Mr Noel Curran Director General RTÉ Donnybrook Dublin 4
30 January 2014
Apology issued on the Saturday Night Show on January 25, 2014
Dear Mr Curran, I wish to raise with you a number of concerns regarding an apology that issued on the Saturday Night Show on January 25, 2014 regarding comments made on the previous week’s episode. Of particular concern are reports that RTÉ made a monetary payment arising from the comments. On the episode concerned an interviewee on the Saturday Show voiced his opinion of a number of people and groups. During the course of his appearance on the show the guest gave a detailed reasoning and explanation for his opinion, referencing writings and commentary made by the people to whom he was referring. Having read a number of reports subsequent to the apology issued on the show it appears that some or all of those referenced during the course of the said comments were of the opinion that the comments damaged their good name. As our national public service broadcaster RTÉ has a responsibility to facilitate fair and balanced debate on issues of public importance. Central to this obligation must be an entitlement of those participating in RTÉ broadcasts to voice honestly held opinions and make fair comment. On occasion when people are not satisfied with an opinion that has been aired RTÉ must act as a fair arbitrator and stand by the right of people on its platforms to voice honestly held opinions. If our national broadcaster is to yield to those opposing the views aired by others and subsequently apologise, edit or retract honestly held opinions, then it acts to undermine its public service remit and is potentially open to claims that it is open to excessive influence of sectoral interests. I would appreciate it if you could confirm if RTÉ sought legal advice prior to issuing the apology and making payment to any of the parties alleging damage to their reputation. You might also advise if such legal advice indicated that there was a potential liability arising to RTÉ because of the said comments. In relation to any monetary payment I would ask that you confirm if such a payment was made and also how the quantum of the payment was determined.
I appreciate that there a number of considerations that RTĂ‰ must take into account and that on occasion dealing with potential legal claims the commercial reality is central to how such claims are addressed. However, there are times when an organisation such as RTĂ‰ must stand up for the rights of those participating on its shows to voice honestly held opinions. Thank you for considering my thoughts on this matter and I look forward to hearing from you outlining the full circumstances arising from the aforementioned episode of the Saturday Night Show.
_______________ Jerry Buttimer, TD