TDs ask RTÉ for more ‘Oireachtas Report’, less Willy Wonka

The broadcaster made ‘a small surplus’ in 2013, but pressures remain, committee hears

Everyone's a critic, and that goes doubly so for members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, who yesterday got to share their views on RTÉ's output with its senior management. So what was their take?

Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan is not the first politician, and probably won't be the last, to complain that Oireachtas Report goes out in a slot best suited for insomniacs. RTÉ was also doing "a disservice to democracy" by not broadcasting the fine work of the Oireachtas committees, he claimed.

There was more. His analysis of the Christmas listings in the RTÉ Guide had revealed that "Willy Wonka is still knocking around, as is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ", and Gene Wilder on his screen made him feel like it was the 1970s.

FG colleague Brendan Griffin had another angle. RTÉ's sports coverage is up there with the finest in the world, he declared. But would it be at all possible to get those Premier League highlights back? "Especially now Liverpool are going well."


Griffin was “baffled” as to why RTÉ had embraced the reality television genre, which he apparently did not rank on a par with the worthy world of sport.

Given he had just spent the bulk of his opening remarks outlining the competitive pressures that RTÉ is facing, RTÉ director general Noel Curran may have felt that these misgivings were missing his point. Still, the questions were addressed one by one.

Oireachtas coverage, including committee hearings, often runs earlier in the day on the RTÉ News Now channel, news and current affairs managing director Kevin Bakhurst said.

As for RTÉ’s choice of Christmas films, “not everybody is going to like everything”, Curran pointed out. There was definitely an audience for reality television, he added, and RTÉ avoided “the crasser end” of it anyway.

The issue of sports rights could happily concentrate the minds back on RTÉ’s financial predicament in terms that everyone could understand. Although it made “a small surplus” last year, pressures remain, and the Government’s surprise €5 million hit in the last budget didn’t help. “€5 million a year would secure an awful lot of sports rights,” observed Curran.