Director General of RTÉ Noel Curran and Chairman of the RTÉ Board Tom Savage this week confirmed that the state broadcaster would be fully cooperating with an independent inquiry by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The inquiry was set in place by the government, due to the ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme ‘A Mission To Prey’ transmitted on the 23rd May this year, which defamed Fr. Kevin Reynolds.
RTÉ was informed of the decision following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon and Mr. Curran said that RTÉ fully accepted the regulatory role of the BAI under the 2009 Broadcasting Act. He pledged, “All resources necessary to allow the BAI to complete its work will be made available by RTÉ as required.”
RTÉ have since stated that they will continue their own ongoing review of the programme which was started by the Director General on the 14th of October and which is being assisted by the Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan. The review is scheduled to be completed on 15th December in time for the next RTÉ Board meeting.
Mr. Curran also confirmed this week that the next series of RTÉ ‘Prime Time Investigates’, due for transmission in December, would be deferred until the review was completed. Until that time Executive Producer for the programme Brian Páircéir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh will not be involved in any on-air programming and will be engaged in assisting the RTÉ and BAI inquiries.
RTÉ Chairman Tom Savage said, “This is no reflection on those involved or on the programmes in hand. But we must complete our review of editorial processes and further programmes must then be benchmarked against that. We will assist in all ways possible and look forward to the completion of the inquiry and the renewal of public confidence in a core element of RTÉ’s programming.”
At a meeting of the RTÉ Board yesterday on the issue, the Board posed further questions about the production of the ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme and subsequent communication with the public, which included the manner of the broadcast of the correction order following the settlement of legal proceedings last Thursday evening.
Last night the Managing Director of RTÉ News and Current Affairs, Ed Mulhall and Editor of Current Affairs, Ken O’Shea both decided to step aside from their roles for the duration of the inquiry. It is hoped by the RTÉ Board that this will disperse any possible doubts the public might have about the objectivity and impartiality of RTÉ’s News and Current Affairs services during the inquiry.
In a statement made by the RTÉ Board yesterday they said, that the board was engaged in the most serious editorial question since the late 1960s and that the defamation of Fr. Kevin Reynolds in the programme was a grave failure of judgement. “The weeks ahead will no doubt be very difficult for RTÉ. However the Board is confident that under the leadership of Director General Noel Curran and with the full cooperation of its staff, RTÉ will learn important lessons from hard experience.”