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RTE is not afraid of investigative stories, says news chief

RTE NEWS boss blasted the station's critics, launching a defence of its journalism and attacking growing rival Sky Television for its lack of Irish programming.

Kevin Bakhurst, hired from the BBC after the 'Prime Time' Fr Kevin Reynolds fiasco, said the station would not be "afraid of its own shadow" as it pursued investigative stories. The broadcaster's managing director of news and current affairs, yesterday denied claims RTE had "mothballed" revelatory stories after it admitted huge legal blunders in the May 2011 programme.

"Far from mothballing investigative journalism, we are working hard to re-establish investigative journalism, which is alive and well," he said.

RTE's new investigations unit broadcast its first programme last night with a probe into charity scams. Mr Bakhurst, speaking yesterday at the Public Relations Institute of Ireland annual conference in Dublin, said: "We are determined that we fully recover from the well-documented mistakes in our current affairs. We do not want to be afraid of our own shadow."

Mr Bakhurst blasted critics of RTE's coverage of Pope Benedict's resignation. He revealed the station had spent €160,000 on sending a team of reporters and producers to Rome, including news anchor Bryan Dobson. The resulting coverage gave RTE a peak audience of 992,000 on its 'Six One' bulletin and generated huge traffic on its website. The former BBC News channel controller also took aim at Sky TV, claiming the satellite broadcaster took €382m of the almost €800m-plus Irish TV revenue generated in 2011.

In an increasingly fragmented market, RTE took in revenue of €225m.

"Sky's level of investment in Irish content remains very low and it takes hundreds of millions of euro out of Ireland," said Mr Bakhurst.

Pay wall

At the same conference, Irish Independent editor Stephen Rae said Independent News and Media was working on introducing a metered pay wall later this year and that all media companies had to find ways of paying for quality journalism.

"We are transitioning from being a newspaper into what is a broader news organisation and a brand people continue to trust," he said.

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Mr Rae praised recent coverage of the conflict in Syria by Irish Independent reporter Jason O'Brien and award-winning photojournalist Mark Condren. Both had communicated a complex story through the printed word, pictures, video, Twitter and Facebook. "These are what we call mobile journalists or 'mojos'," said Mr Rae. "It's the future."

He also highlighted the work of online journalist Caitlin McBride who was in the US to cover the Boston bombing for both Independent.ie and the Irish Independent.


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