Complaint about Gabriel Byrne on 'Late Late' upheld


THE BROADCASTING Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against RTÉ for allowing actor Gabriel Byrne to endorse Dublin City Council election candidate Mannix Flynn on the Late Late Showone week before the poll.

The commission found RTÉ breached broadcasting legislation in relation to fairness, objectivity and impartiality. It was particularly critical of the role of presenter Pat Kenny for not stopping or moderating Byrne’s electioneering.

The complaint against the station was made on behalf of Labour election candidate Kevin Humphreys following the elections last June. Both Mr Humphreys and Mr Flynn were elected to the council.

Byrne was a guest on the last Late Late Showof the season hosted by Kenny on June 29th, a week before the elections. He appeared on stage with an election pamphlet for artist Mannix Flynn, visible in his jacket pocket.

During the show the pamphlet slipped into Byrne’s pocket and disappeared from view. However, Kenny made reference to it and said it was an election flyer for “our old friend Mannix Flynn”.

Mr Byrne went on to endorse Mr Flynn saying: “He’s running on an Independent ticket. This is a man of integrity, a man who cares. I urge you to support him.”

Following the elections, a complaint was made on Mr Humphreys’s behalf by his director of election on the grounds that RTÉ failed to be fair objective and impartial in the programme.

In its response to the commission, RTÉ acknowledged the incident should not have happened but said the programme’s director had done everything to minimise the endorsement.

However, in its ruling, the commission said this was not the case and that the camera had “zoomed in” on the election literature.

“The programme-makers and the presenter did not take sufficient action to mitigate the electioneering. Such content is inappropriate and in breach of legislative requirements.”

The commission singled out Kenny for his part in the incident.

“Mr Kenny is a highly experienced presenter and should have endeavoured to moderate the contribution from Mr Byrne. He made no attempt to do so and it was he who, in effect, drew attention to the election literature.”

RTÉ had also submitted that the endorsement did not damage Mr Humphreys who topped the poll in the south east inner city electoral area. However, the commission said this was irrelevant.

Mr Humphreys yesterday welcomed the commission’s decision.

“This was a serious lapse in professionalism on behalf of RTÉ and particularly Pat Kenny. Just because I topped the poll doesn’t make it acceptable and I think it probably did influence the outcome of the elections.”

RTÉ must now broadcast the commission’s decision in a similar time-slot to which the offence occurred.