“It would be a question of the utmost public concern if an undercover officer were effectively permitted to operate without justification, authorisation or oversight in Ireland.”
RTÉ IS TO make a statement about its coverage of part of the Corrib ‘rape tape’ claims.
It follows a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) by Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of the women whose arrest led to a senior Garda and his colleagues recording themselves talking about the women who were in their custody.
The BAI said that RTÉ’s coverage of the deletion of files on the camcorder that recorded the controversial audio caused Sullivan “undue distress and harm”.
Shell-To-Sea said the correction will be broadcast before the 6.01 News and Nine O’Clock News this Wednesday, 7 December.
The complaints were made by Sullivan under the Broadcasting Act 2009 section 48(1)(a)(fairness, objectivity and impartiality in current affairs) and section 48(1)(b)(harm and offence – Code of Programme Standards: section 3.5.2 factual programming).
She stated that the news report about the outcomes of the investigation by the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission into sexually threatening remarks allegedly made by members of the Gardaí broadcast on the Six One news programme was incorrect.
Her complaint centred on the headline ‘Ombudsman says Mayo arrest tape was altered’, which she said was factually incorrect.
She also stated that RTÉ broadcast the line that “part of the recording of the arrest of two women about whom Gardaí were alleged to have made sexually threatening remarks was deleted and overwritten”, which she said was false.
Sullivan said that part of the recording of the arrests was not deleted, and that instead an unrelated file on the camera was deleted and overwritten.
She said the GSOC is aware of that and it did not state that part of the recording was deleted.
The GSOC report states that “footage of the original incident giving rise to the GSOC investigation was recovered from the device along with a number other files that had been deleted and overwritten”.
Sullivan said that RTÉ misinterpreted the GSOC report and broadcast false information that was offensive and harmful to her, and that it damaged her credibility as well as causing offence to the wider community in Kilcommon, Erris Co Mayo.
The report was broadcast during the course of the 6.01pm and 9 O’Clock news.
RTÉ said it believed the studio introduction and report were fully accurate and there was no breach of impartiality or objectivity.
The BAI said that the findings of the GSOC report as summarised in the introduction to the news report are not supported by the GSOC and the report was inaccurate.
It said the “phraseology” used in the report didn’t sufficiently distinguish between the recording that was being investigated and other files on the camcorder; and that this phraseology and inaccuracy in the introduction would have reasonably resulted in a view inferring that the recording being investigated had been tampered with.
The BAI committee was of the view that the report would raise unfounded questions for viewers about the integrity of Sullivan, so it was in breach of section 48(1) of the 2009 Act, and that the report casued undue distress and harm to Sullivan.
It did not agree that the report would have caused undue stress to the community of Kilcommon, Erris.
I am relieved that at least one aspect of the misinformation put out by state bodies about this incident has now been corrected.
In correspondence with me prior to the BAI decision, RTE attempted to vigorously defend their inaccurate reporting, citing Minister Alan Shatter’s also misleading comments as a basis for the news.
Dublin Shell to Sea spokesperson Caoimhe Kerins alleged that the situation with the digital camera was explained by telephone to RTÉ, but they ignored this information.
Communications minister Pat Rabbitte, meanwhile, has ruled out the prospect of amending the Broadcasting Acts in the wake of the settlement reached between RTÉ and Kevin Reynolds.
Rabbitte said he would not consider a change in the law requiring RTÉ to publicly declare the extent of its out-of-court settlements, in response to aparliamentary question from Fine Gael backbencher Bernard Durkan.