An extraordinary intervention by the Irish Takeover Panel resulted in the cancellation last night of what would surely have been a riveting debate between Dermot Mannion of Aer Lingus and Ryanair boss Michael OLeary on RTEs Prime Time. Both parties are said to be “furious.” Im no expert on the powers of the Takeover Panel but I cant immediately recall another case of a quasi-judicial body intervening with a broadcaster to gag such a broadcast before. How could public opinion directly prejudice any outcome? Is the Panel saying its own members would be wrongly influenced by something either party said in public? Might a debate collapse share prices? That’s surely up to the companies themselves to judge. I just about understand although still disapprove of the Panel warning the parties not take part but warning RTE directly to cancel seems way out of court, so to speak. I would welcome enlightenment and so Im sure would many others. This action seems directly contrary to the public interest.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London