Dunphy accused of false allegations against Newstalk

 

NEWSTALK CHIEF executive Frank Cronin has accused former presenter Eamon Dunphy of making “false and malicious” allegations against the station, which he said were “completely without foundation”.

In his last Sunday morning programme on Newstalk, Dunphy described the station as a “slum” and alleged that its producers and reporters were being “intimidated and blackguarded”.

Responding yesterday, Mr Cronin alleged that Dunphy’s comments had been motivated by a cut in his fee.

Dunphy’s annual fee for his two-hour weekly programme was being cut from €100,000 to €60,000 as part of a series of cost-cutting measures across the station.

Mr Cronin said the fee was “inordinately high” for two hours broadcasting a week. He also said Dunphy’s listenership figures were “relatively poor”, having fallen from 62,000 to 58,000 in the most recent quarterly Joint National Listenership Research survey.

Mr Cronin also accused Dunphy of behaving similarly to when he made previous controversial departures from Today FM, RTÉ and Independent News and Media.

He further accused him of writing an article in The Irish Timesabout Newstalk owner Denis O’Brien at the behest of his rival Tony O’Reilly.

“Mr Dunphy has a duty of care and responsibility to act professionally at all times when on air,” he said. “His behaviour and libelling of a number of people on Sunday was a deliberate and reckless dereliction of his duty as a presenter.”

On Sunday’s show, Dunphy accused Mr O’Brien, who also owns the other independent national radio station, Today FM, of despising journalism. He said that his life was being made “impossible” in Newstalk, the station was a “slum” and staff were being “intimidated and blackguarded”.

Mr Cronin said Newstalk staff had rejected that specific allegation.

“I have received many calls from members of staff who are offended, upset and outraged by these false allegations.” The same staff felt proud to work for Newstalk and “they feel that Mr Dunphy has completely misrepresented them”.

Mr Cronin confirmed that Newstalk staff were asked to focus more on positive news stories. “We felt that Irish media was focusing too much on the negative and that was contributing to the overall feeling of desolation and despair.

“There are many positive recovery stories in Ireland that should be aired, in addition to reporting on the difficult times that we are in. Newstalk feels that it has a moral obligation to act responsibly and help the nation to recover and our request to be more positive was a response to that.”

In response last night, Dunphy said he would not indulge in the “happy-clappy stuff” when there was so much wrong with the economy, with 50,000 people leaving the country and 460,000 unemployed.

He reiterated his previous contention that his decision to leave was not motivated by a cut in his fee. “I did this as a gesture of solidarity with the staff in there. Morale is rock bottom.”

He called on the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to investigate the terms and conditions of radio staff in the commercial sector.

He maintained there was a sense of “yellow-packism” within radio journalism, with staff leaving at the first available opportunity because of the pay and conditions. He challenged Newstalk to publish its wage scales.

He also said guests were frequently left to pay for their own taxis home from the station.

In response to Mr Cronin’s contention that his listenership figures were poor, he said the figures were up by 8,000 on last year and it was the only Newstalk programme in the top five radio podcasts in the country.