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TV3 will stage live debate on Lenihan cancer storm

TV3 is to hold a live debate about its controversial decision to broadcast details of Brian Lenihan's cancer on St Stephen's Day.

The commercial station made no reference to its breaking of the story while reporting on the content of Monday's statement from the minister, but it has now emerged that the issue will be discussed on one of its most popular shows.

A panel of guests on tomorrow's Tonight With Vincent Browne is expected to debate the appropriateness of the broadcast and the wider issue of privacy.

The discussion will take place on the same day as Mr Lenihan begins chemotherapy treatment for his cancer.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is currently trawling through more than 70 emailed complaints regarding the TV3 broadcast.

It will take at least two months before the BAI will reach a decision on whether any broadcasting guidelines were broken.

The station has already defended its decision to inform the public that the Finance Minister had pancreatic cancer, despite pleas from his Department to allow him more time to talk with his family.

It is anticipated that Mr Browne will chair a debate involving media experts and a representative from TV3.

The discussion is likely to centre on where the line stops between the right to privacy and the right for the public to know something.

Station bosses have said their original broadcast was in the public interest. However, Mr Lenihan said he was always going to talk about it in the post-Christmas period.

Yesterday, the Herald reported how his aunt and fellow TD Mary O'Rourke said the report led her to believe that the father-of-two had died.

She revealed: "I said 'he has died', I actually did. I just said 'he is dead and they didn't get word to us on time', because [the reporter] kept saying 'he was' and 'he was', there was no 'is'," she said.

She condemned the broadcast, telling her local radio station that if somebody close to Mr Lenihan was listening and thought he was dead, "something is wrong with the reporting, isn't it?".

At one stage during the broadcast, Mr Lenihan was referred to in the past tense, however the mistake was quickly correct.

Meanwhile, the Minister was getting on with normal duties yesterday as his Department released details of exchequer returns for the end of 2009.

He also attended the funeral of former Labour minister Justin Keating in a snow-covered Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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