Tag Archive for RTE

Public interest demands that RTE answer questions on McCollum

Screenshot of an RTE tweet publicising the McCollum interview

Some stories stick out, and not for a good reason – there’s a whiff of something not right off them, and the much-trumpeted interview with Michaella McCollum is one of them.

(Not that I have been able to see it in full, of course. The RTE Player continues to discriminate against the Irish abroad, limiting access to content which, although brilliant, as with the recent I Am Traveller documentary, has questionable or negligible resale value abroad).

But the McCollum story itself is now a story, and there are questions that RTE needs to answer in relation to it.

I have worked for the various editorial departments of RTE (mostly radio) on many occasions, and without exception they are highly-qualified and extremely professional people.

But in this case the state broadcaster needs to be utterly transparent about how the interview was conducted. Nothing less than the journalistic credibility of the national broadcaster is at stake – stories that wouldn’t look out of place in the tabloids are all well and good, but tabloid tactics and chequebook journalism are not.

The “why Michaela?” question is irrelevant – news editors make such decisions all the time, and besides, her arrest, denial of guilt and trial were big news stories, and it is logical to cover her release and to try to unearth the truth.

The following questions need to be answered, promptly and thoroughly:

1. Who initiated the story/interview – was it Michaela, the journalist on the ground, the RTE news desk, a book publisher, PR agency or similar?

2. Did Michaella, her family, her foundation or any other party connected with her receive any sort of compensation (including, but not limited to, cash, flights or accommodation) in return for her co-operation?

3. Did McCollum and/or her representatives promise RTE or their representatives exclusivity? If so, what did they receive in return?

4. Were there any demands or requirements made by McCollum or her representatives as to where, when and under what circumstances the interview would take place?

5. Did McCollum and/or her representatives refuse to answer particular questions, or seek a list of questions prior to the interview? If so, did RTE acceded to those requests? Did the journalist on site decide the questions to be asked or was he instructed by the news desk?

6. Is there more than one take of any of McCollum’s answers to the questions posed?

I am aware that there are confidentiality issues at play here, and therefore I have not asked for specific numbers regarding compensation or costs, so RTE should be well able to reply.

And if they have signed any confidentiality agreement that precludes them from explaining the journalistic method used, then that raises a whole new set of worrying questions.

 

Rabbitte caught as Gallagher wags the dog

The last we've heard of Seanie? Don't bet on it.

So Pat Rabbitte said no.

There will be no public enquiry into “tweetgate”, and I doubt Gallagher is too disappointed.

He’s in a golden situation, whatever happens. He has been wronged, and he’s making as much hay as he can out of it.

Because this has little to do with RTE, or social media, or democracy, and everything to do with Sean Gallagher’s public political rehabilitation.

It is ironic that Denis O’Brien-owned organs like Newstalk and Independent Newspapers can be so lamenting of journalistic standards at RTE, all the while failing to apply them  themselves- before and after the fact.

In the first instance, there’s a good case to be made for the fact that Gallagher never should have gotten as far as he did.

Despite the prevailing anti-FF political climate, Dev’s border bagman was allowed to reinvent himself with ease as a community and social worker who had but a passing affiliation with the Galway tent.

Not only do we now know this to be true, we knew it at the time – but somehow, the silent acquiescence of the media allowed him to get away with it, almost all the way to the park.

Contrast this with the invasive analysis of the other candidates, in particular Martin McGuinness. Dana Rosemary Scallon had transatlantic family matters dragged up and Mary Davis was battered from pillar to post, as McGuinness had skeletons thrown at him from every conceivable closet.

But in the end Gallagher was placed in a farmyard with a cheque in his fist, very much a member of the inner circle of Fianna Fáil. The voters extracted their revenge, swiftly and mercilessly.

Since then, very little has been heard of him, but now Gallagher is back, having timed his return carefully.

With the wind of the BAI judgement in his sails, he is once again untouchable.

Once again, the lie is played out that the tweet sank him. It didn’t. The word ‘envelope’ and his proximity to the party that destroyed the country did.

Which leads us to the most worrying aspect – the hollow accusations of bias being bandied about, not least at RTE.

O’Brein’s minions would do well to remember that those in glass houses are ill advised to start getting careless with the rocks.

One only need to look at the first three pages of yesterday’s Sunday Independent to get a comprehensive view of the hysterical, anti-nationalist, anti-liberal agenda of the paper.

Turn on Newstalk for five minutes and you’ll hear a watered-down version of the same thing.

To accuse RTE of anything near that level of bias is beyond hypocritical.

RTE should not be biased. In as much as possible (and there are theoretical discussions that suggest that no-one is capable of full impartiality), RTE should strive to be as fair and as balanced as they possibly can, leaving the viewers, listeners and voters to make up their own mind.

