State broadcaster RTE could be hit with another $350,000 over the notorious Prime Time priest libel case.
Ireland’s Broadcasting Authority has confirmed that the national television station could face a $350,000 fine for the gross libel of Fr Kevin Reynolds.
The Prime Time Investigates programme alleged that Fr Reynolds raped and impregnated a teenager during his time on the Kenyan missions. It also alleged that he abandoned mother and child despite his constant denials.
Fr Reynolds has already received a settlement believed to be worth over $2million with the station set to pay out at least another million dollars in legal costs.
Now it has emerged that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland can impose a six figure fine on RTE after it was asked to investigate the libel case by the Irish government.
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Michael O’Keeffe, BAI chief executive, has stated that the authority has the power, under the Broadcasting Act of 2009, to impose a fine up to that amount if it finds that RTÉ’s treatment of Fr Reynolds was ‘not fair, objective and impartial’.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has asked the BAI’s compliance committee to investigate the programme in the first such investigation under Section 53 of the Broadcasting Act.
An external candidate will be appointed head of the enquiry which will be held in private. An investigating officer will be employed to investigate the programme for breaches of the code and not to look into any other issues.
“The investigating officer will have the power to ask anybody involved in the programme who is an employee of RTÉ to give evidence,” said O’Keeffe. “It is likely that the results of the inquiry will be made public.”
The BAI has decided however not to hold an investigation into the case of the late Christian Brother, Ger Dillon, whom the programme claimed had made sexual advances towards a student when teaching in South Africa nearly 30 years ago.
Brother Dillon’s family say no similar allegation was made against him in nearly 60 years of teaching in South Africa and no corroborating information was provided to back up the allegation.