Minister of State at the Department of Communications Seán Sherlock has said his department has no role in the day-to-day running of RTÉ and so could not interfere with the decision by the broadcaster to refuse to accept an advertisement from Newstalk.

The issue was raised by Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley during the Topical Issues debate in the Dáil this afternoon.

Mr Dooley said it was an abuse of RTÉ's position and the national broadcaster could not hinder competition from the independent sector.

He said he wanted to put on the record his great belief in public sector broadcasting and he recognised the good work that RTÉ has done.

However, he said had a duty to raise the issue because RTÉ enjoys a privileged position and gets €180m in licence fees.

He said it was a simple and petty attempt to frustrate a commercial rival.

He said RTÉ's reason for refusing the ad was a nonsensical one  - because the ad contained a call to action.

Mr Dooley said the entire point of advertising was a call to action.

Answering the question on behalf of Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, Mr Sherlock said that RTÉ was an independent national broadcaster.

He said the Minister for Communication had no function in relation to RTÉ's general day-to-day matters, including advertising revenue.

He said that RTÉ accepted ads from rival broadcasters including Sky, Newstalk, Setanta.

Mr Sherlock said it had no objection to accepting the ads provided they comply with its guidelines.

Mr Sherlock said the guidelines state that RTÉ does not accept ads where the advertiser claims superiority over or denigrates another broadcaster; or secondly requests the broadcaster to tune into another channel. 

He said he was advised that these were the only circumstances in which other broadcasters may be refused for broadcast by RTÉ.

The minister said it would not be in RTÉ's commercial interests to clear for broadcast an ad that served to denigrate RTÉ or effectively asked viewers to stop using RTÉ's service.

He said the broadcaster can appeal to the Advertising Authority.

Mr Sherlock said the department had commissioned a report from Endecon on the advertising market with a view to providing a revised system of advertising.