Maria Bailey complaint over RTÉ radio show is rejected by BAI

Ex-FG TD had claimed panel discussion made ‘untrue and damaging comments’ about her

The broadcasting watchdog has rejected a complaint made by former Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey about a radio panel discussion on her deselection from the party's election ticket, stating that the subject matter was treated fairly.

In her complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), Ms Bailey said the discussion on RTÉ Radio 1's Today with Seán O'Rourke presented "untrue and damaging comments" about her, asserting that a panellist had referred to defrauding insurance in relation to her, while another panellist mentioned exaggerated insurance claims.

Ms Bailey said that the show, which aired on November 15th, 2019, and which was presented by Miriam O’Callaghan, featured “inaccurate comments” which were “presented as fact and were not challenged by the presenter”.

In response to the complaint, RTÉ said it did not accept that Ms Bailey was defamed in the discussion.

The broadcaster noted that the presenter “twice emphasised” that the complainant was not being accused of fraud, and that it had invited the complainant to a subsequent interview in order to address her concerns.

In its decision, the broadcasting authority noted that “although the presenter did not offer her views, more clarity may have been provided regarding the panel’s comments on fraud”.

The BAI ruled that the segment did not infringe on the code of fairness, objectivity and impartiality, adding that the subject matter was treated fairly.

Other complaints

The complaint by Ms Bailey was one of four that were rejected by the BAI compliance committee at its meeting in February 2020, the details of which were published on Wednesday.

A further seven complaints were rejected by the BAI’s executive complaints forum in February, March and April.

In a separate complaint rejected by the watchdog, William Campbell asserted that AA Roadwatch providing traffic and travel updates on three RTÉ radio stations allows "a political lobby group" to present material "in a way that allows it to pursue its political agenda".

Mr Campbell also argued that AA Roadwatch uses the segments “to advertise its sales channels, while denying that opportunity to competitors”.

In response to the complaint, RTÉ said that its commercial agreement with AA Roadwatch “does not have any influence over any aspect of RTÉ editorial content”, adding that the agreement is “fully compliant” with the relevant regulatory and statutory provisions.

The BAI rejected the complaint, stating that “there was no evidence in the broadcasts to support the view that the broadcasts are skewing public debate, or that the broadcasts are unfair to rival businesses”.