Controversial broadcaster Eamon Dunphy has accused businessman Denis O’Brien of ‘hating’ journalism and described radio station Newstalk as a ‘slum’ – after quitting his high profile show.
Dunphy ranted against station owner O’Brien, also a major shareholder in Independent newspapers, in his final Newstalk show on Sunday morning.
The broadcaster then repeated his claims against O’Brien in a series of newspaper interviews, denying that a request to take a 50 per cent pay cut was behind his decision to walk out on a $140,000 a year deal to present just 40 shows.
The Dunphy decision comes just two weeks after O’Brien’s Today FM station axed a popular Sunday morning show presented by Sam Smyth, the Independent journalist locked in a legal battle with the telecoms billionaire.
Former footballer Dunphy again repeated on Monday that O’Brien ‘hates journalism’ as he insisted he left Newstalk over the way staff were treated at the loss making station.
“The commercial sector was supposed to be a viable alternative to RTE, but Newstalk has become a slum,” said the 66-year-old Dunphy to the Irish Independent.
“The people who are living in the slum will tell you that and there’s been a huge departure rate by presenters. Staff are treated disgracefully.
“The regulator should be paying attention to what’s going on as certain standards should be set. Young journalists’ pay rates are shocking while staff are not represented by unions.”
O’Brien has yet to respond to Dunphy’s rant and his claims that management at the station told him to put a ‘positive’ spin on the news.
“Someone has to raise the red flag about this guy,” claimed Dunhpy. “He hates journalists. I’ve read his speeches and interviews and he seems to think they want the country to be destroyed, and he’s suing journalists.
“He doesn’t understand what we’re for, which is asking uncomfortable questions. I’ve had dealings with his operation on two occasions, on the ‘Breakfast Show’ and this show, and both increased their ratings, but he wants a positive spin on stories when almost 500,000 people are unemployed.
“That means altering the news agenda to suit a businessman’s view of it. They don’t really understand what the public interest is.
“That’s okay if you’re in the golf club but if you’re bringing it onto the shop floor in journalism, then it’s dangerous.”
Dunphy also claimed that he had increased listenership at the station.
“The pay cut had nothing to do with it,” he said. “Very good young journalists were becoming extremely demoralised and disillusioned and were watching senior journalists being treated badly. Sam Smyth was an example of that.”
Currently working on his memoirs, Dunphy denied he is looking for a new show on radio but many industry experts expect to see him return to RTE radio in the coming months.