RTÉ to overhaul current affairs division

RTÉ has announced a radical overhaul of its news and current affairs structures days before the publication of a damning watchdog report into its broadcast of a defamatory Prime Time Investigates programme.

The managing director of RTÉ’s news and current affairs division, Ed Mulhall, has tendered his resignation “in the best interests of the organisation”.

Former editor of current affairs Ken O’Shea also resigned but is not leaving. He will begin work on a television assignment reporting to the commissioning editor.

Mr Mulhall will retire as part of RTÉ’s voluntary redundancy package and will not receive a golden handshake, according to RTÉ.

Noel Curran, the organisation’s director general, also announced:

* Prime Time Investigates will not return. A series of investigative programmes will be announced this year;

* A new current affairs investigations unit will be responsible for the station’s investigative journalism output and will operate through television, radio, and online;

* Five senior posts will become available in news and current affairs including, for the first time, editors of Prime Time and The Frontline;

* A new editorial standards board will oversee programme standards and take a role in a revised complaints procedure;

* All RTÉ editorial staff will be issued with and trained in new journalism guidelines.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is this week expected to publish its report into how Fr Kevin Reynolds was defamed in ‘Mission to Prey’.

In the aftermath of the Reynolds trial and four radio and television apologies, both Mr Mulhall and Mr O’Shea temporarily stepped down from their roles, while Prime Time Investigates reporter Aoife Kavanagh and producer Brian Páircéir were restricted from on-air programming pending the conclusion of the probe.

There was no sanction for either Ms Kavanagh or Mr Páircéir. However, an external investigation board will examine “all personnel matters arising in respect of ‘Mission to Prey’”. Senior management at RTÉ have a copy of the BAI report and the investigation board has begun its work.

Mr Curran said: “The publication of [the] new structures and guidelines is, we hope, a key step in an important direction. The range of measures in these documents represents RTÉ’s determination to make our journalism stronger, fairer, and more transparent, and to reiterate our commitment to journalism as a core public service.

“Through these new measures and structures and their robust operation, programme makers from the most junior to the highest level will clearly understand and accept their responsibility and role in rebuilding RTÉ’s reputation for very high quality journalism.

“It is only through great programming that we will rebuild whatever trust we have lost with our audiences.”

Last night, the head of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley, welcomed RTÉ’s announcement but said he was disappointed Prime Time Investigates had been dropped. He said “regaining the public trust would be an uphill struggle”.

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