GAA president ‘shocked’ by ‘aggressive’ RTÉ interviews

Broadcaster rejects Liam O’Neill’s criticism, insisting coverage was ‘fair and impartial’

The GAA has announced a new three-year TV deal, which includes   Sky  broadcasting 14 matches exclusively in Ireland for the next three years. Photograph:   Cathal Noonan/Inpho

The GAA has announced a new three-year TV deal, which includes Sky broadcasting 14 matches exclusively in Ireland for the next three years. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 19:12

GAA president Liam O’Neill says he was “shocked” by the “aggressive” RTÉ interviews he and director general Páraic Duffy took part in on Tuesday, in relation to association’s decision to sell media rights to Sky.

The association confirmed yesterday that it agreed a three-year-deal with the broadcaster for the first time and that 14 championship games were to be exclusively aired in Ireland by the satellite channel, which will broadcast 20 in total.

Australia’s Channel 7 is to broadcast all 45 live championship games free to air.

RTÉ retain the lion’s share domestically with 31 live championship matches, the same as last year, plus the Sunday Game highlights programme rights, whereas TG4 and Setanta keep their league rights for Sunday afternoon and Saturday evenings, respectively.

TV3 have lost out completely but it was reaction by longstanding partners RTÉ that O’Neill took issue with today while at the GAA Museum to induct Mick O’Dwyer, Micheál Kearins, Pat McGrath and Noel Skehan into the Hall of Fame.

“An awful lot of the reaction was misinformed because they reacted before the news story,” said the GAA president. “That was a bit unprofessional of some people doing that.

“Then, when they got the information, they zoned in on one particular part of the deal. And quite frankly, in relation to last night, we are shocked by the treatment we got from RTÉ. Every single one of the interviews was aggressive.”

O’Neill was seemingly particularly displeased with the tone of the interview with Duffy on Prime Time.

“RTÉ are our partners. They have got 31 of our games. They have radio, we give them access beyond what would be given to broadcasters in other sports and in other countries. We didn’t expect them to be in our favour – we weren’t looking for that. We were looking for balance and I don’t think we got balance last night.”

O’Neill also criticised the make-up of the studio audience.

RTÉ this evening rejected the criticism, with head of current affairs David Nally insisting the coverage was “fair and impartial” and that the GAA got a “very fair shake”.

With regards to Prime Time, Nally added that of the nine people who spoke on the issue during the show, “five of them spoke in favour of the GAA, three against and one was neutral”.

As for O’Neill’s assertion that the line of questioning was “aggressive”, Nally said: “It’s the job of an RTÉ current affairs presenter, when interviewing someone one-on-one, to ask hard questions, the questions the audience would like asked. That’s an opportunity for the interviewee to answer those questions and get their message across to the audience. So, that should not be misunderstood as some kind of bias against the person who is being interviewed.”

O’Neill insisted earlier that “when people see the improvements and the different approach Sky take,” the will be “happy”.

The GAA president dismissed criticism centring around the fact there would be games some people will not get to view.

“There were games last year that weren’t televised at all. But nobody jumped down our neck about that. And there will be games this year that won’t be televised.

“For example, Laois will play Longford in the championship this year, and at the moment, there is no-one to cover that game. The argument about some games not being available to people isn’t a valid argument because there are some games not covered anyway.

“But all games are covered, in some way or other, by radio, whether it’s local or national. And as well as that, there have been a number of games with Setanta for a number of years anyway. And the same fellas who live in isolated places haven’t been able to get those. So there is a lack of consistency in the argument here.”

O’Neill concluded by insisting had the deal been turned down, he and Duffy would have come in for criticism for that.

“That’s exactly what people would have done. And that’s what we didn’t do. We didn’t let them down, we didn’t take the easy option. We’re giving people access to our games abroad, we are giving a wider opportunity to promote our games and we’ve taken that leap of faith.”

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