Thursday 19 April 2018

RTE is still obsessed with conspiracies and ignores dissenting voices

RTE Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds
RTE Crime Correspondent Paul Reynolds

Eamon Delany

Time was when the media just reported on matters, and interpreted them with a bit of analysis and opinion. But times have changed. The report into the alleged GSOC bugging 'scandal' showed that despite retired Judge John Cooke's conclusion that there was no evidence of surveillance, that wasn't the message some people wanted to hear.

We were told with great authority for weeks that the Garda Ombudsman's office was bugged, with the strong suggestion that it was being done by some gardai or even the garda authorities. When commentators like RTE correspondent Paul Reynolds didn't immediately support this conclusion, they were heavily criticised. When Paul Williams, in this newspaper, actually questioned the allegations on the basis that the unusual signals which suggested a bugging could have been more innocently created, they were demonised. They weren't following the 'agenda'.

Now that the reservations of these two veteran commentators, and of other sceptics, have been proved largely correct, are they applauded, or given airtime? Sadly, not.

The same media who had invested so much energy in alleging a Garda 'Watergate' continue to dismiss the sceptics and feel compelled to keep the allegations going, saying there is still not 'total inconclusive proof' that there was no bugging of GSOC. It is hard to upset a consensus. Sadly, this media consensus appears to include RTE, the national broadcasting service.

Thus within hours of the Cooke Report we had a 'Prime Time' programme, in which the conclusions of the official report were queried and debate persisted about the 'possibility of a GSOC bugging'. Interestingly, neither of the two Pauls participated, but instead the running was done by those supportive of the bugging theory.

Amazingly, some of the same voices got a further run out later on a RTE radio programme. We expect fairness and balance from our state-paid national broadcaster. But there is an accusatory atmosphere out there, fuelled by social media and Twitter. Shatter has fallen and perhaps RTE too felt that it had invested far too much in this 'bugging' story just to say it wasn't so.

It has a duty to let us hear dissenting voices, but we didn't hear them when the GSOC bugging myth had been exploded by the Cooke Report.

Irish Independent

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