Press Council rejects Communicorp complaint against the Irish Times

The council found the Irish Times "took sufficient remedial action"

Press Council rejects Communicorp complaint against the Irish Times

The logo of the Press Council is pictured during the launch of its 2017 annual report | Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Press Council has rejected a complaint against the Irish Times made by Communicorp over its handling of the George Hook controversy.

The media company - which owns Newstalk, Today FM, 98FM, Spin 1038 and Spin South West - submitted a complaint about a piece by Fintan O'Toole published on September 12th 2017.

Communicorp said the article "stated on a national platform that Newstalk, and by clear implication its senior management team and staff, were flagrantly, systematically and staggeringly sexist".

However, the Press Council found that by publishing a right of reply the Irish Times had taken sufficient remedial action to resolve the matter.

In highlighting the context of its complaint, Communicorp pointed out that the article was previously the subject of a complaint to the editor of The Irish Times by Newstalk’s Managing Editor Patricia Monahan, who sought a right of reply.

A right of reply by the managing editor was published on September 16th.

Communicorp subsequently submitted a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman - stating that it had decided to seek a retraction and apology for the comments contained in the article.

The Irish Times stood over the article and said that the column represented the opinions of the writer and appeared on a page with a large opinion heading.

It acknowledged that Communicorp was entitled to disagree with those opinions which is why, it said, it had published a lengthy reply from Newstalk’s managing editor.

Communicorp responded stating the article was 'fundamentally flawed' and poorly researched.

It said the newspaper’s response dealt with none of the issues in any real way, and questioned the facts upon which the newspaper said the article was based.

The Press Ombudsman refered the complaint to the Press Council of Ireland, which activated a sub-committee of the council to consider the complaint.

The sub-committee found: "Articles that are presented as opinion pieces, as this one clearly was, enjoy a wide measure of protection under the Preamble to the Code of Practice.

"In the immediate aftermath of the publication of the article, the managing editor of Newstalk sought and was granted a right of reply on behalf of Newstalk’s management team and its employees.

"The right of reply was published four days after the article under complaint and was of a similar length to the article.

"In the view of the sub-committee, the publication of the right of reply by the Irish Times represented sufficient remedial action on its part to resolve the matter."

Mr Hook was suspended from his programme last September after comments he made about rape.

He later apologised, saying he never should have made the remarks which critics described as "victim blaming."