From top: The Currency; Denis O’Brien; Green Party leader Eamon Ryan; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
In the Dáil.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan raised with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar the recent decision by Denis O’Brien-owned Communicorp – which owns Today FM, Newstalk, Dublin’s 98FM and Spin 1038 – to ban all The Currency staff, journalists, and contributors from appearing on the company’s radio stations.
It follows the implementation of similar ban against Irish Times‘ journalists in 2017.
“It seems to me that there’s a lacuna on our law. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland seems unwilling to take action against Communicorp which recently made a decision that certain members of the media, Tom Lyons and Ian Kehoe, from currency.ie [sic, thecurrency.news] will be restricted from taking part in radio programmes on their stations.
“It’s similar to the decision taken two years ago in response to an article Fintan O’Toole wrote which saw The Irish Times’ journalists banned from the stations.
“The recent case they say it because of commercial rivalry.
“I sense, I’ve talked to every grouping here today, is that every party is in agreement that that’s an egregious or has a poor effect on our democracy. We need a free press which is open to debate and allows different voices to be heard.
“And whether it’s for commercial reasons or whether it’s an editorial view of a certain owner – that they mightn’t like what is written in a paper – to ban journalists from radio stations is not what we want.
“To avoid the legislation, could I ask you maybe to join the other leaders and groups of every grouping in this House, to write a letter to Communicorp asking them to reverse the decision in both cases and to stand up for press freedom.
“I’d be keen to hear your views on that so I’d be happy to join the deputy in that.
In response, Mr Varadkar said:
“My sentiments are the same as his [Eamon Ryan’s] on this matter. I believe in free speech and I believe in a free press and I don’t believe anyone should be banned from the airwaves – journalist or citizen – unless it’s for a very good reason.
“And those reasons should be somebody inciting hatred but I don’t think that anyone should be banned from the radio, from TV, or from any publication, solely based on who their employer is.”
The Currency was launched last week by former Sunday Business Post editor Ian Kehoe and business editor Tom Lyons.
Hours after the website went live, Communicorp producers were informed of the ban.
Earlier this year, Mr O’Brien lost a defamation action he took against the Sunday Business Post over articles published in March 2015 about a Government-commissioned but unpublished PricewaterhouseCoopers report into Ireland’s top 22 borrowers.
The newspaper reported that PwC recorded Mr O’Brien as No.10 on the list.
In November 2008, after receiving the PwC report, the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil that Ireland was right to guarantee the banks in September 2008.
He also told the Dáil that there was enough money in Ireland’s banks for the next three years.
Mr O’Brien claimed the articles concerning him in the Sunday Business Post were defamatory of him but the jury found this was not the case.