The Information Commissioner has directed RTÉ to release a redacted version of an internal workplace audit undertaken into its current affairs department, which the broadcaster previously resisted circulating to staff.
RTÉ had hired workplace relations consultants Resolve Ireland to audit “the culture and working relationships” in the broadcaster’s current affairs unit in late 2021.
The internal audit interviewed staff about their views on the standards of dignity and respect, problem resolution, teamwork and communications in the unit.
The report, completed last year, contains comments from staff on the communication styles and “people management skills” of some identifiable managers in RTÉ.
RTÉ previously refused to release a copy of the workplace audit under the Freedom of Information (FOI) act, following a request made by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) current affairs branch in RTÉ.
In a decision on Tuesday, the Information Commissioner overturned the decision and directed RTÉ to release a copy of the report, with some redactions.
Staff were informed in a November 10th, 2021 email, that the review was set up to understand what was “working well” and “where there are opportunities for improvement and/or change”.
The email from RTÉ's director of human resources stated the “outcome of the process will be shared” with staff.
The current affairs department includes staff from Prime Time, Upfront with Katie Hannon and RTÉ Investigates.
RTÉ said the aim of the review was to seek feedback in confidential meetings “of people’s perceptions and experiences of their working environment”.
The broadcaster said it had shared the “outcome” of the workplace audit with staff during a meeting in May 2022.
Arguing against the release of the report under FOI, RTÉ said the review sets out “the views and opinions of others about certain individuals” in the unit, which were “akin to performance appraisals”.
The office of the commissioner ruled these parts of the report containing personal information should be redacted.
This included comments on the “communication style, editorial direction and people management skills of identifiable individuals”, the decision said.
It said the report contained generalised comments about gender equality, “fairness in promotional opportunities”, problem resolution and dignity and respect standards in RTÉ, as well as the consultant’s recommendations, which could be released.
The NUJ current affairs branch in RTÉ had previously passed a motion calling for the report to be published, the decision said. Nearly 90 per cent of the approx 50 staff in the current affairs department engaged with the audit.
RTÉ had claimed any decision to release the report, even with redactions, would prejudice future reviews and have a “chilling effect” on staff bringing matters to human resources.
RTÉ argued that the “temperature check” of the current affairs unit was the start rather than the end of a process, with similar audits planned for other sections of the broadcaster.
The commission rejected the arguments and directed RTÉ to release the report, while redacting any “personal information” related to identifiable individuals.
If RTÉ does not appeal the decision to the High Court on a point of law, it is likely the redacted report will be released to the broadcaster’s NUJ current affairs branch in the coming weeks.
In an email to staff on Wednesday, Paul Maguire, managing editor of RTÉ's current affairs unit since mid-2022, said “RTÉ accepts the decision and will not be appealing it”.
Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the NUJ, said he welcomed the decision and called for RTÉ to release the report “without further delay”.
A spokeswoman for RTÉ said the broadcaster would not be commenting on the decision.