Broadcast body to investigate leak source

Wed, Apr 11, 2012, 01:00

THE BROADCASTING Authority of Ireland and RTÉ have expressed their “disappointment” at the leaking of information to The Irish Times about the Prime Time Investigates programme that defamed Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The authority said it “will review the matter to seek to ascertain how such information was made available”.

The paper received briefing notes of the report by former BBC Northern Ireland controller Anna Carragher, which heavily criticised both the standards of journalism involved in the broadcast and the role of management.

The Mission to Prey documentary falsely accused Fr Reynolds of raping a minor and fathering her child while he was a missionary in Africa. He sued the broadcaster, accepting an apology and a substantial out-of-court settlement.

The report, commissioned by the authority and not published, was sent to RTÉ and interested parties last Thursday. They have until April 20th to respond.

In a statement yesterday the broadcasting authority said the “statutory investigation process is continuing” and it expressed “dismay and deep disappointment that information regarding an ongoing BAI investigation has entered the public domain”.

The findings that were cited by the newspaper included the fact that interviews with significant sources were not documented; that note-taking was non-existent or grossly inadequate and that there was a lack of scrutiny and challenge which led to a group-think mentality.

RTÉ expressed its “disappointment that the report was leaked in circumstances where it prejudices RTÉ’s response to the investigation, within an ongoing process, and prejudices the response of the programme-makers as named individuals.

“If fair regulatory procedures are to apply, RTÉ and the production team must be allowed to make submissions to the BAI in response to the report, within the process. The leaking of the report has undermined that process.”

The broadcaster’s director of communications Kevin Dawson said: “We had no issue as such with The Irish Times. It has to report the information it receives. But the confidentiality of the report had been breached.”

A spokesman for Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment until the investigation process was completed.

Fianna Fáil Limerick West TD Niall Collins said the story “substantiates the seriousness of the systems failures in RTÉ. In order for the public to regain confidence in the national broadcaster, we’ll have to await the totality of the response by RTÉ and the comprehensive report of the BAI.”

Sinn Féin communications spokesman Martin Ferris said “obviously the rights of any person being investigated have to be respected and in this case they certainly weren’t”.

“These investigative reports are a good thing but regulatory systems need to be put in place to protect the rights of the person in the investigation and to ensure that anything coming from this investigation is accurate.”