Author of RTÉ report takes libel action

 

Legal action has been initiated against the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) alleging “serious defamation” following a statement by its compliance committee.

The committee called on RTÉ on Thursday to publish the working document that provided the basis for the broadcaster’s internal report on the Frontline presidential debate programme of October 24th, 2011.

In its statement, the committee said this document indicated the failings on the programme “were more significant than has been identified by RTÉ in the published report”, released last weekend.

Rob Morrison, former head of news and current affairs at UTV, who co-authored that internal report, said last night comments in the statement amounted to “extremely serious defamation”.

It has emerged that RTÉ may not now be able to publish the working document.

Mr Morrison said he had instructed a firm of Dublin solicitors to write to the BAI on his behalf alleging serious defamation.

The internal report on editorial processes used in the programme found that mistakes had been made in addition to and separate from the bogus tweeted message that caused problems for the then front-runner Seán Gallagher.

The report was commissioned by RTÉ last March and conducted by Mr Morrison and Steve Carson, director of programmes at RTÉ Television.

It was completed in June and, along with the working document, was presented to the BAI. The authority’s compliance committee considered both, and then called for the working document to be also published.

The document, it said, would “provide additional insights into the editorial failings” on the programme. It “would provide greater understanding of these failings, would support the principle of transparency and would be in the public interest”.

Mr Morrison said last night that the report was “an absolutely accurate” eight-page summation of the 27-page working document on which it was based. The committee’s statement “suggested a cover-up . . . a watering down”.

RTÉ indicated its willingness to publish the document provided those interviewed for it agreed to waive a guarantee of confidentiality. Mr Morrison said that some of those interviewed had already said they were not willing to forfeit that confidentiality.