RTE denies threat Minister for Finance wouldn't appear on Sean O'Rourke show unless he got listeners' questions in advance
RTÉ has denied there was a threat Finance Minister Michael Noonan would not take part in his annual post-Budget interview with Sean O’Rourke unless his advisers got listeners’ questions in advance.
A media report this morning claimed that one of Mr Noonan’s advisors warned producers of the Today programme on RTÉ Radio One that Mr Noonan would refuse to go on air unless the questions were vetted first.
However, in a statement to independent.ie the national broadcaster said “at no time was a threat delivered that a minister would not appear on the programme”.
It is tradition that the Finance Minister and his colleague Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin answer questions live on air.
According to an article in The Times a row took place before the programme and one of Mr Noonan’s advisors told RTÉ staff: “We’re going to be very clear on this, the ministers will not go on air before seeing them [the questions] first”.
At no point during the broadcast was it pointed out that the ministers were aware of the questions in advance of the programme.
An RTE spokeswoman confirmed to independent.ie that advance access to audience questions on specific individuals’ circumstances post-budget queries was given to ministerial advisers but said this was “standard practice”.
“The primary purpose of the post-budget programme is to enable the more detailed, personal and specific queries raised by individual voters and businesses to be addressed to the most accurate degree possible, and that requires some research to be done by government advisers on the individuals’ specific questions,” they said.
RTÉ said that the protocol was agreed in advance and was similar to previous years.
“There was no debate about access to the questions prior to going on air for that specific programme,” the spokeswoman said, adding: “We would like to reiterate that RTÉ does not advise Ministers or guests of questions in advance of interviews.
“The Today with Sean O’ Rourke editorial team have complete and total editorial control of the programme and only they determine which calls go to air and in which order.
A spokesman for the Irish edition of The Times said they stand over the accuracy of the report.
“Our reporter was in the room and witnessed what happened,” he said, adding that RTÉ was trying to “shoot the messenger”.
“We have asked RTÉ to reconsider the accuracy of their statement,” he said.