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RTÉ Responds to Statement of the BAI

22 November 2012: RTÉ Responds to Statement of the BAI following Publication of the Report of the Editorial Review of The Frontline Presidential Debate

RTÉ notes today’s statement by the BAI and welcomes the decision that “an investigation [under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009] is not warranted in respect of this programme.” The BAI has acknowledged that RTÉ has “reviewed and revised its approach to the management and production of news and current affairs programming” and that “RTÉ has taken significant steps to address the issues that have arisen from the production of this programme.”

It is the Compliance Committee’s view that RTÉ “has seriously engaged in making the changes necessary to prevent a reoccurrence of the mistakes evident in key aspects of the production of The Frontline Presidential debate.”
RTÉ reiterates its apology to Sean Gallagher, to all the candidates and to our audience. We fully accept that, as the BAI state, “the production of this programme fell significantly short of the standards expected by the public ...”

RTÉ published the complete Report of the Editorial Review of The Frontline Presidential Debate on Sunday last. RTÉ had previously supplied, on request, an additional working document to the BAI, to assist the Compliance Committee.
RTÉ acknowledges the BAI’s request that RTÉ now publish the working document of the Review. RTÉ is fully satisfied, as are the authors of the Review, that the Report as published on Sunday is an accurate representation of the editorial failings as identified in the working document.

The working document of the review was not offered for publication as participants in the review took part on a confidential basis so as to ensure full and frank participation. The working document contains summaries of interviews with individual members of the studio audience, conducted by the review team. RTÉ is, as is the case generally, bound by obligations regarding the privacy and confidentiality of the contributors. RTÉ wants to publish the working document and is contacting each individual concerned.

The Report, authored by Rob Morrison, former Head of News & Current Affairs, UTV, and Steve Carson, Director of Programmes, RTÉ Television, was commissioned by RTÉ following the decision of the BAI to uphold a number of complaints against the programme, and in response to concerns raised about the programme elsewhere.

RTÉ has accepted, in full, the findings of the Report and those of the BAI. RTÉ has accepted in full the recommendations of the Report. RTÉ has worked over recent months to ensure the recommendations have been implemented. In addition to the introduction of new Journalism Guidelines, with training sessions for over 500 staff to date, social media guidelines have also been revised. An internal Editorial Standards Board has been established to maintain and monitor content standards across RTÉ.

The new Programme Makers' Guidelines, currently being finalised through a process that began in February under Mr. Stephen Whittle, former Controller of Editorial Policy, BBC, will be published by year-end. Finally, specific recommendations in the report around the structure of live debates have been implemented on broadcast debates for both the Fiscal and Children’s referenda.


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