Ban on Irish Times contributors lifted by Bauer radio group with immediate effect

Move follows completion of deal to buy Communicorp from Denis O’Brien

Communicorp, now called Bauer Media Audio Ireland, barred on-air contributors from The Irish Times in October 2017.

Communicorp, now called Bauer Media Audio Ireland, barred on-air contributors from The Irish Times in October 2017.

 

The new owners of the radio group that includes national stations Newstalk and Today FM have lifted a long-standing ban on journalists from The Irish Times appearing on air.

Staff at Bauer Media Audio Ireland were informed of the decision this morning.

The ban was put in place by the company’s former management in October 2017 after columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote that Newstalk was “staggeringly and systematically sexist” and that it was time for “anyone with a conscience to stay out of its airspace”.

The column was written in the wake of a controversy about opinions expressed on air by then Newstalk presenter George Hook about rape and responsibility.

In a statement, Bauer Media Audio Ireland said its executive team had reviewed the ban this week.

“Effective immediately, a decision has been made to remove any restrictions and Irish Times staff members, columnists and contributors will be welcome to appear on Newstalk, Today FM, 98FM, Spin, Spin South West and Off the Ball,” it said.

“This decision has been communicated to The Irish Times and we look forward to working with them in to the future.”

UK-based Bauer Media Audio, part of the German-owned media conglomerate Bauer, announced a deal to buy Communicorp from businessman Denis O’Brien in February.

After receiving approval from Minister for Media Catherine Martin, the transaction was completed on Monday, marking Mr O’Brien’s exit from Irish media.

The move gave Bauer ownership of the two national stations, three local music stations, digital sport station Off the Ball, digital advertising exchange audioXI and aggregated listening platform GoLoud.

In Britain, Bauer operates the stations Magic, Kiss, Absolute Radio, Scala Radio and the Hits Radio network, while it also has a presence in Sweden, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Denmark and Finland. In the North, it owns Cool FM, Downtown Radio and the digital-only Downtown Country.

Column dispute

The ban on contributors from The Irish Times appearing on Communicorp stations was implemented during the tenure of the radio group’s former chief executive Adrian Serle, who told staff the decision had been made as a result of “vile comments” by Mr O’Toole in his September 2017 column.

Before the ban, The Irish Times had published a right of reply to Mr O’Toole written by Newstalk managing editor Patricia Monahan, but Communicorp had also sought an apology and a retraction of the original column.

Communicorp’s response was criticised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), with the union later expressing “grave disappointment” when the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland opted not to intervene.

In 2019, after journalists from business news site The Currency were also formally barred for a temporary period, Micheál Martin and then taoiseach Leo Varadkar were among the senior politicians who signed a letter co-ordinated by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan calling on Communicorp to remove its restrictions on contributors.