Let me tell you about The Late Late Show and fairness.
Next week, the show will feature several songs, one of which will be chosen as Ireland’s Eurovision entry.
The backing band and singers for one song are a girl band from Sweden, who asked me if I could find them a gig in Dublin on the Saturday.
I contacted Ryan Tubridy’s show and we agreed that it might be fun to have the girls go on the radio on Friday morning and then have Ryan’s listeners find them a gig for the Saturday night.
Then, yesterday evening, I got an e-mail to say that the idea was being nixed, as it wouldn’t be fair to the other acts appearing on the Late Late to highlight one on the radio show, and not the others.
Then Tubridy interviewed socialist TD Paul Murphy on the Late Late, and all semblance of fairness went out the window.
Tubridy is a terrible, almost comically bad political interviewer.
His only tactics are to provoke his subject and try to channel some semblance of righteous indignation.
But in trying to seem tough and uncompromising, he instead comes across as rude and ignorant.
His questions are aggressive, shallow and transparent, and when the subject answers them capably, he irritatedly talks over them and moves on.
Of course, this Paxman- (very) lite approach is the first thing the media handlers will tell the politicians as they prepare to face him.
Tubridy was entirely right to ask Murphy about his history, his political career, his penchant for protest and his numerous arrests.
And asking him to explain the footage of Murphy with the bullhorn during the “siege of Jobstown” was also journalistically valid, even if it has already been done to death.
But the decision to show the footage of an entirely separate protest, in which Murphy had no hand, act or part, was the most morally bankrupt editorial decision in a long time.
And given that we’re talking about Ireland here, that is some achievement.
The film of Murphy holding the bullhorn is journalistically valid because it gives the context of what happened in Jobstown.
The showing of the film in which president Michael D Higgins was called a “midget parasite,” under the tenuous logic that some of those shouting are known to Murphy, was all about subtext.
Paul Murphy supports water protestors.
Water protestors are violent, foul-mouthed people.
Paul Murphy is a violent, foul-mouthed person.
Deliberate or not, it was a nakedly political act – its message was “protesting is OK, but for the love of GOD don’t offend anyone or inconvenience our betters.”
But the question about the presidential protest had to be asked, you may say – but did it really?
Murphy has condemned the behaviour of those in the video (including those people known to him) on countless occasions.
About half an hour later, the game was up.
The jovial Chris De Burgh was sitting on the couch, singing his songs unprompted and telling everyone how great he was.
But here we had a man who had sex with a teenage girl while his wife lay recovering from a broken neck in one of the greatest scandals in Irish celebrity history, and he wasn’t asked about it.
So the dalliances of the millionaire class pass without criticism, while Murphy has to explain things that have nothing to do with him.
The problem, and it is a problem all over the world, is that journalism is now very much a middle-class profession.
The staggering lack of job security and the pitiful sums paid to journalists for their work mean that only those of independent means can engage in a career.
The result is that newsrooms – and the production offices of shows like the Late Late – have no innate understanding of what life is like for the working class.
Much is made of the influence that Denis O’Brien may or may not have over his newsrooms, but the fact is he doesn’t have to exert any influence at all.
All he has to do is ensure that he hires editors and journalists that share his view of the world, and the rest will take care of itself.
The working class voices are only ever solicited outside the dole offices or courthouses, or on YouTube clips when they finally get it into their heads to protest.
The result is that those who work with working class people and try to improve their lot, like Paul Murphy, are mistrusted and insulted in the media.
Holy Catholic Ireland, as it once was, has never been exposed to socialism or social democracy – the soon-to-be-defunct Labour Party is to the right of Thatcher on many issues.
So it would have been interesting to see what Murphy had to say about his own politics, his atheism (if he is an atheist), about education and health and the EU.
But no. Instead, we are treated to standard reactionary journalism that ensures that the Irish working class will always pay the piper, but it will never be allowed to call the tune.