The same cannot be demanded of privately-owned media – but what can be demanded is a clear distinction between what is news, and what is ideologically-driven comment.

For instance: the interview with Pat McGuirk – the man was delighted to ask a question on Frontline until the Sindo told him otherwise – by Jody Corcoran was not news. It was an ideologically-motivated attack on RTE, from beginning to end, and this should have been made clear. Any attempt to portray it as anything else is disingenuous and misleading.

(Add to this the fact that everyone in the PR/media business knows that you don’t just show up and ask whatever you like on TV shows. Producers and researchers are very careful about what it is they let through for all sorts of reasons- ironically, appearing to be impartial is one of the primary ones. Gallagher’s claims to be surprised at this fact lack credibility).

The same with Newstalk. At least I know George Hook is a blueshirt, and that he brings on the dimwitted squawking buffoon that is Michael Graham every week to himself appear moderate. I can take that into account, and god knows George says it often enough.

What I cannot take is Jonathan Healy saying “surely RTE must now face a public enquiry” when there is nothing surely about it.

It’s opinion masquerading as news, and the distinction should be an awful lot clearer.

As for Gallagher? Ironically, given that it was his association with them that destroyed his campaign, his FF handlers are now welcoming him back inside the tent.

Why? He is probably the only man who could save the party.  He may have been denied the Aras, but – with a little help from Denis’s uncritical minions – Kildare Street might still be he his.

All about the optics at Fianna Fail Redux

"I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. you can't prove anything."

“There is no other Troy/For me to burn”, sang a young, angry Sinéad O’Connor back in the day.

If she’d been watching the born-again fervour at the RDS last night, where Fianna Fáil were attempting to once again smear a little lipstick on the pig of their failed politics, she would have found one.

Robert Troy blew hard in the trumpet, and then he was there – the man who apparently only arrived in Ireland a year ago, and had nothing to do with its ruination – Micheál Martin.

No doubt Martin believes he spoke bravely as he forked his tongue around an apology that was – in contrast to RTE’s reporting – anything other than unequivocal.

In fact, the apology started with equivocation:

It’s not enough to point to the worst world recession in 80 years and the Eurozone crisis.  Nor to point to the fact that other parties were demanding policies which would have made things worse.

It’s worth pointing out that Ireland’s troubles are not a result of the Eurozone crisis- we are in fact the cause of a great deal of it. And for that, the blame lies one thousand percent with Martin and the rest of his Fianna Fáil spivs, who were – lest we forget – in power at the time.

He continues to perpetuate one of Bertie’s many, many lies. Nothing has changed.

But for all his bluster, his attempt to regain the high ground of Republicanism from Sinn Féin was probably the most laughable – here was the party that sold this country down the river, throwing away our hard-won sovreignty, claiming to be Republicans?

If Tony McCoy’s undercarriage is ever damaged beyond repair, he can transplant Martin’s neck as fine replacement.

But if the laughter in a million living rooms wasn’t enough, the optics were the most damning.

Every time Martin spoke of pride and achievement and of a new kind of politics, the camera panned to the Soldiers of Destiny who were the architects of our national downfall – Cowen, Coughlan, Lenihan and the spineless goons that kept them in power, not to mention Martin himself.

Not only that- the party faithful actually applauded them. It would appear the party faithful are also at least partly mad.

As the recent interview with the despicable Mary Hanafin has proved, nothing in Fianna Fail has changed – not their policies, not their leadership, not their sense that they did nothing wrong.

This crisis is something that just happened to them. They consider themselves to be desperately unlucky, rather than grossly inept and fantastically corrupt.

What they should have done was to go around to the other side of the RDS, where a careers fair was taking place.

There, they would have met the thousands desperate for a better future – any future – now forced to leave the country because of the catastrophic greed and failure of Fianna Fáil.

There, they could have prostrated themselves before those who are the true victims of this crisis- not themselves, as they would have you believe.

And there, they could have given the greatest apology of all, which would be to close down their corrupt, cancerous party and start anew.

That would have been an apology worth making.

The Ten Commandments of Irish Journalism

And lo, the Lords did not answer their e-mails, or return the phone calls, leaving the faithful to draw their own conclusions.

These commandments have been handed down to me on my two tablets (an iPad and a Samsung) and hold as true now as they did in the days of Moses (and Dev):

Denis O'Brien addresses editorial staff

1. Thou shalt honour The Editors that commission you above all else. Nor shall you have other gods before the Editor, unless it happens to be another Editor that offers you a tenner more for your thousand-word rant attacking the unemployed.

2. Thou shalt, as far as possible, portray as craven immigrants, those on social welfare, public servants and travellers.
But never fellow journalists, as we are all untouchable and never do anything wrong. Ever.

