RTÉ's Frontline criticised for failings
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has called on RTÉ to publish the working document on which it based an internal report on the Frontline presidential debate programme broadcast in October last year.
The working document indicated "that the editorial failings of the programme were more significant than has been identified by RTÉ in the published report," it said.
It has also announced that a statutory investigation was not warranted where the programme was concerned.
The internal report was prepared at RTÉ following the broadcaster's editorial review of the Frontline programme. It was published by RTÉ last Sunday after details appeared in the Sunday Business Post newspaper.
At its meeting on Tuesday of this week the BAI's compliance committee considered this internal report and related material provided to it by RTÉ.
In a statement today the committee said that "the production of this programme fell significantly short of the standards expected by the public of Irish broadcasters." It said "the report, the working document and the earlier findings of the BAI's compliance committee highlight the serious and significant editorial failings that took place during a television debate of utmost public importance and interest."
It was the committee's view "that these failings related to the fundamentals of journalistic practice and could, in its opinion, have been avoided had the broadcaster applied established good practice in the conduct of a news and current affairs debate to the standard required for a presidential election."
It welcomed the decision of RTÉ "following a request from the committee, to publish its report into this programme". However it "now asks that RTÉ release the working document upon which the report was based and which includes the comments from those who were interviewed as part of the review, as well as other additional information," it said.
It was the committee's view that these comments "would provide additional insights into the editorial failings." Publication of the working document "would provide greater understanding of these failings, would support the principle of transparency and would be in the public interest."
The committee decided that a statutory investigation was "not warranted in respect of this programme." It referred to its investigation which upheld complaints about the use of an unverified tweet in the programme and the report into the Prime Time Investigates Mission to Prey programme which it had instigated.
"On foot of both reports, RTÉ has reviewed and revised its approach to the management and production of news and current affairs programming," it said. The committee was also "satisfied that RTÉ has taken significant steps to address the issues that have arisen from the production of this (Frontline) programme."
Another investigation "would not add sufficiently to what has been learned to date so as to justify its instigation," it said.
In response the BAI, RTÉ today said it is fully satisfied, as are the authors of the review, that the report published on Sunday was an accurate representation of the editorial failings as identified in the working document.
It maintained participants took part on a confidential basis to ensure full and frank participation, and that it is bound by obligations regarding the privacy and confidentiality of the contributors.
“RTE wants to publish the working document and is contacting each individual concerned,” it added.
The broadcaster again reiterated its apology to Mr Gallagher, to all the election candidates and its audience, and said it fully accepted the production of this programme fell significantly short of the standards expected by the public.
Elsewhere, it welcomed the decision of the BAI that an investigation (under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act 2009) is not warranted in respect of this programme.