How RTÉ reported #AppleTax on Nine O’Clock News

Here at FPP we’re not just concerned with what happens, but also how it is reported by mainstream media.  So here is the first of our “report on reports”.

Overall, our analysis of their coverage of the story seems to be one leaning more heavily toward #TeamAppeal.  While there was a fair amount in favour of the #TeamKeep argument it was presented as more of an afterthought.

The lead report was filed by Tony Connelly.  Basically he laid out the facts surrounding made by the European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

Next it was on to the reactions from the Irish Government and Apple itself, as if you could tell the two opinions apart.  Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the ruling was on “tenuous grounds” and that the Irish govt had done “nothing illegal”.  They read a statement from Apple saying the Commission was “rewriting history” and that they had “complied with tax laws”.

The text of the RTE report went on to speak of the “fundamental differences” between the Irish govt and the EU and using words like “sovereignty” and “taxpayers”.

Next up we had “Economic correspondent” Sean Whelan who laid out the amount of tax paid by Apple and how they diverted it into a “Head Office” that didn’t actually exist.  This is precisely what Vestager did in her announcement by the way, only Whelan had some fancy graphics on display behind him as aids.

Now it was time to go to “outside experts”.  First, speaking for #TeamAppeal was Brian Keegan from Chartered Accountants Ireland, who basically said there was no way we should keep  the money.  Then arguing for #TeamKeep was Dr Jim Stewart – the graphic just had “Trinity College” by his name but it wouldn’t have hurt to add that he is Associate Professor in Finance (Business & Administrative Studies) there.

Eventually we get to the reaction of the other Irish parties.  Fianna Fail (who had a soundbite from spokeperson Michael McGrath TD) and Labour (no soundbite) came out on #TeamAppeal.  The other “left-wing” parties are firmly on #TeamKeep and there were soundbites from Pearse Doherty of SF, Richard Boyd Barrett of PBP and Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats.

The most important reaction will be that of the so-called “Independent Alliance” that is currently propping up the Minority Government along with the “silent partners” Fianna Fáil.  We had a brief soundbite from John Halligan but apparently their opinion would be made known to a Cabinet meeting the following day.

Finally the report went to two more RTE correspondents – David Murphy, who laid out the “morality issue” of the notion of the Irish government denying its own Exchequer and award of such size, and Martina Fitzgerald, who repeated the importance of the Cabinet meeting today.  Not sure if that reportage was a two-person job, but there you go.

Like I said earlier, I got the sense that this report was presented with a leaning more toward the #TeamAppeal side of things, much like Joe Duffy had done on his Liveline show earlier that afternoon on RTE radio.

To provide a bit more balance, perhaps they could have actually spoken to the Commissioner herself, as did American public broadcaster PBS NewsHour :

Any member state can have their own legislation we would never question that – but the thing is you cannot give a specific company a benefit or advantage.which is not open to other companies.

Sounds to me like a reasonable statement from someone with the job title European Commissioner for Competition?

Now to wait and see what happens next.  Paschal Donohoe was on today’s Morning Ireland and said the Dáil would not be brought back early from its recess so we’ll see how this morning’s Cabinet meeting pans out.