RTE to explain media coaching by Dobson to Oireachtas group

 

Senior RTÉ executives are to be asked to appear before an Oireachtas Committee following the disclosure that news anchor Bryan Dobson had coached health board executives on handling media interviews.

The director general of RTÉ, the chairman of the RTÉ Authority and the head of news are to be asked to answer questions before the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on the State broadcaster's "news balance".

The committee chairman, Mr Noel O'Flynn TD (FF), said last night that there was concern at recent developments concerning one of RTÉ's "key broadcasters".

Mr O'Flynn said his committee would specifically examine RTÉ's corporate governance and codes of practice "which addresses conflicts of interest and breaches of same by staff that are in direct employment of RTÉ".

"This has particular relevance in relation to staff of RTÉ who may have external consultancies or business interests that may be in conflict with the duty of the national broadcaster to provide balanced and impartial news and current affairs coverage."

RTÉ has acknowledged that it made an error of judgment in sanctioning Mr Dobson's engagement by Promedia to coach health executives in mock interviews. The issue is highly sensitive politically because the Government is preparing a reform initiative which is likely to include a plan to abolish health boards.

Mr Dobson, who has also apologised, declined to comment yesterday. An RTÉ spokeswoman said the broadcaster would co- operate with the committee.

The three senior RTÉ figures who have been invited to appear before the committee are the chairman of the RTÉ Authority, Mr Paddy Wright, its director general, Mr Bob Collins, and the head of news, Mr Ed Mulhall.

Mr O'Flynn said "absolutely not" when asked last night whether his intervention was linked to an interview Mr Dobson conducted with him last year on RTÉ television. Mr O'Flynn had been involved in controversy after he described asylum-seekers as "spongers" and "freeloaders".