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IPSC RTÉ Kevin Bakhurst

Kevin Bakhurst

HAS THE predicted subservience of a demoralised and virtually bankrupt RTÉ come to pass already, with the station fearful of upsetting the Government in its coverage of the biggest global story since the Ukraine conflict, namely the genocide in Gaza? The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has brought RTÉ to broadcast regulator Coimisiún na Meán for failing to cover impartially or objectively the Government’s refusal to support South Africa’s charge of Israeli genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In a January 7 interview on RTÉ’s This Week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended at some length the Government’s refusal to support South Africa’s move. Two days later, the IPSC held a press conference at which, in an unusual show of unity, all the opposition parties – Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, Labour and People Before Profit as well as Independent senator Frances Black – pressed Vlad and Tánaiste Micheál Martin to support the ICJ case.

RTÉ inexplicably failed to report on the opposition’s views, which many Irish viewers would surely have been interested in given the public’s abhorrence at the Gaza carnage. On January 10, IPSC press officer Betty Purcell suggested to RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst and RTÉ’s news desk that the station cover a recording of the press conference that evening – the eve of the ICJ case opening. RTÉ did not take up this offer and it was only on January 11, four days after Vlad’s long interview and a day after South Africa’s case opened at the ICJ, that RTÉ reported the views of the opposition parties.

The IPSC and others were more than a little disappointed at this selective coverage of the ICJ case and were even less impressed at a response they got to an initial letter of protest to RTÉ. In its response, the station said Coimisiún na Meán’s guidance notes allow it to cover or not cover any particular story without being accused of unfairness or partiality. The letter also cited four examples of RTÉ’s coverage of opposition parties’ views on Gaza over a period of time.

The IPSC retorted that, while RTÉ has editorial freedom, the significance of the news event under discussion could not be ignored. It also pointed out that the stories cited as examples of RTÉ’s impartiality amounted to four or so stories in the previous two months.

The IPSC has now lodged a formal complaint with the regulator. RTÉ could have avoided the embarrassment of being hauled in front of Coimisiún na Meán to face what appears to be a strong charge of bias in the biggest foreign affairs story for a long time. Does this episode indicate that the new Montrose regime is intent on preserving its independence as the Government mulls over its future finances?

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