RTÉ invites pitches for ‘broad church’ religious shows and ‘must-see’ entertainment

New commissioning rounds get under way as broadcaster begins to shape future schedule

Baz Ashmawy (right) is taught how to do Wudu in his two-part RTÉ2 series ‘Baz: The Lost Muslim’

Baz Ashmawy (right) is taught how to do Wudu in his two-part RTÉ2 series ‘Baz: The Lost Muslim’

 

RTÉ Television is warming up for 2017and beyond with a number of new calls to independent production companies for programme ideas in areas such as religion, wildlife and entertainment.

“Opportunities for commissioning religious programmes in 2016-2017 are certainly limited, but not non-existent,” the commissioning brief for RTÉ Religion reads.

It says any new programmes in the genre “must broaden and enrich” the existing religious slate, which comprises Would You Believe? and The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, as well as the Angelus films, the iWitness “nightly reflections” and the broadcasting of masses, service and religious festivals.

“What aren’t we currently doing, for which independent producers might be able to attract funding from non-RTÉ sources?” asks the brief for the department, which is overseen by editor of religious programmes Roger Childs.

Although it is “an interesting time to take stock of the changing position of the Catholic Church in Irish society”, RTÉ is also keen that independent production companies “think beyond Catholicism” when making pitches, citing Baz Ashmawy’s two-parter Baz: the Lost Muslim as an example. “RTÉ is Ireland’s broadest church,” it says.

Formats that engage younger audiences and the “I’m not religious but I am spiritual” generation in energetic and informed ethical debate are “particularly welcome”, while the 500th anniversary of the birth of Protestantism in 2017 and any other anniversary “hooks” are likely to be of interest.

“Whatever the subject, the approach must be both authoritative and entertaining. Religion should not be po-faced. Be clear what you’re trying to say and find creative, original and compelling ways to say it,” the brief says.

RTÉ also wants to add “ambitious” natural history and wildlife series to a past roster of Broadcasting Authority of Ireland-supported series including Secrets of the Shannon, Wild Cities and the forthcoming Deep Ocean, a two-parter that received €250,000 from the BAI in a past Sound & Vision funding round.

In entertainment, the broadcaster is seeking proposals for several series, including a three-part, post-watershed factual entertainment show that would run on RTÉ2.

“While we won’t shy away from the serious, this is at its core an entertainment proposition and our audience wants to kick back and enjoy a journey with a strong cast of characters,” the brief reads, citing Meet the McDonaghs as an example of a series that worked well in a similar one- hour slot.

The channel, which is aimed at the 15-34-year-old audience, is also in the market for ideas for “must-see” six-part entertainment series for 2017 of both one-hour and 30-minute durations.

It wants programmes “with real appeal and talkability for the target audience”, advising independent production companies that this is “a chance to make the case to us for something new, or maybe something old with a clever twist for a new generation”.