Wednesday 7 December 2016

RTE insist presenter Darren Kennedy has not broken its 'gagging order'

Published 22/04/2015 | 14:55

Darren Kennedy
Darren Kennedy

RTE presenter Darren Kennedy today posted a video supporting a YES vote in the Marriage Equality referendum, weeks after RTE imposed a 'gagging order' across staff, freelancers and independent production companies.

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Kennedy's video encourages viewers to vote yes in the upcoming marriage referendum, a move which would appear to be in contradiction of the memo circulated to RTE staff and reported on in the Irish Independent. However, RTE has said that there is no breach as Mr Kennedy finished filming "some time ago".

The memo, which was circulated by head of broadcast compliance David McKenna, was sent to all staff, independent production companies and freelancers, warning them that expressing an opinion on the vote would "contribute to the perception that the organisation has a point of view on these topics".

"For the duration of the campaign debate, you should not state on social media your views on either of the two referendums; this includes banners, retweets, Twitter avatars, watermarks and so on."

Speaking to the Irish Times on publication of the memo, RTE clarified who the guidelines extended to.

"In respect of contractors, the social media guidelines can . . . only apply to those who are, for example, currently involved with a production or project in which they could be seen as representative of RTÉ.”

Kennedy currently presents 'The Unemployables' on RTE 2, having previously presented fashion entertainment show #Trending on the channel.

Darren Kennedy gives heartfelt speech for marriage equality: 'Growing up I never dreamt I would get married'

When contacted by Independent.ie, an RTE spokeswoman said: "In the advisory note recently issued by RTÉ, the guidance was re-iterated to refrain from social media activity that could be seen to be partisan in either favouring, or not favouring, the Constitutional changes proposed in the two upcoming referendums. RTÉ’s core guiding principle in this matter, as in all, is fairness and impartiality, and this is a sound statement of principle for RTÉ.

"Darren Kennedy has an established career as a stylist and journalist across a range of media outlets, as well as being an occasional presenter on RTÉ. While Darren is currently on air on RTÉ2, he is not under RTÉ contract at present as the series was filmed some time ago.  The position as regards contractors and guests is reflected in the statement issued earlier this month." 

Speaking in his video, Kennedy described the referendum as "one of the most important political chapters of our generation".

"It's a time in history, where we get to stand up and show what we think and really it's about love. And about the right to equal love".

A representative for Kennedy declined to comment when contacted by Independent.ie.

Voice of Ireland co-presenter Eoghan McDermott was recently forced to pull out of presenting DIT's Stand Up For Love event as a result of the broadcaster's neutrality guidelines.

"They saw that I was attached to it and reminded me of the broadcasting guidelines".

"They said, 'We see you're doing that event but you're contracted now and these are the guidelines'. They didn't come down hard on me or anything like that. I didn't know actually that that was the case, to be honest. I didn't realise you were bound to neutrality."

"It's fair enough. I don't disagree with the principle. I think RTE is still the most trusted institution in the country so it's fair that it should have impartial debate or people should feel that it has impartial debate for national decisions," he said.

RTE's gagging order: Broadcaster warns staff not to make comment on marriage referendum  

Nicky Byrne's RTE2FM co-presenter Jenny Greene recently told the Herald that she was "not allowed" to discuss the referendum in any interviews because she worked at RTE.

"I can't talk about it at all. That's the only rule that I have as far as I know," she said.

"Apparently, because we work in RTE we're not allowed."

Following the publication of the memo, RTE said in a statement that staff are "routinely reminded about guidances" in the run-up to elections and referendums.

"Fairness and impartiality is at the core of our obligations to the audience," it said. "It is an important principle in facilitating national debate on important issues.

"It means assuring audiences, contributors, and commentators that RTE will play a fair role in the impartial coverage of a diversity of views and opinions."

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