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Mr Colin Coyle of The Sunday Times and RTÉ (FOI Act 2014)

Case Number: 160213

Whether RTÉ was justified in refusing access to records regarding its decision to cease the Eurosong/Mentor format of selecting Ireland's 2016 Eurovision entry

Conducted in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act, by Elizabeth Dolan, Senior Investigator, who is authorised by the Information Commissioner to conduct this review

Background

The applicant made an FOI request to RTÉ on 13 January 2016 for copies of records "regarding the decision to drop the Eurosong/Mentor format to choose Ireland's Eurovision entry in favour of RTÉ internally choosing the singer/song for Sweden 2016."

RTÉ did not issue a decision within the statutory timeframe, effectively refusing the request. The applicant sought an internal review of this effective refusal on 9 March 2016. On 13 April 2016, RTÉ issued its internal review decision. It refused access to the requested records, and explained why it considered them to be excluded from the application of the FOI Act. The applicant sought a review by this Office of RTE's refusal to grant his request, on 11 May 2016.

I have now decided to conclude my review by way of a formal, binding decision. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the above; and to copies of the records at issue, which were provided to this Office for the purposes of this review. I have had regard also to the provisions of the FOI Act.

Scope of the Review

This review is confined to whether or not RTÉ has justified its refusal of the requested records.

Findings

The applicant's application to this Office did not say why he did not accept RTÉ's reasons for refusing the records. Although invited to, he did not make any submission to this Office.

RTÉ was brought under FOI in 2000, further to Statutory Instrument No. 115 of 2000 (the Regulations). Those Regulations, which continue in force today further to Schedule 5 of the FOI Act, specify the extent to which RTE is subject to FOI. Amongst excluded matters are "4. The process of making editorial decisions concerning programme or programme schedule content which, without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, shall include preliminary programme proposal reviews, programme planning and final pre-transmission editorial decisions."

It seems to me that decisions concerning whether or not to proceed with the previous televised format for the selection of Eurovision entries are part of the process of making editorial decisions concerning programme content. Accordingly, I accept, and find, that the records at issue are outside the scope of the FOI Act.

Decision

Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm RTÉ's refusal of access to the requested records.

Right of Appeal

Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High Court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.

Elizabeth Dolan
Senior Investigator