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RTÉ’s head of television explains Iona payout decision to staff

Glen Killane said that the broadcaster has not “engaged in censorship, but has rather fallen foul of Ireland’s defamation laws”.

Image: Conor Horgan

THE HEAD OF television at RTÉ sent a memo to staff yesterday evening, explaining why the broadcaster paid out an €85,000 settlement following the receipt of six legal complaints about an interview on the Saturday Night Show last month.

Glen Killane, managing director of TV, assured staff that RTÉ “explored every options available to it” before settling the matter with John Waters and members of the Iona Institute who had initiated a legal process.

He also told RTÉ employees that the broadcaster has not “engaged in censorship, but has rather fallen foul of Ireland’s defamation laws”.

Legal advice was sought and the other options explored, he said, included a right of reply and an offer to make a donation to a “neutral charity”.

He told staff that the complainants did not accept the proposed remedies. In an email, dated 4 February and seen by TheJournal.ie, he wrote:

…based on the facts of what was broadcast, and having regard for broadcasting compliance issues, the seriousness of the legal complaints, and the decision by the complainants not to accept RTÉ’s proposed remedies, we decided that a settlement was the most prudent course of action.

“Senior counsel was consulted and confirmed that the legal position was far from clear.”

Killane, who noted that he had been approached by a number of RTÉ employees querying the settlement decision, also said that the organisation should not “knowingly progress to defend an action when it is advised, internally and externally, that such a defence is unlikely to succeed before a jury”.

He promised staff that RTÉ will continue to cover the topic, citing last week’s Late Debate, coverage of the LGBT rights protest in Dublin on Sunday and items on Today with Seán O’Rourke and the Saturday Night Show.

Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the controversy, Rory O’Neill (aka Panti), continues to garner global attention.

A video of his 10-minute Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre last weekend has been viewed by more than 216,000 people and has been shared online by Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Dara Ó Briain and Rupaul, as well as getting coverage on international sites including Gawker, the Huffington Post and MSNBC.

It was also showed, in full, by TV3 last night during Tonight with Vincent Browne.

Read: Stephen Fry joins Panti’s supporters by tweeting video to 6.5 million followers

More: David Norris and Paul Murphy raise homophobia in Irish and EU parliaments

Watch: 100,000 people watch Panti video on homophobia in less than two days

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