RTÉ chair ‘must set record straight’

RTE chair Tom Savage needs to "set the record straight" about his PR company’s clients, a Labour senator has said, as the fallout from the Mission to Prey programme continues.

John Whelan said he would this week request the Oireachtas Communications Committee, of which he is a member, to recall Mr Savage. The committee is examining RTÉ structures in the wake of the programme which defamed Fr Kevin Reynolds.

Mr Savage told the committee last month that in the three-and-a-half years he had been RTÉ chair, "not a single issue has cropped up at board level where I have had to absent myself from the discussion because I had a conflict of interest".

But it was subsequently confirmed that Mr Savage’s company, the Communications Clinic, advised the Irish Missionary Union in advance of the programme’s screening last year.

However, Mr Savage’s wife and fellow director, Terry Prone, has said he was not aware of their company’s role in advising the IMU.

Writing for today’s Irish Examiner, Mr Whelan says it is incumbent on Mr Savage to reappear before the committee to clarify the matter. "Tom Savage omitted to tell the Oireachtas committee this significant information. His wife, Terry Prone, insists he didn’t know, she never told him. Therefore, to accept this, we have to believe that Tom Savage, chair of the RTÉ Authority and founder, owner, director of the Communications Clinic does not know what clients his own company represents?"

Fianna Fáil senator Paschal Mooney, also writing in today’s Irish Examiner, said the calls for Mr Savage’s resignation were a mistake. "I think calls for the chairman Tom Savage to resign would do nothing to address the more fundamental challenges facing the organisation. It does not address the need for cultural change in RTÉ . . . What would be more instructive than ‘heads rolling’, would be an audit of RTÉ’s news and current affairs output as proposed by my colleague Éamon Ó Cuív."