RTE could be fined up to €250,000 for Fr Kevin Reynolds libel on top of court settlement
Published 07/12/2011 | 09:13
RTE could face a fine of up to €250,000 on top of the six figure libel payment for the Prime Time Investigates programme on Fr Kevin Reynolds.
The chief executive of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), Michael O’Keeffe has confirmed the authority has the powers under the Broadcasting Act (2009) of imposing a fine up to that amount if it found RTÉ’s treatment of Fr Reynolds was not fair, objective and impartial, according to a report in the Irish Times.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has asked the compliance committee to investigate the programme, which wrongly claimed that Fr Reynolds had raped a minor and fathered a child by her.
It is the first such investigation under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act.
Three separate investigations are being carried out into the 'Prime Time Investigates' programme in which Fr Kevin Reynolds was defamed.
The most important is the government-ordered probe which must be completed in two months.
An internal review being carried out by RTE and an independent investigation headed by Professor John Horgan and ordered by the national broadcaster, are both due to be completed by the middle of next month.
The identity of the person to chair the BAI inquiry is expected to be known this week.
Mr O’Keeffe said the investigation would not be the same as a tribunal of inquiry and will not be held in public.
The results are likely to be made public however and RTE can appeal to the courts if a fine is applied
RTÉ has already apologised to Fr Reynolds for the unfounded allegations made in the May 23 programme and paid an undisclosed sum in damages following an out-of-court settlement.
An allegation was broadcast in the documentary that the late Christian Brother Ger Dillon had made sexual advances towards a student called Tyrone Selmon when he was a teacher in CBC Pretoria in South Africa nearly 30 years ago, however this will not be investigated by the BAI.