Statements & Speeches

RTÉ Statement: 9 March 2012, Following a meeting of the RTÉ Board

At its meeting today the Board of RTÉ reviewed the decisions issued this week by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) in respect of The Frontline Presidential Debate on October 24th last.

RTÉ's coverage of News and Current Affairs has the fundamental duty to serve the truth by getting the facts right and reporting them without bias. The Board of RTÉ has to set the conditions in which that can happen. We must ensure that the internal rules and regulations of RTÉ comply with the law and meet the best standards of journalism and current affairs coverage.

The Board fully accepts the findings of the BAI in this matter. The decisions of the Compliance Committee were wide-ranging and fair. The BAI has found that the programmes were unfair to Mr. Gallagher in three respects: in the broadcast of the first Tweet without verification; in the failure to provide clarification on the provenance of the tweet within the same programme; and the failure likewise to provide clarification of this on the next day's Radio One broadcast of Today with Pat Kenny.

In each of these instances RTÉ failed in its obligation of fairness to Mr Gallagher. The Board wishes to echo the apology expressed to Mr Gallagher this week by the Director General.

The Board noted that the Director General has confirmed that measures and activities are now in train to ensure that the internal rules and regulations of RTÉ meet the best standards of journalism and current affairs coverage. A new, full set of Programme Makers' Guidelines is being finalised. It will include protocols governing the uses in RTÉ's journalism, and particularly in live programmes, of material sourced from Social Media.

There will also be an intensive review process with senior editorial staff to address issues and concerns, and potential for risks, highlighted by this matter. An internal Editorial Standards Board is being established to maintain and monitor appropriate standards. The RTÉ Board welcomes these actions and supports the Director General in his programme of action to remedy the failures in Current Affairs programming that have become evident in this matter.

The Board wishes to note that in 2010 a Board sub-committee on Technology and Innovation was established at the request of the Chairman in recognition of the proliferation of and developments in social media. It is chaired by Board member Karlin Lillington.

The Board was reassured by a number of key findings in the BAI Decisions this week, including:

. 'No evidence , contrary to the views [of Mr. Gallagher], that the Broadcaster, presenter or production team deliberately concealed information relating to the initial or second tweet or constructed the programme in a manner that lacked objectivity or impartiality'

. 'It was the Committee's view that there is no evidence that would lead one to question the bona fides of the programme presenter or the production team.'

. 'An examination of Mr. Gallagher's relationship and prior involvement with the Fianna Fáil party was considered by the Committee to be a legitimate focus of the Frontline Presidential debate'. 'this topic was considered by the Committee to be legitimate and in the public interest'

. 'The Committee was of the view that the complaint was not of such a serious nature to warrant an investigation or public hearings as requested by [Mr. Gallagher].'

The Board acknowledges that public concern has been caused by the matters referred to and is reassured that the Director General is taking the necessary steps to ensure that RTÉ will have in place rules, regulations, protocols and best practice to reduce the risk of any recurrence of the issues that have arisen in this instance.

The Board and the Director General share a commitment to ensuring that the restoration of public confidence in RTÉ's journalism progresses without delay.

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