RTÉ HAS SAID that any further regulatory process around Seán Gallagher’s complaint about unfair treatment during a Frontline presidential candidate debate is not a matter for the broadcaster “to decide or influence”.
Responding to an earlier statement by Gallagher’s lawyer which called for a full public inquiry, RTÉ said it will continue to be subject to full statutory regulation.
The broadcaster said it also follows its own internal governance and management.
Gallagher said he was considering legal action as new reports about the game-changing debate emerged in today’s Sunday Independent.
The paper reports that Pat McGuirk – a member of the studio audience last October – has claimed that RTÉ producers altered his prepared question for Gallagher in a way that made it more hostile.
He told reporter Jody Corcoran: “The question they gave me was ten million per cent away from where I was, my initial question.”
Gallagher’s lawyer said the revelations were “deeply disturbing” and raised questions about the “trustworthiness and impartiality” of RTÉ.
In a statement this afternoon, RTÉ said it responded to the Sunday Independent about issues concerning Pat McGuirk. The broadcaster told the newspaper that McGuirk had expressed no concerns about the question, and had emailed the programme makers following the debate to express his satisfaction with the experience.
Today’s communication from the broadcaster also reiterated that it had fully accepted a statutory decision that it had been unfair to Gallagher on specific grounds during the same programme.
Last week, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint by Gallagher, agreeing that the “broadcast of a tweet incorrectly attributed to the official Martin McGuinness for President Twitter account was unfair to the complainant”.
The RTÉ Director General and the RTÉ Board have expressed apologies to the one-time presidential candidate for the ‘bogus’ tweet that was read out by presenter Pat Kenny and incorrectly attributing it to an official account.
The decision by the BAI was the culmination of a statutory process invoked by Gallagher through a formal complaint, said RTÉ. The statement also outlined how the broadcaster is dealing with issues arising from the incident internally:
RTÉ has instituted a full editorial review of standards and practices covering a range of issues but including the production of live audience-based programmes and the selection of audience members and questions. RTÉ is also finalising new Programme-Makers’ Guidelines including a specific protocol on uses of Social Media in programme content.
Gallagher has said he will be contacting Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte over this morning’s reports.