Editorial independence is fundamental to trusted public media and underpins its role in holding power to account. 

The Isle of Man’s Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, has called for an apology from the island’s public broadcaster, Manx Radio ,following a report in June on his visit to the reopening of a hospice days after he returned from a political visit to Northern Ireland. He is also refusing to give interviews to the broadcaster as a result.

The report said that the visit “appear[ed] at odds” with the government’s COVID rules at the time, which instructed anyone who had been off-island not to visit medical settings for 10 days.

Quayle called the report “sensational” and “unbalanced” because it didn’t make clear that the visit didn’t include a medical setting. He also claims that Manx Radio has not agreed to requests for a meeting about the issue.

At a parliament sitting on Tuesday 22 June, Quayle said: “Manx Radio, who were told this, chose not to run with the full story and just went and put a sensational headline, which is very disappointing, when you are giving a radio station £1 million of taxpayers’ money, that you are not getting balanced news where the full picture is given.” Quayle has not filed an official complaint.

The comment has been interpreted by some as a “veiled threat” towards essential state funding for Manx Radio and as a broader message about press freedom, which Quayle denies.

Reacting on Friday, Manx Radio bosses said that facts in the report were provided by the government’s communication team. The broadcaster also disputed claims that it refused a meeting, saying that it had asked for a written agenda of what would be discussed. This was never provided by Quayle’s team.

In a statement Manx Radio said: “We don’t feel it unreasonable for a written agenda, together with a list of proposed attendees, to be provided ahead of any meeting requested by the Cabinet Office.

“The editorial independence of the news team at Manx Radio is at the very centre of what we do. It is also vital to all news organisations across the Island and globally.”

Editorial independence is at the heart of public service media and underpins the public’s trust in its ability to hold power to account. Any attempt by politicians to steer these decisions undermines this independence and must be called out.

Header Image: Manx Radio microphone. Credit: Manx Radio