April 28, 2014 by Fiachra
April 28th 2014 saw a historic live debate between party candidates for the European Commission Presidency. A potential audience of 500 million people were invited to send in contributions over the internet. Surely national TV networks were scrambling to televise it? Not so in Ireland. In place of this historic debate, our national broadcaster RTE chose to broadcast the Six One News and The Simpsons. Granted, the Six One News has occupied that slot for decades, but The Simpsons could be pushed to a different weekly spot, surely? In any case, likely most Irish people didn’t even know that it had happened.
The recent and ongoing economic and political crisis has made it clear to us as Irish citizens the extent to which the EU impacts our daily lives. In this context, it is difficult to describe RTE’s lack of attention to European affairs in the run up to the European elections as anything less than a shameful abdication of its duty as a state-owned public service broadcaster.
To further compound the disgrace, ‘Euronews’, the network hosting the debate, is part-owned by RTE. Indeed, RTE has consistently failed to make proper use of Euronews content, and the channel itself is not available through Saorview. Irish TV license payers could only access Monday’s debate over the internet, or through a private satellite/cable-TV subscription.
Of course RTE isn’t alone in providing shamefully sparse coverage of EU affairs. However, it is abundently clear that, as a sate owned public service broadcaster, it needs to vastly overhaul and improve its coverage of European affairs. Equally, there is no justificaiton for not providing Euronews as a standalone channel through Saorview. We need to make an informed choice on May 23rd, and the duty of the media is to provide us with the facts to make that choice.
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