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HSE complained over Prime Time coverage of pregnant teenage asylum seeker case

The complaint was rejected by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock/Gajus

Updated at 11.50pm

THE HSE COMPLAINED to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) over Prime Time’s coverage of a case involving a pregnant teenage asylum seeker.

In its complaint to the BAI, the HSE said that in August 2014, a young woman received received treatment from the HSE and as part of this treatment certain decisions in relation to her case had to be made by the HSE.

The HSE said that her story was covered extensively by the media. The Director General of the HSE commissioned a report into the process, which is to be presented to the Minister for Health once it is completed.

The HSE said that it circulated a draft of the report to those who had already been interviewed.

This was to allow the interviewees the opportunity to verify what was in the draft report and ensure that it represented their statements accurately.

It said that a caveat was prominently printed on each page stating that it was a draft document and “can be expected to contain factual/clinical inaccuracies and/or information that may require additional clarification”.

The HSE said in its complaint that RTÉ made the decision to broadcast information contained in this draft report on Prime Time.

Obligations

In this context, the HSE said it believed that RTÉ “infringed its obligations” as it was not “fair to all interests concerned” as it “misled the public in relation to the nature of the draft report”.

It said it was not conveyed to the viewer that it was an early draft made before fact-checking had been completed.

It also said that neither the HSE nor the woman concerned were contacted by RTÉ prior to the broadcast.

The HSE also told the BAI in its complaint:

In a subsequent telephone conversation, the HSE was informed by an editor of Prime Time that the decision was made not to inform the HSE of what would be broadcast in advance in order to eliminate the possibility that the HSE would obtain an injunction prohibiting the broadcast of the programme.

RTÉ’s response

RTÉ said that the case was “a matter of immense public interest”. It stated:

In common with any serious endeavour, an aspect of the brief of Prime Time is the revealing of information that large and powerful organisations may not want to be exposed. Once RTÉ establishes the information is what they state it to be, and is neither defamatory nor unfair to any particular party, it is their duty to reveal it.

It said that because the material in the report represented the findings of the HSE itself, in draft form, “there was no onus” on Prime Time to offer what would have been “an essentially redundant ‘right of reply’ to itself”.

The programme “stated repeatedly” that the report was a draft report, said RTÉ, with a graphic behind the presenter saying ‘Draft Report’ in large letters.

No viewer could fail to notice it.

RTÉ stated that viewers “could have been in no doubt as to the draft nature of the report”.

The broadcaster states that the complaint includes no evidence or documentation whatsoever to support the claim that the draft report was unfairly or inaccurately presented or that it was presented in anything other than an objective and impartial manner.

Finally, RTÉ said that coverage of cases such as this is “strongly in the public interest” and that “editorially independent coverage by broadcasters is an essential contribution to the public good”.

Rejected

The BAI committee considered the broadcast, and the majority rejected the complaint.

In the case of the current complaint, it was the view of the Committee that the report and its contents were of significant public interest and that the decision to feature the report and its contents was reasonable in this context.
Having reviewed the programme, the Committee concluded that the broadcaster had taken adequate steps to ensure that viewers to the programme would be very clear about the status of the HSE report as a draft document.

It did not agree that viewers would have been misled. It also said that there was no evidence to support the view that the woman at the centre of the HSE report could be identifiable from the Prime Time show.

Read: Ireland in the international headlines again after rape victim is denied abortion>

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