RTÉ to report to minister on standards overhaul

RTÉ is to submit quarterly reports to Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, on an overhaul of its standards in reporting.

The commitment was made by RTÉ’s board yesterday during a meeting with the minister where members also agreed to a fifth internal inquiry into the Fr Kevin Reynolds defamation scandal.

However, no senior heads on the board will role following the Prime Time Investigates debacle. Instead, the 13-person board at the two-hour meeting discussed the making of the programme and recent recommendations on reporting standards at RTÉ.

RTÉ finances were also discussed “in passing”, said a source, at the meeting.

The quarterly reports will mainly concern what changes are being made at RTÉ to meet recommendations made by press ombudsman John Horgan and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Recommendations include rules that communications from solicitors on content must be forwarded to a legal affairs department and that there is a review of guidelines on surreptitious filming and “doorsteps” on individuals.

The board will also report back in seven days separately on progress to date on changes at the broadcaster.

It will examine steps taken to address the “serious systemic shortcomings that have been exposed by this case”, the minister’s office said. The steps will include board oversight measures.

RTÉ board chairman Tom Savage said there was no way of completely preventing a mistake like the Fr Reynolds case happening again but that efforts could be made to reduce the chances of this.

A fourth inquiry under an editorial and output committee will look at how the episode made it to air and claims a “group think” mentality contributed to the wrongful claims against Fr Reynolds. This will involve a “rigorous examination of the editorial culture”, said RTÉ.

Mr Savage said: “Journalists and producers in all organisations have unspoken values and assumptions. If RTÉ news and content are to be recognised as of the highest standard, and if public trust is to be rebuilt, we need to look into the heart of what we do and how we do it.”

Meanwhile, Mr Rabbitte’s office confirmed that no board member was sacked at the meeting but said members had made no attempt to defend the show.

“I’m satisfied that the board understands fully and comprehensively the gravity of what has happened.”


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