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Thursday 22 March 2018

Tribunal issued its report on very same day that Smyth was warned


INVESTIGATIVE journalist Sam Smyth received a letter informing him that there would be a change to the schedule of his Sam Smyth On Sunday show from Today FM bosses on the very same day that the Moriarty Tribunal published its final report.

While the letter outlining the radio station's intentions was dated Friday, March 18, it only arrived in the post to Mr Smyth four days later on Tuesday, March 22 -- a date which coincidentally saw the long-awaited release of the tribunal's findings into the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the State's second mobile phone licence.

In his final report, Mr Justice Moriarty found that former communications minister Michael Lowry had assisted billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien in his successful bid to secure the mobile phone licence for Esat Digifone.

Mr O'Brien, whose Communicorp Group owns Today FM, strenuously disputes the tribunal's findings.

In the letter delivered to Mr Smyth on March 22 last, Today FM chief executive Willie O'Reilly expressed the view that his programme needed to be revamped, but that it had, since 1997, met with considerable success and was a tribute to Mr Smyth and his team. He added that he wanted to mark Mr Smyth's contribution in a suitable way.

Mr Smyth responded to Mr O'Reilly, alleging that proposals to make changes to his show and its scheduling were motivated by the demands of Communicorp and Denis O'Brien and their criticism of his writings in the Irish Independent about the Moriarty Tribunal. Those allegations have been denied by Mr O'Reilly and the station.

While the issues between Mr Smyth and Today FM appeared to have been put to rest last March, tensions resurfaced just five months later, in September, when Mr O'Reilly told the journalist his contract at the station was being terminated as and from November.

The Sam Smyth On Sunday programme will be broadcast from New York today for the last time. Public-relations consultant Anton Savage is due to take over the slot occupied by Mr Smyth for the past 14 years from January onwards.

Somewhat ironically, Willie O'Reilly will not be at the station to oversee the process of revamping Today FM's programming schedule through to its conclusion, having made the decision to accept the newly-created position of group commercial director at RTE.

Mr O'Reilly will take up his position at the State broadcaster on January 1. He is a former RTE employee, having produced the Gerry Ryan Show for 10 years during the glory days of the show.

Sunday Independent

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