THE BROADCASTING AUTHORITY of Ireland has upheld Seán Gallagher’s complaint about a tweet referred to during the #Aras11 presidential candidates debate on RTÉ’s Frontline programme.
The tweet was attributed to the official account of the Martin McGuinness campaign and referred to a donation made to the Fianna Fáil party which was allegedly collected by Gallagher on the party’s behalf.
In the ruling published today, the BAI said that it in its view the “broadcast of a tweet incorrectly attributed to the official Martin McGuinnes for President Twitter account was unfair to the complainant”.
“Verification of information is an important role for broadcasters,” the BAI judgment continued. “It is particularly important in the context of news and current affairs and coverage of national ballots. Particular car is required closer to the polling date.”
It also found that there was no evidence of an intention to deliberately conceal information relating to the tweet or to construct the programme in a manner that lacked objectivity or impartiality.
The BAI said it cannot force RTÉ to carry an apology as sought by the complainant, and neither does the BAI consider it a serious enough nature to warrant an investigation or public hearings as Gallagher had sought.
Seán Gallagher said in a statement that he welcomed the BAI’s decision and that it had confirmed his view “that there was an institutional failure by RTÉ”.
He criticised the broadcaster for introducing “a controversial and bogus tweet into a crucial and live presidential election debate just days before polling”.
“The public relies on radio and television to provide many of the facts that influence their decisions at election time,” he said.
“Therefore RTE’s role, as the state broadcaster during this crucial period is not just about providing opportunities for political debate but also about ensuring that fairness and impartiality are central to all of RTE’s broadcasts.”
Gallagher said he hoped the result of his complaint would “result in fairness and transparency of the democratic process being applied to all candidates in the future”.