Rabbitte yet to see report into 'Prime Time' by broadcasting watchdog

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Communications Pat Rabbitte has neither seen nor received a report commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) into the Prime Time Investigates programme that libelled Fr Kevin Reynolds.

The unpublished report into the broadcast, which was carried out by former BBC Northern Ireland controller Anna Carragher and which proposed a fine of about €200,000 be imposed on RTÉ, was sent to RTÉ and interested parties last week. They have until April 20th to respond.

An article in Tuesday’s Irish Times detailed the main findings, which were highly critical of the standards of journalism involved in the broadcast. It cited briefing documents prepared for the board of the BAI that were seen by this newspaper.

Mr Rabbitte yesterday said that based on the information in the public domain, the report “seems to be immensely rigorous”. “What I have seen in the public press is extremely serious, more serious even than I had suspected.”

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.

Speaking on Newstalk radio, Mr Rabbitte said the report had been sent to RTÉ for feedback “in accord to natural justice” and he would not comment until that process was complete. “I would imagine we are within 10 days of the report being available and the findings and recommendations coming into the public domain and I’ll comment then on it,” he said.

He would make public the costs to the broadcaster, including any fine, arising from the case. “That information will have to be made available. Nobody is arguing that this is anything other than a debacle. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Mr Rabbitte described the programme as a departure from the “usual high standards in RTÉ” but said this did not make the mistake “any less egregious”.

On the same programme Mr Rabbitte said diversity of ownership and content were “essential” for the media. “I’m interested in the different aspects of concentration of ownership and cross-media ownership and it is nothing to do with one oligarch as compared to another oligarch,” he said.