RTÉ vs. TG4
RTÉ vs. TG4

Here’s an interesting snippet from the ever-vigilant NAMA Wine Lake. Guess which TV station was the only television broadcaster in Ireland to make a profit in 2011? Not the country’s official “national” broadcaster RTÉ, which ran up losses totalling some €70 million, despite broadcasting little beyond a diet of cheap overseas programming (with €351 million in revenue for 2011 one wonders where all that money went…? Actually one doesn’t since one know’s perfectly well where a large chunk of it went). And certainly not the British-owned tabloid channel TV3 whose dubious strategy for success has centred on becoming an über-trash “ITV Ireland“. It lost nearly €7 million euros in 2011, no doubt irritating quite a few hedge-fund managers back in London. In fact the only TV company to produce anything resembling a gain was none other than “minority” TV station, TG4, which generated €109,000 from an operating budget of €32 million.

Not much you say? Paltry, even? Perhaps. But it wasn’t a €70 million euro loss. A loss equal to one-third of a full year’s TV licence fee payments (or more than double TG4’s total annual budget).

One might argue that if it wasn’t for the vested interests in RTÉ and elsewhere the Irish state would have turned over English language broadcasting in the country to the private sector decades ago. And the politicians might even have done things right and established real regulations guaranteeing responsible ownership and quality of output for non-public broadcasters. We might then have allowed the “national” broadcaster to be what it should always have been – an Irish language broadcaster. This would have created the space for private broadcasters and overseas media providers to fulfil the market need for English language television and radio in Ireland while the public sector provided what the market wouldn’t – TV and radio programming in Irish.

An RTÉ network with two television channels and three radio stations and a state-funded (but independently administrated) budget of €300 million would not only be value for money but actually serve the purpose and spirit of public service broadcasting. Instead what we have now is a mess: a dog’s dinner of a mess that stinks to high heaven. A bloated whale of incestuous back-rubbing represented by RTÉ (which is increasingly indistinguishable from either the BBC or ITV in terms of actual shows broadcast), two foreign-owned, entirely-for-profit trash TV channels, TV3 and 3e, that pump out visual excrement with impunity, and TG4 which almost single-handedly is propping up indigenous television-production in Ireland, particularly in the independent sector, and actually attempting to fulfil its public service mandate.

Or is all this common sense way too radical for the conservative elites that lord it up in Television Centre and Leinster House?

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