Public media funding essential to avoid ‘toxic’ environment, says Blindboy

‘Large amount of money’ needed to make great television, commission hears

Artist and podcaster Blindboy: Public funding is needed to give creative people the chance to succeed.

Artist and podcaster Blindboy: Public funding is needed to give creative people the chance to succeed.

 

Public media funding must be protected to give creative people the space to fail, satirist and podcaster Blindboy Boatclub told the Future of Media Commission on Friday.

“When you have a situation where public service broadcasting is focused exclusively on popularity or profit, that’s a toxic environment for creativity and art,” he said.

“The work that I do independently, whether it be my podcast or the online stuff, I do because publicly funded spaces over the past few years have been unable to provide me as an artist with a space to be creative, and it’s that simple.”

Blindboy, who rose to fame as one half of comedy duo the Rubberbandits, was objecting to a question posed in the title of the commission’s panel session, which asked what independent media should do to “evolve toward long-term sustainable models that avoid or reduce dependency on public funding”.

“I don’t like that question. I really, really don’t like that question,” he said.

“An essential part of creating art and being creative is failure. Public funding must exist to provide artists with a large space to fail – to fail and to experiment, and to make mistakes, and to learn along the way. That’s what public funding needs to do, and if you do that, then there is a chance at greatness.”

Great television in particular “requires a large amount of money” to make, Blindboy said. He described it as “a shame” that the multitasking required of him to make his hit podcast was “cutting out a bunch of people” from technical roles that public funding could have supported.

Role of RTÉ

Earlier in the “thematic dialogue”, Virgin Media Television (VMTV) and Screen Producers Ireland (SPI) both outlined ways in which they said RTÉ should be restructured.

SPI chief executive Susan Kirby said RTÉ should become a publisher-broadcaster over a five-year period, meaning all its programmes would be made by independent companies with the exception of news, current affairs and some light entertainment. The current model is “no longer tenable”, she suggested.

VMTV director of operations Áine Ní Chaoindealbháin said RTÉ should be required to fund RTÉ One, RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ Player and RTÉ.ie from licence fee funding only and other RTÉ services only from commercial sources.

RTÉ’s dual funding from both the licence fee and advertising is a “reasonable” model given the size of the Irish market, RTÉ director of strategy Rory Coveney told the commission.

“Is it perfect? No, and I’m sure some of our commercial competitors will have a view on that. But I think on balance it is about right.”

Linda O’Reilly, editor of the Anglo-Celt, said public funding made available to radio stations in 2020 was “deserved”, but had highlighted “the lack of a level playing field” for news publishers, while Newsbrands Ireland chairman Vincent Crowley reiterated its call for a 0 per cent VAT rate on newspapers, reform of defamation laws, policies to address the dominance of tech platforms and the creation of a publicly funded journalism academy.