Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Gallagher demands RTE row inquiry

Sean Gallagher has demanded a public inquiry into the production and airing of a TV show on RTE
Sean Gallagher has demanded a public inquiry into the production and airing of a TV show on RTE

Defeated presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has demanded a public inquiry into the production and airing of RTE's The Frontline live presidential debate.

The entrepreneur is taking legal advice over allegations by a member of the studio audience that his question for the candidate was changed by the production team, who also helped him rehearse it.

Mr Gallagher said the revelations in a Sunday newspaper were deeply disturbing and gravely alarming and queried if the state broadcaster had compromised the democratic process.

RTE has denied the allegations, maintaining the question about Mr Gallagher's job creation record by businessman Pat McGuirk on The Frontline was based on conversations he had with researchers.

Mr Gallagher said the broadcaster cannot disregard the calls for a full public inquiry relating to the production and airing of the programme. "All records relating to the programme must be disclosed in a public arena, and every member of the production team must make him or herself available for questioning in the appropriate, independent, forum," he said in a statement through his solicitor, Pamela Cassidy.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) last week upheld a complaint by the former Dragon's Den star that The Frontline acted unfairly during the October 24 show when host Pat Kenny read a tweet from an unofficial account without checking its source.

It decided against an investigation or public hearing as it found no evidence that RTE, Mr Kenny, or the production team had deliberately constructed the programme in a manner that lacked objectivity or impartiality.

However Mr McGuirk, from Co Monaghan, told the Sunday Independent he first emailed the show to ask a question relating to the salary of the president, but alleged that was changed moments before the live debate by The Frontline team to focus instead on the job creation record of Mr Gallagher - who he supported.

RTE said Mr McGuirk emailed the programme researcher two days later thanking her for letting him on the show and commending her work.

The Sinn Fein presidential candidate, Mr McGuinness, said that while RTE should not have broadcast the tweet from the unofficial account, he maintained Mr Gallagher still had legitimate questions to answer on the night. "The tweet had nothing to do with the Martin McGuinness presidential campaign and RTE could have checked this with any of a number of representatives of my campaign team who were present in RTE on the night," said Mr McGuinness.

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