Once again we witness a blatant and unprofessional example of bias by RTEs Sean O’Rourke.
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy was debating the Greek crisis with Suzanne Lynch, Irish Times European Correspondent in Athens.
Murphy was getting the better of Lynch which did not sit well with O’Rourke so he blatantly intervened not just to defend Lynch but to speak on her behalf.
Here’s the relevant section of the debate with my comments.
Paul Murphy: I think Suzanne Lynch’s articles have been consistently biased and taking the side of the so-called creditors. In a recent article she referred to Tspirias as a self-styled Che Guevara figure. That’s not unbiased journalism, it’s taking the line of the establishment and repeating the propaganda here…
…Interrupted by Sean O’Rourke.
O’Rourke: Hold on, before you go any further I want Suzanne Lynch to come back on that if she wishes – Suzanne?
Suzanne Lynch: I think I’ll just leave that actually, Sean.
Murphy continues but is immediately interrupted by Lynch as she thinks of a defence.
Lynch: That was an analysis piece that I wrote and in the Irish Times there’s a strong division between news and analysis and I’m not going to get into a defence of my work with Paul Murphy on radio.
This is a weak and ridiculous defence. Bias can, and frequently does, appear in both news and analysis.
Discussion continues with Paul Murphy tearing strips from both Lynch’s point of view and Juncker’s speech until O’Rourke again interrupts him.
O’Rourke: Come back to the point, you’ve dealt with that now and Juncker’s speech at some length. What about the points Suzanne Lynch made and, by the way, I don’t think it’s right for you to accuse somebody of bias. I think Suzanne Lynch is a professional, honest journalist reporting things as she sees them and by the way to describe your man as a self-styled Che Guevara is a complement.
Clearly, O’Rourke felt that Lynch was not performing well so, abandoning all semblance of professional impartiality, he intervenes, not only to castigate Murphy for accusing Lynch of being biased, but to deliver his personal, glowing assessment of Lynch’s honesty and professionalism.
If Lynch wasn’t in tatters after Murphy’s deconstruction of her arguments then surely she was in the realm of humiliation as she listened to O’Rourke’s well intentioned but utterly patronising and unasked for assistance in arguing her case.
Here’s the truth of the matter.
O’Rourke did not intervene in support of Lynch because he thought it was unfair of Murphy to accuse her of being biased. Accusing somebody of being biased is a common and accepted norm, particularly during political debate.
O’Rourke intervened because he clearly holds the same political views as Lynch and, as Murphy dismantled her arguments brick by brick, he felt compelled to intervene and help her out.
Everybody is biased to one degree or another but professional broadcasters are trained to conduct a debate without listeners ever getting a hint of where they stand on the issue under discussion. This training has just one aim – to maintain the credibility of the broadcasting station.
It is clear from this and previous incidents (here and here) that O’Rourke has permission not only to take sides but to blatantly intervene in support of those who are at one with his views and, presumably, those of RTE management.