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Saturday 23 August 2014

Rabbitte says RTE should air advert from Newstalk

Nicola Anderson

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

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THE Minister for Communications has weighed into the row over RTE's decision not to air an advert for rival Newstalk.

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Pat Rabbitte said he did not think the national broadcaster's objection to the tag line, 'Move the Dial', was a strong enough reason to disallow an advertisement.

The Labour Minister said if he was making the decisions in RTE he "would have run it".

Mr Rabbitte is the minister in charge of broadcasting .

RTE initially rejected the advert last month saying that it represented "a call to action" and thus was in contravention of RTE's "codes and regulations".

Under its code, RTE expressed a commitment to not running ads that "exhort listeners/viewers to switch radio/television channels".

Newstalk has lodged a complaint with the Competition Authority over the refusal.

CEO of the station, Gerard Whelan, described RTE's decision as being "motivated solely by its determination to curb the listenership of a competitor".

In an interview with 'Newstalk Lunchtime' host Jonathan Healy, Mr Rabbitte was asked his opinion on the debacle and if he thought RTE's objections to the tag line were a strong enough reason to disallow it.

"I don't think it is," he said, adding: "I suppose I shouldn't be expressing my view on that – it's not my business – it's a matter for the regulator.

"Ultimately if it's as simple as you say and that's the way it's been presented – I must say that if I'd been there, I would have run it."

Newstalk CEO Gerard Whelan told the Irish Independent that RTE is abusing a dominant position. "I am baffled that RTE, who received approximately €181m in licence fee income in 2012, can decline substantial commercial income at a time when they are complaining of financial pressures, requesting further funding from the exchequer and thereby placing more pressure on the licence fee payer and the taxpayer," he said.

"I find it surprising that RTE can reject our advert because it contains a 'call to action'. Surely every advert contains a call to action – buy this product, visit this website or call this number.

"RTE is happy to let taxpayers fund its outdated decisions because they feel that our nationally recognised slogan, 'Move the Dial,' will entice people to listen to Newstalk."

Irish Independent

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