Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
163. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to any complaints against RTE upheld by the Broadcasting Authority or the Broadcasting Commission in the years prior to 2011, when the “Prime Time Investigates” programme that was the subject of the recent Broadcasting Authority investigation and report was broadcast, those complaints having been upheld in the category of fairness, objectivity and impartiality and whether there were any procedures in place at RTE to respond to the findings of complaints that were upheld under this category previously and has any kind of historical analysis of previous responses to complaints upheld against RTE been carried out by his Department or any relevant State agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25838/12]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): As the Deputy will be aware, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has the statutory responsibility for investigating complaints against all broadcasters based in this State. The BAI reports that a total of eleven complaints against RTÉ were upheld on grounds of impartiality and fairness in the years from 2006 to 2010.
The RTÉ Primetime Investigates documentary titled “Mission to Prey” was broadcast on the 23rd of May 2011. The subsequent defamation proceedings and the outcome of the BAI report conducted under Section 53 of the 2009 Act have unsurprisingly and correctly led to an unprecedented focus on journalistic practices and standards in RTÉ. The nature and extent of the failures exposed in RTÉ’s investigation of the accusations against Fr Reynolds are such that the Broadcaster has had very serious questions to answer around how it conducts its business, and how the entire organisation delivers on its critical public service broadcasting mandate. In the past, I understand that the outcome of successful complaints were dealt with at an operation level within the broadcaster. However, a central component of the reporting arrangement put in place to ensure thorough implementation of the recommendations of the BAI and Horgan Reports is a review of Journalism Guidelines, an increased emphasis on training and the establishment of a new Editorial Standards Board.
Also, I note that the BAI has recently published a new draft Code of Impartiality and Fairness, which sets out a number of improved rules for broadcasters when it comes to the treatment of news and current affairs. The Consultation has closed for submissions, and I look forward to the publication of a final Code later this year as a further step to reinforce the measures already in place to ensure the objectivity and impartiality of broadcasting.
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