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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Niall Carson/PA Chairman of the RTE Board Tom Savage
# mission to prey
“Your position is untenable” – TDs criticise RTE heads over Mission to Prey
The chair of RTE said the programme had caused the greatest editorial crisis that RTE had experienced in years.

THE CHAIR OF RTE has been told his position is ‘untenable’ as senior politicians have criticised RTE over its handling of the controversial Mission to Prey programme.

At a tense Oireachtas committee meeting this afternoon Tom Savage, the chair of the RTE Board, said the programme had caused the greatest editorial crisis that RTE had experienced in years.

He told the committee that the Board is embarking on an unprecedented examination of the programme-making culture in RTE in an attempt to prevent similar mistakes in future. “RTE accepts the findings and can offer no excuse,” he said.

The director-general of RTE said that two more legal cases are being taken against the broadcaster as a result of the programme.

A number of TDs and Senators said there were issues with a number of other RTE programmes which may need to be investigated for journalistic techniques.

“There’s a gospel of RTE,” said Independent TD Mattie McGrath. “The more they get away with it, the more they do it”.

Why did RTE not waive legal privilege?

(The committee meeting this afternoon. Screengrab via

Several TDs sharply criticised RTE for not handing over information to the investigator about how its legal team dealt with the programme.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív questioned whether RTE’s legal department had advised against the broadcast – and said that if it had, then serious questions arose as to whether RTE executives ignored legal advice. If the legal department didn’t advise RTE to hold back on broadcasting the programme then another set of questions in relation to legal advice arises, Ó Cuív said.

Bob Collins of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland had told the committee that the report into Mission to Prey had expressed regret that RTE did not choose to waive legal privilege in order to put forward a greater account of exactly what legal advice was given around the programme. He emphasised that RTE had been entitled to make the decision.

However RTE’s director-general Noel Curran says the broadcaster was never asked to waive legal privilege.

He told the committee that one of the most surprising things arising from the report was the number of people who criticised RTE for not waiving privilege.

“We were not asked that by the investigator,” Curran said. He told the committee that the investigator had come back to the broadcaster several times for information but had never mentioned the issue of privilege. The issue was mentioned twice in the investigator’s report, both times in a factual manner without offering any comment.

Curran said that “if we had known that this was a serious issue, if we had felt that the investigator was being hampered, and if we had been asked in those circumstances” to waive privilege then it would have been considered. However he said the broadcaster was unaware of it being an issue until after the report was published.

The director-general said that the legal affairs section of RTE advises programme-makers of the risks involved. It does not tell programme-makers whether they can broadcast programmes or not because otherwise not a lot of  shows would go out, Curran said. He added:

This programme has been a massive shock to the system for everyone in RTE.

Investigation into all RTE current affairs programmes

(Bob Collins and Michael O’Keeffe of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland at the Oireachtas committee earlier today. Screengrab via Oireachtas website).

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív called for an independent review into all current affairs programmes on RTE radio and television to ensure that they meet standards set by the BAI to ensure that issues like the Mission to Prey programme do not happen in future.

“The Gallagher and Reynolds affairs have thrown up serious concerns regarding RTE that are far wider than the two programmes in question,” he said.

He called for a review of randomly selected current affairs programmes from the last year to be carried out.

Previously: RTE board pledges reform in ‘robust review’ with Rabbitte >

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