herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

RTE engulfed in favouritism row after Norris's slot on Late Late

RTE is engulfed in a favouritism row over David Norris's presidential bid.

The Late Late Show could be forced to offer all of the candidates a 25-minute sitdown with Ryan Tubridy, the Herald can reveal.

Such a series of drab political interviews would be a disaster for Tubridy's ratings, according to station insiders.

"It is expected that some of the presidential candidates may yet raise objections with regard to the amount of air time they are getting compared to the exposure that David Norris got already," explained a senior source.

"The plan to give David Norris a shorter speaking time may not be accepted. It might not get the Late Late off the hook."

The 25-minute one-to-one segment last Friday -- which attracted nearly 750,000 viewers -- was used by Mr Norris to relaunch his presidential campaign.

Other candidates have now insisted the national broadcaster ensure there is balance in its election coverage.

Under broadcasting legislation, RTE has an obligation to be fair and balanced in its election coverage.

It means that equal air time must be given to each candidate, a situation which prompted the station to tell Dana Rosemary Scallon she could not take part in Celebrity Banisteoir if she wanted to enter the presidential race.

Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell's director of elections, told the Herald: "We will be seeking the same treatment from RTE for all candidates, including Senator Norris.

"The public service broadcaster must be impartial and offer all candidates equal opportunities."

A spokeswoman for Labour candidate Michael D Higgins said he "welcomes the opportunity to discuss important issues relating to the presidency in a fair and balanced environment".



Debates

"Representatives of the Michael D campaign will be meeting RTE over coming days to discuss their proposals for coverage of the election campaign, including suggested debates, and of course the issue of David Norris's appearance on the Late Late Show will have to be factored in to the equation, should he secure a nomination," a spokeswoman said.

Independent hopeful Sean Gallagher's spokeswoman said: "We're fully confident that RTE will be aware of the need for balance and will address that accordingly."

A spokeswoman for Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said everyone should be treated equally.

Montrose chiefs began implementing the broadcasting regulations from September 5.

The Late Late Show thought it had landed a major coup by securing the first TV confrontation between the presidential rivals for September 30.

It is understood the station has contacted each candidate to try to get agreement on a format for the programme.

A proposal has been put forward that each runner would be interviewed individually, apart from Mr Norris, though it is considered unlikely the segments will last 25 minutes each.

The interviews are to precede the general discussion between the group.

"The candidates will get one-on-one interviews but the duration has not been discussed yet. It's just being proposed," an RTE source said.

"The Late Late Show is aware it has to address the imbalance caused by last week's appearance by Mr Norris," the senior insider added.

Another well-placed source told the Herald the debate may yet have serious problems.

"David Norris had received a 25-minute interview and the other candidates may yet demand something similar.

"They might claim that cutting back Norris's speaking time may even portray him to be a sort of underdog during the debate itself."

hnews@herald.ie

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