RTÉ director general says 'Frontline' not sole factor in election result

Thu, Dec 13, 2012, 00:00

Director general of RTÉ Noel Curran has told an Oireachtas committee he did not know how it could be said the Frontline presidential debate decided the outcome of the election.

Mr Curran said he was not saying the programme did not have an impact but the late swing away from the front runner, Seán Gallagher, towards now President Michael D Higgins could not be attributed to a single broadcast.

He was responding to Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan, who said he believed the outcome of the election was changed by the show presented by Pat Kenny last October.

Mr Curran said the actual impact of the programme would probably never be known and said there was “wall-to-wall” coverage of the campaign in all media outlets.

“This programme was watched by 700,000 people and 1.8 million people voted in the election. That means 1.1 million people didn’t even see this programme,” he said.

Mr Curran and other senior RTÉ executives appeared before the communications and transport committee yesterday to discuss an editorial review of the programme by Steve Carson, director of programmes at RTÉ Television, and Rob Morrison, former head of news and current affairs at UTV.

The report did not consider the specific issue of the bogus tweet involving allegations Mr Gallagher was involved in fundraising for Fianna Fáil as it was the subject of a separate personnel investigation following RTÉ’s acceptance of a Broadcast Authority of Ireland ruling.

However, Labour TD Sean Kenny asked if it had been possible to trace the IP address from which the tweet was sent. Mr Curran said he did not think it was possible for RTÉ and did not think anyone had done that.

Kevin Bakhurst, the new managing director of news and current affairs, said he personally monitored a lot of tweets sent by people who worked in RTÉ news and current affairs “to satisfy myself they are not putting anything out there that in any way questions the impartiality of RTÉ”.

Mr Morrison said the editorial review found no evidence of bias.