Minister Gives RtÉ One Week for Reform Report Following Libel Scandal

May 9, 2012

Minister Rabbitte

RTÉ has agreed to submit a report to Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte in one week's time, as well as provide a monitoring report every three months, detailing the measures it is taking to ensure it does not repeat a defamatory programme such as 'Mission to Prey'.

The agreement was the result of a two hour-long meeting between the minister and the RTÉ Board yesterday. Minister Rabbitte called the meeting following the publication of the BAI's report on the now infamous RTÉ 'Prime Time Investigates' A Mission to Prey' programme.

Following yesterday's meeting Minister Rabbitte said: "Arising from the meeting I have agreed that the Board will provide me, within a week, with a detailed report on all of the steps they are taking to address the serious systemic short-comings that have been exposed by this case."

The programme, which aired in May 2011, defamed parish priest Fr Kevin Reynolds by alleging that he had raped a minor and fathered a child while working in Kenya 30 years ago.

The BAI fined the state-run station €200,000 in its report last Friday, upon finding that its reporters took insufficient note-taking as well as secretly filmed Fr Reynolds, who committed no wrongdoing. 'Prime Time Investigates' reporter Aoife Kavanagh subsequently resigned from her position at RTÉ.

During the meeting with 13 RTÉ Board members yesterday, no other resignations were offered by RTÉ or sought by the Minister, who previously described the 'Mission to Prey' programme as a "shoddy, unprofessional, cavalier, damaging piece of work".

RTÉ Board members told the minister yesterday that the broadcaster's highest priority is repairing the trust of the public. RTÉ chairman Tom Savage said the Board agreed that "journalists and producers in all organisations have unspoken values and assumptions. If RTÉ news and content are to be recognised as of the highest standard, and if public trust is to be rebuilt, we need to look into the heart of what we do and how we do it."

Speaking after the meeting yesterday, Minister Rabbitte said he was satisfied the RTÉ Board "fully appreciates the seriousness of what's happened". He also acknowledged it is the first time section 53 of the Broadcasting Act has been used since its 2009 introduction. Section 53 outlines how, in the case of an investigation into a broadcaster, a member of staff from the Authority will be appointed as an investigating officer to investigate whether a broadcaster is in breach of the Broadcasting Act or a broadcasting code or rule.

Minister Rabbitte added that he has "asked [his] department to engage with RTÉ and the BAI on their experience of the investigation process to ensure that the legislation is fit for purpose".

Timeline of a scandal:

May 7 2011: 'Prime Time Investigates' reporters confront Fr Kevin Reynolds over accusations he fathered a child in Kenya over 30 years ago. Fr Reynolds denies the accusations and offers a paternity test

May 23 2011: RTÉ airs 'Mission to Prey' programme, claiming Fr Reynolds fathered a child

June 30 2011: RTÉ's legal department writes to Fr Reynolds' solicitor stating it can stand over the allegations against Fr Reynolds

September 21 2011: The High Court acknowledges two paternity tests prove Fr Reynolds was not the father of a Kenyan child

October 7 2011: RTÉ issues an apology to Fr Reynolds, acknowledging the allegations it made against him were false

November 17 2011: Fr Reynolds accepts a reported €1m in libel settlement from RTÉ

November 23 2011: A number of high profile RTÉ staff step down pending the outcome of the independent inquiry, including managing director of RTÉ news and current affairs Ed Mulhall and editor of current affairs Ken O'Shea

The BAI launches official investigation into Prime Time Investigates. The series is deferred from December until the Authority's investigation is complete

April 3 2012: The BAI submits its findings to RTÉ. It is announced RTÉ has axed 'Prime Time Investigates' and Ed Mulhall has retired while Ken O'Shea has stepped aside from the 'Prime Time' series

May 4 2012: The BAI publish its report on the investigation into RTÉ. The broadcaster is fined €200,000, and RTÉ reporter Aoife Kavanagh resigns

May 8 2012: Minister Pat Rabbitte meets with the RTÉ Board members, resulting in the broadcaster agreeing to submit a report every three months to the minister.


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