Update: The Irish Times has apologised….to the Communications Clinic.
And the courage of Broadsheet.ie
The Irish Times publishes an article by Kate Fitzgerald, published anonymously, which they obviously are perfectly happy with. The editor is experienced enough to know which articles or statements need to be vetted by their legal team in order to avoid putting their employer in any potential danger. Then Broadsheet.ie draw attention to the fact that Kate, who committed suicide on the day the article was published, worked for Communications Clinic owned by Terry Prone columnist with the Irish Examiner, Chairman of the RTE Authority Tom Savage and Anton Savage, son and the presenter who replaced Sam Smyth on Today FM (for more on this see Gene Kerrigan’s Sunday Independent column post below). Prone’s CV tells us that she is a media advisor to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. The article was about how employers who are unsympathetic to employees with mental health problems. However, Broadsheet.ie also published a report about another employee of the Communications Clinic who brought her employer, a month before Kate’s suicide, to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and made ‘a number of serious claims against senior staff and management at the Communications Clinic alleging bullying and intimidation.
The outcome? Communications Clinic expresses their unhappiness to the Irish Times, and to Peter Murtagh, and, following legal advice, they crudely edit Kate’s last words to remove any criticism of Communication Clinic. Read on…
Actually, before you do a couple of points. First, The Irish Times now has a moral obligation to restore Kate’s words as well as one to begin a discussion about what attitude employers have towards employees who have mental health issues. It’s something we are interested in here at Irish Left Review and Justin Frewen has some done some sterling work on mental health stigma, the definition of capacity with regard to mental health, the delay and limitations of mental health policy as outlined in A Vision for Change, the social determinants of mental health and the economic cost of mental health. Each of these touches upon what Kate’s articles for the Irish Times spoke about.
When Eamon Dunphy issued his broadside against Denis O’Brien when resigning from Newstalk I wrote a sarky tweet to the effect of: “Presenter uses his well-paid gob to mouth off about working conditions. This is going to be a major scandal”. The scandal of course, would be only about Dunphy using his well-paid gob, and everything would be done to avoid talking about working conditions.
Now, thanks to the hugely admirable Broadsheet.ie working conditions are part of the discussion. I spoke before about the Irish Times having a moral obligation to use this controversy to begin a discussion that was the main message in Kate’s articles. One reason they would be disinclined to do so would be the pandora’s box of potential complaints from people who work in media organisations around the country. If half of the whispers even I hear about are true there is a lot of complain about.
Of course the central issue of this story is the power of certain figures within the Irish media and how they can silence a newspaper with a considerable reputation nationally and internationally in order to silence criticism of them. There is more to this of course, so in the spirit of Broadsheet.ie I’m republishing Gene Kerrigan’s column from the 6th of November. I wonder if they’ve tried to get Gene to shut the f**k up.
Gene Kerrigan: Radio is a Savage world — now Anton must prove he’s tuned in
It’s a small world. And to an increasing extent it’s a Savage world. Take Anton Savage, a genial young man who’s about to replace Sam Smyth on Today FM’s Sunday Supplement..
It’s getting hard to avoid Anton and his connections, had one a mind to try.
Some senators became agitated about Smyth’s dismissal, suspicious of a link between that decision and the fact that Smyth is being sued for alleged libel by the station’s owner, billionaire Denis O’Brien. Should a single piece of evidence ever emerge that a shareholder in a major radio station even attempted to speak to an executive on a matter involving his personal litigation against a member of staff, that would have severe regulatory consequences for the shareholder’s media holdings.
Therefore, we must take seriously the statement by Today FM’s chief executive Willie O’Reilly. O’Reilly said he made the decision to replace Sam with Anton because of declining listenership, that O’Brien had nothing to do with it.
“I will be making more changes in the next seven months,” O’Reilly said. Five days later he resigned from Today FM, to go to RTE. One assumes that when he categorically stated he would be making changes at Today FM over the next seven months, he had no notion that he was about to leave the station. Obviously, things move fast in the world of radio.
Eamon Dunphy joined the kerfuffle, resigning from another O’Brien-owned station, Newstalk, denouncing alleged intimidation and blackguardism. Dunphy was in turn attacked by some who said he left because Newstalk sought to halve his wages. Newstalk’s George Hook argued, with his usual forensic reasoning, that Dunphy was “full of crap”.
As O’Reilly arrives at RTE, he will be under the shelter of the RTE Authority, the chairman of which is Tom Savage, Anton’s daddy. Tom is co-founder of the Communications Clinic, a PR firm. As is Anton’s mammy, Terry Prone. Terry’s CV says she “has advised nearly every Taoiseach since Jack Lynch. Her services have been retained by all of the major parties in the Dail”, and she “provided consultancy to hundreds of the top companies in the country”.
Anton (also employed by the Communications Clinic) claims to have been “retained by a number of Ireland’s leading politicians, media figures and business people”, for PR advice.
There’s evidence of a trend towards the dreaded “positivity” at Newstalk, the need to put an unwarranted spin on business and political matters — the kind of fantasy we enjoyed during the bubble years. There are allegations that commentators insufficiently positive about politics and the economy are sidelined. Matt Cooper’s Today FM presence, where events are fairly and sanely assessed, speaks against this trend.
Anton, to put it mildly, is no Matt Cooper.
The Irish Times yesterday quoted an internal Newstalk memo which sought “viewpoints which offer different lines than normal journalism follows”. This effort to encourage abnormal journalism has novelty value.
The ascent of Anton, who has been coy about his connections to Enda Kenny, will place a huge burden on the lad to prove he’s not just a cheerleader. We don’t know which politicians or business people paid Anton (or his mammy) for advice. We won’t know, should Anton interview them.
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