Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK has said that he refused to speak to the island’s public service broadcaster on Tynwald Day due to the way it reported his visit to Hospice after returning from the British-Irish Council in June.
The incident was brought up by Chris Thomas MHK in Tynwald’s sitting on Tuesday who asked if Mr Quayle had made any formal complaints about the reporting of his visit for the opening of the Tevir Wing.
Whilst Mr Quayle said he had not made any formal complaints, he added: ‘I do have to express my disappointment at the way Manx Radio reported the visit. I consider the reporting to have lacked balance and to have only selectively reported the facts.’
Following a subsequent question from Mr Thomas, Mr Quayle rejected the accusation that he had threatened to take away the station’s subsidy, he said: ‘What I pointed out was, is that Manx Radio receives circa a million pounds to provide a quality news update to the people of this island and Manx programs, and I felt that this is not happening at this moment in time and therefore you have to question how this goes forward.’
Manx Radio’s initial report focussed on the fact that Mr Quayle had attended the opening less than 10 days after he arrived back from his trip to the conference in Northern Ireland, with the station pointing out that the current gov rules stated anyone arriving to the island must not enter health and care setting for 10 days.
Hospice and the Chief Minister said that he was allowed to attend the visit as he received permission from the centre and the event was held away from active care settings. Mr Quayle has also now been cleared of any wrongdoing after a police investigation.
When Mr Thomas pushed Mr Quayle on why he chose not to speak to the station’s presenters on Tynwald Day, he said: ‘If I feel unsafe giving interviews to an organisation because I’ve been mislead and sensationalised, why should I continue unless I receive assurances that I will be treated fairly and a small apology?’
He continued: ‘I know there are other members of this court who do not take part with the odd organisation where they feel they’ve been misrepresented, I’m not the first and I’m sure I won’t be the last. For me it’s integrity … I know I’ve apologised on numerous occasions to the public when I feel I’ve let them down or we’ve not maybe given them the service that they deserve. Press regularly ask me to apologise on certain issues, I asked for an apology where I was clearly vindicated by our police force who had hours of their work wasted too, I haven’t received an apology.’
Mr Quayle also spoke about his decision not file a formal complaint and hinted at a desire to change the law, he said: ‘Had this been broadcast, a more serious complaint could have been made, but sadly, a comment can be made about any member of this honourable court online and the law is so weak it’s unbelievable. I would hope that the next administration would look into that.’
Bill Shimmins MHK asked: ‘Is the Chief Minister aware that his veiled threats towards Manx Radio have put chills down the spine of those here who value the free press in a small democracy and that the free press must be able to operate without fear or favour? Will he confirm that he will now conduct interviews with the state broadcaster, is he really refusing to talk to them?’
In reply, Mr Quayle said that whilst he continues to answer questions from the station at press briefings, he also maintains that: ‘When it’s a personal request for my personal view, I’m not prepared to do that.’