Tuesday 22 October 2019

RTÉ under fire over radio show’s failure to declare deal with bookie

Jennifer Wrynne from Mohill pictured with Ryan Tubridy who was enjoying his first visit to Cheltenham Photo: Gerry Mooney
Jennifer Wrynne from Mohill pictured with Ryan Tubridy who was enjoying his first visit to Cheltenham Photo: Gerry Mooney
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

RTÉ is coming under heavy criticism after Ryan Tubridy’s radio show failed to make it clear to listeners that its Cheltenham coverage was sponsored by a bookmaker.

Paddy Power funded the presence of RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Ryan Tubridy Show’ at the horse racing festival and its company spokesman, also named Paddy Power, was interviewed on Wednesday by the presenter.

At the beginning of the broadcast, Mr Tubridy said it was thanks to horse trainer Ted Walsh they were there. It was only in the last seconds of the show that he thanked Paddy Power “who made this all happen”.

The interview with Mr Power was described as a “puff piece” by Problem Gambling Ireland chief Barry Grant.

Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, who has been vocal about gambling law reform, said RTÉ had questions to answer about how the broadcast had been handled.

Both Mr Grant and Ms Rabbitte expressed concern that listeners of the show were not told at the time that Paddy Power helped to finance the trip for the programme.

RTÉ insisted sponsorship of the show was “flagged extensively” throughout last week.

It also insisted the coverage was “purely editorial” and “at all times under the control of an RTÉ producer”.

“This was prime listening time exposure for Paddy Power,” said Ms Rabbitte, who stressed she was usually a fan of Tubridy. 

“There was no balance. There was no mention people have been left with nothing because a member of their family has a gambling addiction,” she said.

Ms Rabbitte said the public service broadcaster put out a piece that made gambling and Cheltenham seem “sexy” at a time when children and young adults were listening. 

She said there was an opportunity to balance the show’s light-touch interview with Mr Power with a discussion on the devastation caused by gambling addiction, but this was not done.

Mr Grant argued that because it is the national broadcaster, RTÉ had a special responsibility to be transparent in the funding of the broadcast.

He said he was discussing with the board of the charity whether to make a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) over the coverage.

A spokesman for the BAI said it had not received any queries regarding the ‘Ryan Tubridy Show’ this week.

“It is BAI policy to direct complainants to the relevant broadcaster in the first instance. Complainants who are unhappy with the broadcaster response can refer their complaint to the BAI,” it said.

RTÉ said it had not received complaints about the show.

“The Irish public have a close relationship with horse racing and a particularly strong relationship with Cheltenham.

“The programme came live from Cheltenham and included a number of interviews with luminaries of the racing industry,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Power said no stipulations for preferential coverage were attached to its sponsorship. He said the Tubridy show used the company’s hospitality box at the festival in order to broadcast.

“The idea was to bring Ryan and give him the taste of Cheltenham,” he said, adding it was a “win-win” for both parties.

Mr Power said there was no requirement for an interview in return for the sponsorship. Neither was there a deal to omit mentioning the sponsorship during the broadcast.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

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