.”

Mr Linehan was given time to talk about UK trans woman Karen White, who sexually assaulted two inmates while in prison. As Stephen O’Hare, Chief Executive of TENI, said in the Sunday Business Post (27.1.19),

“To say a single isolated case of criminality means trans women pose a danger to women is absolutely spurious. Again that went unchallenged in the programme.”

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal “Sexuality Research and Social Policy” in July 2018, found that, “There is no evidence for the claim that allowing transgender people to use the public facility of their choice would increase violations of privacy and crime.”

“This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded,”

Furthermore anti — trans activists openly admitted that they created the myth of the trans bathroom predator,

Our side concocted the ‘bathroom safety’ male predator argument as a way to avoid an uncomfortable battle over LGBT ideology, and still fire up people’s emotions.”

So with peer reviewed evidence and the originators of the myth admitting they made up the safety concerns, why did Prime Time chose to focus on the idea that Irish cis women might not be safe in toilets if trans women were to use them?

A more truthful and accurate portrayal of the consequences of such fears would have been to look at the evidence that the bathroom myth actually harms trans people, not cis people.

A large-scale survey of 28,000 trans people in the U.S showed,

59% have avoided bathrooms in the last year because they feared confrontations in public restrooms at work, at school, or in other places.

12% report that they have been harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom in the last year.

31% have avoided drinking or eating so that they did not need to use the restroom in the last year.

24% report that someone told them they were using the wrong restroom or questioned their presence in the restroom in the last year.

9% report being denied access to the appropriate restroom in the last year.

8% report having a kidney or urinary tract infection, or another kidney-related medical issue, from avoiding restrooms in the last year.

The evidence shows that cis women are not in danger from trans women in toilets, but trans people are in danger from the kind of myths that RTE allowed to be aired, without fact checking. That has, I’m sure you can understand somewhat eroded my trust in RTE.

I believe that Prime Time was in breach of Section 39(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009. Based on the programme itself, and Mr Diamond’s interview on 2FM, critiqued here, I believe that Prime Time was not “fair to interests all concerned” and was not presented in an “impartial and objective manner”. I believe I have demonstrated the bias and non-objectivity with which the subject was handled. One of the guests on the show Sara Phillips, who works with trans people and their families said,

“I have watched @RTE_PrimeTime program tonight with complete disgust. Despite assurances that this would be a balanced and fair piece, it was nothing of the sort. I provided a 90 minute interview, to address in a positive way, many of the issues which arose in the documentary. However @RTEprime_time chose to highlight in, many instances, a negative view of trans lives in Ireland.”

I also believe that the show caused “harm and offence” to the trans community and their friends and families, as evidenced by TENI saying that they are currently supporting a number of children directly harmed by the show. Any attempt to import a “debate” over the lives of Irish citizens who have been living peacefully and largely without harm, is gross and obscene. Especially when some of the “debates” Prime Time aired are built on lies, myths and discredited phrases and studies.

I’m appalled that the national broadcaster could be so clumsy in it’s handling of a subject that affects an already vulnerable and stigmatised section of our community. 78% of Trans people in Ireland have considered taking their own lives and 40% have tried at least once. Studies have shown that trans children who are accepted in their gender identity and are allowed to socially transition show, “no elevations in depression and slightly elevated anxiety relative to population averages. They did not differ from the control groups on depression symptoms and had only marginally higher anxiety symptoms.”

Despite evidence that allowing children to socially transition does not cause them harm, Prime Time had guests on who suggested otherwise.

Biased, non-evidence based portrayals of trans issues affect the daily lives of trans people. TENI have spoken about a teenager whose parents changed their mind about supporting him after watching Prime Time. This is a real-world consequence that has caused harm and distress to a child in Ireland. I am aware of other people who the show has also harmed. I believe the makers of the show failed in their duty of care and breached RTE’s code and also Section 39(1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

I look forward to hearing your response to my complaint,

Kind Regards,

Taryn de Vere.

Taryn De Vere

Written by

Joy bringer, writer, mother of 5, parenting coach, performance artist, sex-positive.