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External events register required for RTE on air talent – Cannon

27th June 2023 - Ciaran Cannon TD

All paid for external work events undertaken by RTE staff should be published on an online register, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Ciarán Cannon, who sits on the Oireachtas Media Committee, said the public must be provided with all information regarding RTE’s on air talent who receive paid appearances for work and events which are not part of their role with the national broadcaster.

The Galway East TD said “impartiality has to overcome all concerns”.

“The revelations that a senior broadcaster in RTE received an undisclosed payment from a car manufacturer must surely give us pause for thought on how damaging these arrangements are.

“If a broadcaster is receiving payments from any corporate entity, then the public deserves to know, so that we can determine for ourselves whether that broadcaster can be trusted to be impartial when speaking on particular matters.

“I’m concerned that when these payments are made, impartiality suffers, and the public are kept in the dark,” Deputy Cannon said.

In 2020, the BBC set up a register of staff earnings from external events. The initiative requires on-air talent in news and current affairs, sports news and radio journalism roles to declare earnings from work undertaken outside of the BBC, including speaking engagements or corporate events.

The online register records payments made for appearing as a moderator, host, speaker or interviewer, for chairing panels and for judging awards. It is published quarterly.

Deputy Cannon said: “The board and executive of RTE have a major job on their hands in restoring trust in our national broadcaster.

“I believe that a key element of that work should be the establishment of a register of external payments, similar to that established by the BBC.

“There is no issue with anyone being paid for such events, but the viewing public needs to be made aware of relationships between broadcasters and private corporations.

“It is because of their high profile afforded by their roles and work within RTÉ that the on-air talent is offered external work. There is nothing wrong with these opportunities being afforded to them once it is transparent to the public what they have undertaken.

“This register should be a key element of restoring trust in RTE and it could be created within a week. Such a register will help to ensure impartiality,” Deputy Cannon said.

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