The National Union of Journalists has expressed “grave disappointment” at the decision of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland not to investigate interference in the editorial independence of their radio stations by Communicorp. The decision was confirmed in a letter to Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, National Union of Journalists, by Mr Michael O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the BAI.
It has been condemned by Mr Tom Lyons of The Currency and in a statement Séamus Dooley echoed the sentiments expressed by Mr Lyons.
Séamus Dooley said: “ It beggars belief that Broadcasting Authority of Ireland would allow Communicorp off the hook after a clear admission by the company that a directive had been issued which banned certain journalists from being interviewed on stations owned by Communicorp. The announcement by Communicorp that the ban had been lifted appears to have been accepted by the BAI as a welcome concession rather than what it was – an admission of the most appalling interference by commercial management in who should appear on news and current affairs programmes.
The decision not to conduct an investigation, as requested by the NUJ, undermines faith in the Compliance Committee and in the ability of the BAI to carry out its statutory functions.
We believe that this decision should be revisited and that the treatment of Irish Times journalists by Communicorp should also be investigated. Communicorp’s ban on Irish Times journalists remains in place.
As a trade union we believe that Communicorp should maximise the use of freelance journalists and also avail of the expertise of contributors from a diverse range of news organisations. At this stage it would be useful for the BAI to clarify its precise understanding of what it believes editorial independence to be”.