Celtic cub TV may be out of step with climate

 

MEDIA & MARKETING:As ‘Fade Street’ takes a battering from critics, it seemingly is reaching its target audience, writes SIOBHÁN O'CONNELL

AS OSCAR Wilde once wrote, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”. It’s a sentiment endorsed by Stephen McCormack, the executive producer of RTÉ Two’s new reality TV show Fade Street, the third episode of which airs tonight. The show is certainly being talked about but very little of the comment is flattering.

Following the work and social lives of four girls living in a flat in Dublin, Fade Streetis inspired by the success of The Hills, the MTV show which follows the lives of affluent young ladies in Beverley Hills. RTÉ’s head of television Steve Carson commissioned Fade Streetfollowing a pitch by McCormack and his independent production company Straywave Media.

Fade Streethas been in the main rubbished by most television critics and in internet chat rooms. However, the ratings figures indicate that it is appealing to its target demographic of young viewers.

According to Frankie Carty, TV manager in Publicis Media, the show’s 15-24 audience increased by 30 per cent for the second episode. “When you compare Fade Streetto the rest of the late peak RTÉ Two schedule, the share of viewing for younger audiences has significantly increased,” says Carty. “ Fade Streetis not designed for anyone over the age of 25 so it doesn’t matter that those viewers are not watching.”

Oilbhe Doyle of ad agency MEC notes that Fade Street’s total audience dropped by one-third for the second episode last week. “The male audience showed a slight increase and one wonders what caused the drop-off among female viewers. Is it simply not the climate to be cosmopolitan and Hillesque, or has I’m A Celebritypipped them to the post?”

In McCormack’s view, RTÉ is criticised for playing it safe and also criticised when the station takes a risk. “The show hasn’t got through to middle Ireland and I don’t know if it ever will. It’s a difficult slot for the show at 9.30pm because it’s caught between the news on RTÉ One and I’m A Celebrityon TV3 and UTV. But we are still winning in our target demographic of 18-34 year olds.”

McCormack adds: “The girls in Fade Streetrepresent the Celtic cub generation who were aged 10 in 1999. Whatever about the IMF bailing Ireland out, we are stuck with a generation who grew up in the boom and they are very interesting people. When we filmed in Marbella, half of Ireland was over there.”

Fade Streetis a relatively cheap buy for RTÉ, costing about €25,000 per 30-minute episode. RTÉ has defrayed some of that cost by securing Myhome.ie as sponsor for the 12 Fade Streetepisodes.

Straywave Media’s other reality productions include Young, Dumb and Living off Mumand Celebrity Salon. McCormack says the independent television sector is under enormous pressure. “I can see the independent TV sector going through some troubles in the next few years. Cutbacks in public spending are going to affect RTÉ and the downturn in advertising will affect TV3. Basically it’s all about more for cheaper at the moment.”

THE FINANCIAL crisis has been good for business journalists. Once upon a time their work was buried in the middle of newspapers or at the tail end of television bulletins. Now business journalists are much more in the public eye as the economic fallout from the bust impacts on so many people’s lives.

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This week the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, in an awards scheme sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, honoured the best business writing of the past year. Brendan Keenan, group business editor of Independent Newspapers, was presented with an award for outstanding achievement. The judges lauded Keenan for not interjecting himself in the subject matter, a swipe perhaps at some other business commentators who have morphed into celebrities.

Keenan recalled an early lesson he learnt as a cub reporter, when an editor related the story of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. Looking out over a gathering of his happy clappy disciples, the general singled out a young man who was not participating in the evangelical fervour. Booth demanded: “And you brother, have you saved your tormented soul?” “No, sir,” came the reply. “I’m press.”

The business interview award went to RTÉ’s David Murphy, for his celebrated mike-in-the-face confrontation with Michael Fingleton at Dublin airport. The judges were impressed with this “rare insight into the chief executive of the worst performing bank in the worst performing banking sector in the world”.

The Irish Timesteam received two awards: Simon Carswell for his forensic analysis of the events leading up to the 2008 bank guarantee, while John Reynolds won the award in the business comment category for his quizzical examination of the prospects for the green economy. Other awards were won by Tom Lyons of the Sunday Timesand Charlie Weston and Peter Flanagan of the Irish Independent.