Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

RTE punishes staff and says sorry for Frontline debacle

Niall O'Connor

Published 19/11/2012 | 09:56

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RTE's head of news and current affairs has disciplined several staff and apologised over the glaring blunders that marred last year's infamous Frontline presidential debate.

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Kevin Bakhurst today admitted that “serious mistakes were made”.

However, he refused to divulge details of the disciplinary action taken against some members of staff involved in the programme, which was presented by Pat Kenny.

“All I can say is there was a number of individuals, there were sanctions against some of those individuals, but we're not going to get into details of the individuals or what their sanctions were.”

His comments came after a damning report strongly criticised Montrose bosses for a lack of staff training and editorial responsibility, as well serious flaws in audience selection.

The report, due to be presented to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), exposed a series of embarrassing mistakes carried out by programme staff.

Speaking this morning, Mr Bakhurst reiterated RTE's apology to Sean Gallagher because a bogus tweet claiming to be from Sinn Fein said he had collected a €5,000 cheque from a Fianna fail supporter.

“I stand by the apology RTE has issued and I'm happy to issue another apology to Mr Gallagher and to the other candidates because I don't think this was a perfect programme, the report makes that clear. We're sorry for mistakes that were made,” he said.

“The key thing for us and the key thing for the licence payers going forward is to know that we have taken this very seriously. We've been open. We've put the report out there for people to look at, it remains my job and the job of the new structure in current affairs to make sure all the recommendations have been implemented and they have been continuing to go forward from here.”

Mr Bakhurst said that he and RTE staff will now be “judged” on how the station implements its new broadcasting standards.

The report was authored by RTE director of programmes Steve Carson and former head of news and current affairs at UTV, Rob Morrison.

Despite the strong criticism of the programme, the probe determined that there was no bias shown by editorial staff.

An internal editorial standards board will now monitor and maintain content standards across all RTE platforms.

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