And there’s some movement on the situation at RTE, which has two major concurrent headaches going on at the moment:
A report to be published shortly by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is expected to find that the Prime Time Investigates: Mission to Prey programme, which libelled Fr Reynolds last year, was unfair and breached his privacy. The authority can impose a penalty of up to €250,000.
RTÉ, which didn’t defend the programme on either of these grounds, yesterday announced the setting up of an external investigation board, chaired by former Northern Ireland ombudsman Maurice Hayes, to make recommendations about RTÉ personnel involved in the programme.
The three-member board will make recommendations concerning both Mr Mulhall and Mr O’Shea, as well as Aoife Kavanagh, the reporter involved in the story, and the executive producer Brian Páircéir. Mr Mulhall has retired on a voluntary severance package currently available to RTÉ staff, while Mr O’Shea has been assigned a role in lifestyle and entertainment programmes at RTÉ 2.
RTÉ is aware of the main findings in the BAI report but has yet to receive the full document and notice of the proposed fine. Under broadcasting legislation, it could appeal an adverse finding to the High Court. A spokesman yesterday refused to rule out this course of action.
News of the personnel changes, along with new journalism guidelines and the creation of an editorial standards board, was delivered to staff in a message from director general Noel Curran.
The changes were prompted not only by the controversy over Mission to Prey, but also by criticism of RTÉ’s handling of last year’s Frontline debate between the presidential candidates. A complaint by one candidate, Seán Gallagher, about his treatment on the show was upheld by the BAI last month.