3. Thou shalt not take the names of your Gods in vain- holding editors, publications and other journalists to account is neither desired nor acceptable. Let’s face it, you could be working for them tomorrow.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, and that your best bet for getting published on it is to attack Sinn Féin or RTE as viciously as possible.

5. Honour your father and mother. This is best done by writing under a pseudonym so the neighbours won’t be able to identify you as their progeny.

6. Thou shalt not kill a story for lack of evidence – if the facts don’t bear it out, make some up. Most people won’t check, but if they do just ignore them and after a while your version will magically become the truth.

7. Thou shalt commit as much adultery as possible by writing for eveyone who asks you, and many who don’t. You can’t eat loyalty.

8. Thou shalt not steal – but if you must nick an idea or a quote, try not to get caught.  Under no circumstances should you ever credit other media as a source. Ever. This is not negotiable.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour. Save that for the foreigners, or the lads in the next parish.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house. Instead, thou shalt describe it as “a handyman’s dream” or whatever the estate agent or PR fop tells you to.

Thou shalt also remember that news is just a vehicle for advertising, and everything can be sold for a good price.

Except your stories, for which no-one is willing to pay more than a handful of peanuts for.

What is says in the papers

God, I’m dreading tomorrow’s papers.

Usually at this time on a Saturday night I’ll be watching the Twitter feed of Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times in Ireland, who performs the invaluable social service of tweeting the main stories from all of tomorrow’s papers as soon as they hit the newsstands.

I reckon he can probably take the night off tonight.

Tomorrow’s papers will, unless the Rapture arrives in the next few minutes, be about Garret, Leinster and the Queen.

Whereas I’m looking forward to reading about the first two, I’m not sure I can stomach another millisecond of the gormless cheerleading about herself across the water that has dominated the media in Ireland this week.

This was the week when Newstalk’s “news without the state-run spin” tagline became laughably redundant, as commentator after commentator read long and loud from the government script.

RTE broadcast hour after hour of uncritical commentary of her visit, beating us soundly over the head with about how “unprecedented” it was, and how “successful” it all was.

Our new government also took the opportunity to declare how the visit had drastically improved Ireland’s image abroad, despite the fact that it was roundly ignored outside of the British Isles; indeed, here in Sweden any mention of it also included the “viable explosive devices” found on the day of her arrival. Great for the image, I’m sure you’ll agree.

But rather than heralding a new era in Anglo-Irish relations (we’ve had good relations for twenty years or more now), the only thing that has really changed is the attitude of many people towards the Queen herself.

Skips quickly filled with Wolfe Tones tapes and Proclamation posters as the Irish people discovered they really liked her after all.

A lot of people were genuinely astounded at her warmth, her ability to deliver a speech (including a few words in the local language) and the fact that she was generally reasonably amiable.

Why people would be surprised that a woman who has been doing the job – and it is a job – for nearly sixty years might actually turn out to be good at it is beyond me.

But beyond the platitudes and the thundering media back-slapping, nothing has changed; all the visit of the Queen has done is cement the fact that Ireland and the Irish people don’t do accountability.

Because rather than apologise for the actions of her country in ours (which she was never going to do, and is probably why they sent her), this unelected head of state spoke of her “sympathy” for those affected.

It was as if one eight-minute speech was enough to close the book on the North and move on. Those interned without trial, or the families of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, might respectfully disagree.

Anyone not prepared to forgive and forget this week is labelled backward, a bigot or a crank, lumped in with the morons in Manchester United shirts throwing rocks at the police and failing to burn the Union Jack.

In short, a person accountable to no-one has essentially told us that no-one will be held accountable for anything, but it’s all alright because we are friends now. And we applauded her loudly for it, because that is what we do.

That is why Charles Haughey died a free man, never called to account for his actions – or his accounts – before a court. That is why Mountjoy is filled with the working-class poor while no banker nor politician has been charged with bankrupting our country.

That is why Michael Lowry still gets votes, and why Bertie Ahern gets away with telling us that his income comes from the gee-gees. That is why we remain a laughing stock, not least to ourselves.

As he is laid to rest, it is worth remembering that Garret Fitzgerald was one of the few politicians – some would say the only – who was held to account for his time in office; not only that, he also held himself to account.

His government had to administer some deeply unpopular economic medicine, and the voters extracted their revenge at the ballot box. His party was hammered at the polls, and he resigned as party leader.

It’s worth keeping that in mind this Sunday morning as the hacks have one last outpouring of superlatives over an old woman who cannot be touched and who can only be spoken to if she speaks first.

And as you read their gushing, unblinking praise and listen to the back-slapping on the morning radio shows, ask yourself why they are not doing what it is we expect them to do – why are they not asking critical questions of people in power? Why do they never manage to hold anyone to account?