RTE, Aer Lingus and even O’Leary gagged

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 O’Leary on RTE’s Prime Time. Both parties are said to be “furious.” I’m no expert on the powers of the Takeover Panel but I can’t 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 I’m sure would many others. This action seems directly contrary to the public interest.

  • From that Irish Examiner report, showing that the Takeover Panel did not order RTE to do anything. They simply informed RTE that the airlines themselves would be in trouble if they took part.

      In a letter to RTÉ, the ITP said that it has advised the two executives not to appear on the show or any rescheduled programme at any time during the offer period.

      “Participation by representatives of either Aer Lingus or Ryanair in the Prime Time programme would therefore result in a breach of the panel’s statutory direction to the parties,” the Takeover Panel said in the letter.

    When asked about the ruling the director general of the ITP, Micheal Ryan, had no comment to make other than giving direction to look at the note on Rule 19.6 of the takeover rules which states that “an offeror or the offeree… who, during the course of the offer, is interviewed in connection with the offer on radio or television shall use all reasonable endeavours to ensure the sequence of the interview is not broken by the insertion of comments or observations by others which were not made in the course of the interview”.

    This appears to rule out all interviews because, while there wouldn’t be any immediate problem with a live interview, there will always be news organisations that will edit the interview how they see fit to report on this big event.

    Maybe the effect of this is to restrict interviews to only the smallest and most boring of takeovers.