Tuesday 23 January 2018

Morrison sue threat over RTE report

Rob Morrison was part of the review team that compiled an internal report into RTE's controversial Frontline presidential debate
Rob Morrison was part of the review team that compiled an internal report into RTE's controversial Frontline presidential debate

An author of the internal report into RTE's controversial Frontline presidential debate is threatening to sue the Irish broadcasting watchdog over the fall-out.

Rob Morrison, the independent member of the review team, said his integrity and reputation has been called into question by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The BAI claimed there were more significant editorial failings than was admitted in his final report, co-authored with senior RTE executive Steve Carson.

"They have called into question my integrity," Mr Morrison said. "I feel my reputation and integrity have been damaged by this accusation."

Solicitors for Mr Morrison, former head of news and current affairs at UTV, issued a letter of action against the BAI shortly after lunchtime on Friday. The watchdog will have seven days to respond, after which legal proceedings are expected to be launched.

On Thursday, the BAI called on RTE to release a 27-page working document which was used to inform the final eight-page report into the contentious broadcast in October 2011, which dealt a hammer blow to presidential frontrunner Sean Gallagher's chances of victory in the election.

A tweet from someone falsely claiming to represent rival candidate Martin McGuinness, which was not sent by his campaign team, claimed that a man who allegedly gave Mr Gallagher a cheque for a Fianna Fail fundraiser would be presented at a Sinn Fein press conference the following day.

Mr Morrison said claims by the BAI that the working document would disclose further editorial failings suggests he was involved in a cover-up. "That is what the clear implication is," he said. Mr Morrison said the final report was a very faithful summary of the working document, which he said could not be published to protect the anonymity of people interviewed, such as audience members.

The BAI's compliance committee claimed that the working document features additional information and comments which indicate the editorial failings were more significant than has been identified by RTE. The BAI added: "For this reason, it is the committee's opinion that the publication of the working document would provide greater understanding of these failings, would support the principle of transparency and would be in the public interest."

RTE said on Thursday that it was satisfied the report published on Sunday was an accurate representation of the editorial failings as identified in the working document.

THE BAI confirmed it had received the legal letter but that it would not be commenting further.

Press Association

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