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RTE News and Current Affairs and #Cowengate

March 27th, 2009 · 18 Comments · Irish Media, Irish Politics

There are quite a number of unresolved issues from #picturegate – #Cowengate which I’m interested in exploring.

The nature of the complaints to RTE before and after the apology was broadcast is one area and I’ve been in touch with RTE this afternoon.

Following the broadcast of the original piece on Monday night RTE received 48 calls of complaint and 2 emails including one call from the government press office.

Following the broadcast of the apology to An Taoiseach on Tuesday night over 100 emails of complaint about the apology – ie. complaining that RTE apologised – were received. 10 telephone calls were also received. 2 calls complaining about the original piece were also logged. These are the figures are those received up to yesterday evening.

RTE’s Press Office stated quite categorically that it was RTE senior management who took the decision to withdraw the piece from the website and make the apology before the complaints were considered. It was felt that the tone was wrong and that the piece was in bad taste and too much time was spent showing the portraits themselves. RTE stated that they ‘did not capitulate’ to pressure from the Government.

Whilst stating that RTE frequently receive calls from all types of organisations trying to influence and complain about news coverage, the integrity of the News department is most important. RTE are more than aware of the coverage on this issue online and wished to clarify the perception that the apology.

A debate on RTE, the apology and all those issues around it would be very useful – I did think afterwards of suggesting we hold one – I’ll be back to RTE in the next week on the matter!

An article in today’s Irish Independent on the changing nature of contact between the Government Press Office and RTE – ie by phone and in person to avoid FOI requests led me to ask RTE if they would be aware of this. RTE say they have not noticed any change in the manner in how complaints are received.

A parting thought for the moment – Now more than ever RTE editors need to start blogging and engaging online with viewers and explaining how editorial decisions are made – a call I and others have made before given the excellent BBC editors blog.

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