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Pat Kenny's 'Frontline' show to be axed in RTE shake up

NEW RTE head of news and current affairs Kevin Bakhurst has axed the 'Frontline' brand, with the debate show going out from next January under the 'Prime Time' umbrella.

In his latest major shake up at the station, the former BBC boss denied that the decision to change the name of the Monday night debate had anything to do with the 'tweetgate' incident involving candidate Sean Gallagher during the last Frontline presidential debate last year.

"This is not a response to any one thing, whether that be 'Prime Times Investigates' or the 'Frontline' presidential debate," Mr Bakhurst told the Irish Independent.

"It's because we are better off with one strong brand across the three nights which we can use in different ways. I think 'Prime Time' is a very valuable brand with a great team behind it, and we are putting our weight behind it."

The RTE boss said that current 'Frontline' presenter Pat Kenny would still host the majority of the debates, but at the earlier time of 9.30pm on Tuesdays, and with an "enhanced role" taking turns presenting the other two 'Prime Time' programmes on Mondays at 10.30pm, and Thursday nights at 9.35pm alternating with Miriam O'Callaghan and Claire Byrne, with former Fine Gael TD George Lee as a contributor.

Mr Bakhurst said bringing the 'Frontline' debate under the banner of 'Prime Time' would also mean the same studio set could be used for both current affairs programmes.

"What we are building right now is one big flexible set for both programmes, which will save money not having to move in and out of the studio a couple of times a week," said Mr Bakhurst, who joined RTE last September.

The new RTE head of news and current affairs also ended speculation about the future of former 'Prime Time' host Richard Crowley by announcing he would be leaving RTE TV to take up prominent roles on RTE Radio. The station's former Middle East correspondent will now host the 'This Week' programme each Sunday on RTE Radio One as well as 'The News At One' on the station each Friday.

Praising Mr Crowley's "clarity and sharpness" in reporting on the US presidential elections, Mr Bakhurst said that it had been the journalist's own decision to switch to radio.

Irish Independent