Recorded 'Late, Late' interviews under fire
Broadcaster denies that fears over libel actions are behind the move
RTE has come under attack for its pre-recorded interview with Sean Quinn Jnr on Friday's Late Late Show.
Helen O'Rahilly, the former director of television at the national broadcaster, hit out this weekend at what she described as a "very, very poor" decision to only back reference the fact that the interview did not go out live.
The comments came as viewers of the Late Late took to their social network sites to bemoan the number of pre-taped interviews on RTE's flagship show in recent weeks.
RTE has said "it is not a case of battening down the hatches" in the current climate where a threat of legal action is ever present.
Friday's segment with Sean Quinn Jnr was the latest pre-recorded interview – to provide the show's lawyers sufficient time to comb through the discussion before going to air.
Speaking after the interview, Ms O'Rahilly criticised the broadcaster on her public Twitter feed for failing to clearly state the nature of the interview, saying: "Leaving it to a back reference to say it was a pre-record is very, very poor. Always be upfront and honest on live television."
In a further posting, she went on: "RTE should say if it is a pre-record – you should never pretend it is live." And she added that back referencing the interview "smacks of dishonesty".
When asked if it was standard within the industry to back reference pre-records, she added: "No, it's not. If it's a pre-record, you say so."
The Late Late Show's commissioning executive producer Michael Kealy responded to the criticism, saying: "I think 'dishonest' is a little strong. As long as it's admitted, I personally don't see what the problem is."
It's the latest in a string of pre-records for the Late Late Show – for which live broadcasting is a defining feature. Last week, an interview with legendary Irish entertainer Adele King, better known as Twink, about her new book Twink Unzipped was pre-recorded.
Similarly, an interview with Una Butler, of Ballycotton, Co Cork – whose husband John killed their two children, Ella and Zoe, before taking his own life – was pre-recorded.
And host Ryan Tubridy's interview with golfer Darren Clarke was also pre-taped.
An RTE spokesperson said that the pre-recording of segments occurred very infrequently on the Late Late Show and denied that it was the result of a current climate of fear of libel action.
"It is not because of a new policy that the Late Late Show has had some recent pre-recorded interviews. The series has had 12 shows so far this year – a total of 24 hours of broadcasting with five or six interviews in each programme, which is at least between 60 and 70 interviewees. Of these, four have been pre-recorded.
"One was purely for logistical reasons [Darren Clarke] because he was only available for a short period of time. Three were pre-recorded because they were considered personally sensitive and/or possibly needed to be checked beforehand, so they were done in advance, as is good practice.
"With the exception of those four items, the Late Late Show has been completely live." She added: "In all cases, RTE has made it clear the interview was not live."
In Britain, broadcasters are exempt from libel action arising from comments made by guests during a live broadcast – and an aggrieved party can only sue a guest who has made the defamatory comment, save for exceptional circumstances.
In Ireland, legal action can be taken against broadcasters – as seen in the defamation case by former Tanaiste Mary Harney for comments made on live radio by commentator Nell McCafferty.
Regulations in the US state that broadcasters must make it clear that footage has been pre-recorded when mixing it with live programming.
An audience was brought into the RTE studios specifically for the recording of the interview.