Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The prefered colour in RTE this season? Whitewash

The next time I get in trouble, I’m hiring PR supremo Mary Finan if I can afford her fees. Listening to her on Drivetime treating presenter Mary Wilson like a bold child who had the sheer gall to question her …

Tue, Dec 18, 2007, 09:03


The next time I get in trouble, I’m hiring PR supremo Mary Finan if I can afford her fees. Listening to her on Drivetime treating presenter Mary Wilson like a bold child who had the sheer gall to question her authority, you could understand why suited and booted business leaders pay serious wedge for advice from the WHPR founder.

Finan’s other gig is as chair of the RTE Authority and she was on Drivetime in that role to talk about the RTE report into the High Society debacle.

The report? I might be reading it wrong, but I think it goes a little like “hey, we’re RTE and you’re not! No, just kidding, we’re OK, thanks for asking. There were some shortcomings in the awful little programme about charlie abusers which slipped through the net, but do have another mince pie, darling. No-one is going to get sacked, OK, that doesn’t happen here, we’re not the BBC, after all. The licence-payer won’t notice as long as Derek Mooney is still on the TV. Everything is happy-happy-joy-joy, everything is tickety-boo. Could you pass the pies please?”

The manner in which Finan dealt with Wilson’s questions and quibbles was a masterclass in spin. She even managed to tie High Society in with the acclaimed Seven Ages series:

The people responsible for this programme have also been responsible for some of the best programming that has been broadcast by RTE in the past, such as the Seven Ages, the history of the 20th century.

Associating master documentary-maker Seán Ó Mórdha and Seven Ages, his fantastic, peerless, unquestionably honest tour-de-force of a series on the birth of the Irish nation, with a shoddy, sensationalist, cheap-ass, unsubstantiated series about junkies was breath-taking in its arrogance.

But it also doesn’t seem to ring true. Seven Ages was made by Ó Mórdha’s Araby Productions in association with The O’Reilly Foundation, while High Society was made by a crowd calld Big Mountain Productions. While both shows may well have had production people in common, the association seems a little odd.

Naturally, Wilson let this pass. Maybe this was because Finan had already snapped once at Wilson when the presenter had interrupted the chair’s thoughts. I couldn’t imagine Sean O’Rourke giving Finan the same lee-way with her answers. Interestingly too, it sounded like a pre-recorded interview from the way it was intro’d and outro’d. You can be sure that a cute operator like Finan would not allow herself to be ambushed on air.

It’s worth repeating that no heads will roll over this ridiculous and opportunistic waste of time, money and resources, all paid for by you and me, the licence fee holders up and down the country. It never happens. You just never see those who have messed up in, for example, the health system or a government department or even a TV studio taking responsibility for their actions and departing with some modicum of dignity. There seems to be an inbuilt Irish gene that prevents them from doing the honourable things and instead encourges them to brazen it out.

In this case, the relevant commissioning editors are the guilty parties. They were the ones, after all, who oversaw this disaster. They were the ones who went ahead with a show without exercising “RTÉ’s established editorial controls” to quote the report. Isn’t that what commissioning editors are supposed to do when things go wrong, take the rap for the crap they’ve created? Do they even get a slap on the knuckles? A dressing down? Detention? A hundred lines? Actually, on second thoughts, that last one is a little inappropriate in the circumstances.

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