RTE to revise complaints procedure as Prime Time Investigates cut

RTE’s award-winning current affairs series Prime Time Investigates has been taken off the air for good.

RTE’s award-winning current affairs series Prime Time Investigates has been taken off the air for good.

The show, which was responsible for the hugely damaging and defamatory 'A Mission To Prey' programme, has been shelved in an attempt to rebuild public trust.

Noel Curran, RTE director general, announced the move as part of wide-ranging reforms in its personnel, management and operations in the current affairs division.

“Mistakes will happen in broadcasting and in journalism, no matter what changes are made. Programme makers must be and will be supported in making challenging programming,” he said.

Ed Mulhall, managing director of news and current affairs has retired from the organisation with effect from last month after 14 years in the job.

Ken O’Shea has resigned as editor of current affairs after three-and-a-half years in the role but stays in RTE transferring to a new role in television, reporting to the commissioning editor for RTE Two.

Elsewhere, all editorial staff will be trained in new journalism guidelines which have been developed over the last three months.

Mr Mulhall said: "It has been a privilege to have been entrusted with the important responsibilities of director of news and MD of news and current affairs and to have worked with such professional and dedicated colleagues.''

Mr Curran said: “It is our intention that through these guidelines and other changes, and through their application by every member of the organisation, we will set the standards bar even higher for ourselves.

“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 RTE’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. We are determined to achieve that.”

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has completed its investigation into the 'Prime Time' programme which defamed Fr Kevin Reynolds.

It has ruled on whether the national broadcaster breached regulations in the controversial documentary and what sanctions, if any, it must face – up to a €250,000 fine.

It is understood the full report into the affair will be published at a later date.

RTE has 14 days to respond and accept the findings of former BBC executive Anna Carragher or to lodge an appeal.

Late last year, Mr Mulhall and Mr O’Shea stepped down temporarily while the independent inquiry into the damning errors at the flagship investigative series was carried out.

The pair stood aside after Fr Reynolds sued the broadcaster over the 'Mission To Prey' programme, aired on May 23 last year, which wrongly accused the missionary priest of raping a minor and fathering a child while working in Kenya 30 years ago.

Fr Reynolds accepted an out-of-court settlement reported to be in the payout range from €750,000 up to €5m.

RTE also took 'Prime Time' executive producer Brian Pairceir and reporter Aoife Kavanagh off air while the inquiry was ongoing.

Other changes announced by the broadcaster include:

:: A new Current Affairs Investigations Unit at the broadcaster working on a multi-media basis of radio, TV and online.

:: A selection of documentaries will be announced ahead of the autumn schedule.

:: Five TV news and current affairs management positions are being created, including two in editorial management.

:: A new editorial standards board will oversee standards and take on a revised complaints procedure.

Mr Curran said RTE could not comment on anything directly concerning 'Mission To Prey' or the investigation but insisted all matters will be dealt with when the inquiry is finalised.

“The publication of these new structures and guidelines is, we hope, a key step in an important direction,” he said.

“The range of measures in these documents represents RTE’s determination to make our journalism stronger, fairer and more transparent, and to reiterate our commitment to journalism as a core public service.”

RTE has also convened an external investigation board to look into what went wrong in 'Mission To Prey' and report to the head of human resources at the broadcaster.

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