Taoiseach ‘concerned’ over Council’s attempt to link advertising spend to editorial content

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he is concerned by the latest reports which suggest Wexford County Council was trying to link an advertising agreement with “criteria” which related to editorial policy at South East Radio.

It comes after details of an email from March 25th between South East Radio and Wexford County Council appeared in the national media over the weekend.

The email from the Council set out a number of “criteria” which included asking for assurances that presenters would not be allowed to voice their own opinons, that unbroadcast material be kept for two years and that after the County Council received a right of reply on a subject it asked that the matter should end there.

In January Standards in Public Office found against the Chief Executive of the Council Tom Enright saying he “misused the council position in effect throwing around the weight of the councils purse” and in doing so put pressure on South East Radio to alter its broadcasting practices.

The Taoiseach responded to questions this afternoon on the matter when asked at Government buildings.

“I have heard reports to that effect, I have not seen it.

“If that is the case it would be very difficult to comprehend following a SPIO report but one does not need a SIPO report to know that in any executive authority, you do not attempt to intimidate the media or attempt to shape the medias output or commentary on the basis that you will withdraw advertising from them, if that is what transpired.

“We are in a free society, with a free media, and media are entitled to secure advertising in the market like everybody else.

“There can be no connection between advertising, sponsorship and editorial control.

“I would be very concerned about those reports.”

At the Council meeting yesterday County Secretary David Minogue said his email formed part of “informal negotiations” and the “criteria” were for “consideration” only.

He said Wexford County Council have “no plans to stop advertising” with South East Radio.

He says he will make contact with South East Radio’s Managing Director this week to explain the email which he feels has been “significantly misinterpreted”.

Meanwhile a local Councillor says the relationship between the County Council and South East Radio ‘has to continue’.

Labour’s George Lawlor shared his thoughts with Alan Corcoran on Morning Mix following yesterdays council meeting.

“We have to move on from that and I think we will move on from that.

“If you are asking me if you can not formulate a different opinion from me when you are doing an interview, then I would lose all respect for you as a Journalist.

“I would never expect that to happen, I never be expected to given an easy ride and I expect to answer the questions that are asked.

“I think that is what has come out of this meeting today is that Wexford County Councillor’s have a terrific relationship with South East Radio and that has to continue.”

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