Thursday 18 January 2018

It's far worse than I thought, says 'shaken' Rabbitte

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte will haul the RTE board to a crunch meeting, after admitting his confidence had been "shaken" by the damning BAI report.

He will meet board members at 8am on Tuesday before he is expected to brief the Cabinet on the response to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland investigation.

Mr Rabbitte said the report revealed a "shoddy, unprofessional and cavalier piece of work" and was far worse than he thought it would be.

He said it exposed "systemic failings beyond belief" and was "really shocking", adding that "an incredible group-think took over" among the programme makers.

The RTE board is chaired by Tom Savage, the veteran public relations expert and chairman of the Communications Clinic.

Aside from having to satisfy Mr Rabbitte about its response, the board will also have to bank on the rest of the Cabinet having confidence in their work.

Nonetheless, it would be a surprise if the Government decided to sack the board.

The RTE board is the governing authority of the national broadcaster and replaced the former RTE Authority following enactment of the Broadcasting Act in 2009. The board's term of office runs until August 31, 2014.

Six members are appointed by the Communications Minister and another four are proposed to the minister by the Oireachtas communications committee.

The RTE director general is an ex-officio member and and one member of staff is appointed following election.

Serious

Mr Savage responded to the report on behalf of the board.

He said RTE has been dealing with the "unprecedented results of grave editorial failures" since last autumn.

"And the consequences have been serious in the extreme. A High Court action was followed by a statutory investigation and we were obliged to make no comment until that investigation was over."

"I hope it's now clear that we have been doing a very great deal in recent months to restore faith in our journalism. The best external, independent advice has shaped our response.

''The Director General, with the support of the Board of RTE, has introduced comprehensive reforms in editorial structures, in management, and in operations. Journalists, editors, and programme makers are being trained in new editorial guidelines," he said.

Mr Rabbitte said the report was enough for him to call a meeting of the board, although he acknowledged a lot of work had been done by RTE ahead of its publication.

He refused to express confidence before he had heard their response, and accepted the board had nothing to do with the production of the programme.

"My confidence has been shaken but I have to hear what they have to say," he said.

The minister said RTE was under no misapprehension about the huge challenge facing the organisation in restoring the trust of the people.

Mr Rabbitte got a copy of the BAI report yesterday afternoon, after he originally commissioned the investigation following Fr Reynolds successful libel action against the station.

Irish Independent

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