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Politicians are queueing up to sue RTE

UP to five political figures are currently taking legal action against RTE or are threatening to do so.

RTE's head of news and deputy director general Kevin Bakhurst told the Oireachtas Communications Committee how "four or five political figures" have threatened or are in the process of taking legal action against the national broadcaster.

The committee also heard that RTE wanted to invest more in news and science programmes and re-open its London bureau.

Station bosses revealed it had delivered a "small financial surplus" last year for the first time in five years.

RTE reduced its workforce by almost 500, or 21pc, introduced pay cuts, moved to cut the pay packets of its star presenters, shut the London bureau, cut costs on programmes and decided not to buy the high-cost Premier League highlights.

Yet the pay bill for its top 10 stars continued to raise hackless. TD Michael Moynihan described figures quoted for some presenters' pay as "outrageous".

RTE pointed out that cuts to its highest paid stars so far had amounted to a 30pc reduction, and added that it had acted on the back of public concern.

Meanwhile, RTE director general Noel Curran insisted that "no individual settlement" will weaken the station's work to allow challenging debate following a payout over the Pantigate controversy.

DEFAMATION

RTE will be making submissions in relation to changes to defamation laws, as it revealed it faced legal threats on a weekly basis.

Amid queries on whether RTE had "rolled over" too easily in relation to the recent legal payout, Mr Curran stoutly defended the move, saying they were not a "weak organisation" and they have to make practical decisions as legal actions in the Four Courts prove costly.

Mr Curran said he believed that if the comments had been made on US host Jay Leno's show, "there wouldn't have been a defamation" case.

"We are not looking for carte blanche to say what we like," he said. However, on the issue of opinion and figures in the public domain, "added protections are required" for media.

CFEEHAN@HERALD.IE


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