Tuesday 23 April 2019

Three probes now under way into 'Prime Time Investigates' libel

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

THREE investigations are being carried out into the 'Prime Time Investigates' programme in which Fr Kevin Reynolds was defamed.

The most important is the government-ordered probe which will be conducted by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). It must be completed within two months.

An internal review being carried out by RTE and an independent investigation headed by Professor John Horgan and ordered by the national broadcaster, are both due to be completed by the middle of next month.

A spokesman for the BAI said last night that the authority and its compliance committee were currently considering the request which was made by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte earlier this week. An investigating officer has not yet been appointed to the case.

The officer can be a staff member from within the authority or an outsider and they will be charged with leading the inquiry before reporting back to the compliance committee.

RTE is required by law to hand over all documentation it holds in relation to the case and the investigating officer can compel managers or journalists to attend in person to given evidence if this is required.

If it is found that there has been a breach of statutory regulations in relation to objectivity, impartiality and fairness, penalties can include a court fine of up to €250,000.

RTE has said it will co-operate fully with the BAI investigation and will provide it with the findings of the two reviews that it has ordered.

RTE's own internal review is being carried out under the supervision of director general Noel Curran and is looking at the sequence of events that led to the false claims being aired last May.

It is also examining journalistic practice and editorial decisions. Its recommendations will be discussed at the next meeting of the RTE board on December 15.

That meeting will also be provided with a report from Press Ombudsman Professor John Horgan, who has been asked by RTE to examine its editorial processes and how public confidence in the broadcaster can be restored.

Irish Independent

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