RTE’S Prime Time Investigates has been axed while a new current affairs unit will be established at the TV station following a report from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland into a defamatory programme on Fr Kevin Reynolds.
The head of news Ed Mulhall has retired from the organisation while editor of current affairs Ken O’Shea has resigned from his post and will transfer to another assignment in television.
RTE has already apologised to Fr Reynolds for the unfounded allegations made in the May 23 programme and paid a six figure libel sum to the priest as a result of the broadcast which wrongly alleged he had raped a minor and fathered a child by her while working in Kenya 30 years ago.
Five senior posts in television news and current affairs management, including two new editorial management posts, are to be filled.
All editorial staff will be issued with and trained in new journalism guidelines, and a new editorial standards board will oversee standards and will take a role in a revised complaints procedure.
Noel Curran, RTE director general, announced the move as part of wide-ranging reforms in its personnel, management and operations in the current affairs division.
"Mistakes will happen in broadcasting and in journalism, no matter what changes are made. Programme makers must be and will be supported in making challenging programming," he said.
Mulhall, managing director of news and current affairs has retired from the organisation with effect from last month after 14 years in the job.
O'Shea will stay within RTE transferring to a new role in television, reporting to the commissioning editor for RTE Two.
Pending the result of the latest report from the BAI, RTE could be fined up to €250,000 under powers imposed on the watchdog under the Broadcasting Act (2009) if it finds that the broadcaster’s treatment of Fr Reynolds was not fair, objective and impartial.
The compliance committee was asked by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to investigate the matter – its first such investigation under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act.
RTE can appeal to the courts if a fine is imposed.
Three separate investigations were carried out into the Prime Time Investigates programme in which Fr Reynolds was defamed.
RTE also took Prime Time executive producer Brian Pairceir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh off air while the inquiry was ongoing.
Other changes announced by the broadcaster include:
- A new Current Affairs Investigations Unit at the broadcaster working on a multi-media basis of radio, TV and online.
- A selection of documentaries will be announced ahead of the autumn schedule.
- Five TV news and current affairs management positions are being created, including two in editorial management.
- A new editorial standards board will oversee standards and take on a revised complaints procedure.
Mr Curran said RTE could not comment on anything directly concerning Mission To Prey or the investigation but insisted all matters will be dealt with when the inquiry is finalised.
"The publication of these new structures and guidelines is, we hope, a key step in an important direction," he said.
"The range of measures in these documents represents RTE's determination to make our journalism stronger, fairer and more transparent, and to reiterate our commitment to journalism as a core public service."
RTE has also convened an external investigation board to look into what went wrong in Mission To Prey and report to the head of human resources at the broadcaster.