TG4 calls for more Government ‘ambition’ as it unveils 25th birthday season

Broadcaster brings ‘súil eile’ to Irish media despite ‘monolithic’ funding system, says DG

TG4 is "needed more than ever" in an era of intense competition from global media companies but the Government must "show much more ambition" for the service, director-general Alan Esslemont said on Monday.

As the Irish-language broadcaster launched its new season programming, Mr Esslemont said TG4 could reflect “with some satisfaction” that it has brought a “súil eile” (another perspective) to Irish broadcasting and that it would continue its efforts to “reimagine” its role beyond its 25th birthday, which it celebrates this Halloween.

"Our unique purpose sets us apart and we're a vital part of modern Ireland. But after 25 years, we do need the Government to show much more ambition for TG4 and free us from the old paradigm of second-class or third-class resourcing in which TnaG was launched in 1996," said Mr Esslemont.

"The wording of the 2009 Broadcasting Act delivers very little between the public service duties of RTÉ and those of TG4, however TG4 is only allocated a tenth of the resources of RTÉ. So the present public service media ecosystem in Ireland is clearly monolithic."


In 2020, the broadcaster said TG4, Screen Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) Sound and Vision fund should share public funding “equivalent” to that received by RTÉ.

"Compared to the way Welsh is supported in Wales, the Irish State continues to display a clear lack of ambition for the Irish-speaking communities and for Irish language media. The Greeks have a saying: big results require big ambitions," Mr Esslemont said.

Birthday plans

The TG4 boss was speaking on a livestreamed virtual event outlining its upcoming schedule of drama, documentary, entertainment and sport.

Its birthday night will be music-themed, with Gradam Ceoil TG4 awarding recipients of Gradam Ceoil at a gala event in Belfast.

Documentary series Misneach explores the treatment of whistleblowers who take a stand against wrongdoing in the workplace, while An Cuan takes a year-long look at Dublin Bay and the people who live and work there.

History documentary Áille ar Airgead follows the lives of two women: Mary Cunningham from the Donegal Gaeltacht, who became the face of the US "golden dollar", and US-born Hazel Lavery, who graced the first banknote after the birth of the State.

Drama-documentary Violet Gibson: An tÉireannach Mná a Lámhach Mussolini tells the story of the Irish woman who almost assassinated the Italian dictator, while Colm Cille An Naomh Dána will celebrate the birth of the revered but troublemaker saint who was born 1,500 years ago.

Derbhile Ní Churraighín, one of TG4's commissioning editors, said she was personally looking forward to Go mBeirimid Beo, a tongue-in-cheek look at the pandemics of the past and how Ireland has emerged from them.

“This is not our first rodeo,” she said. “We have had pandemics before and we will get through this one as well.”

Elsewhere, sustainable fashion is the theme of new entertainment series Éadaí SOS, presented by newcomers Caoimhe Ní Chathail and Proinsias Ó Coinn; ladies GAA footballers will be put to the test in a new season of Underdogs, and Louise Cantillon will present the search for a singer to represent Ireland in Paris in Junior Eurovision.

There is also room on the schedule, meanwhile, for Daniel O'Donnell, who will play homage to Philomena Begley in a new season of Opry le Daniel.

Rugbaí agus GAA Beo

In sport, TG4 will show 26 games from the new United Rugby Championship on Rugbaí Beo, which begins at the end of September. It will also have live coverage of the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Rugby Series on Rugbaí na mBan Beo for the first time.

GAA Beo will continue its coverage from GAA county football and hurling club championship and the AIB provincial club championships.

In children’s programming, new live action series this season includes kids’ engineering show Na hInnealtóirí and entertainment life swap series Mo Shaol do Shaol. For younger viewers, Timpeall Orainn is a new nature series and all the important questions in life are asked in An Bhfuil a Fhios agat?

TG4’s acquired dramas will be “very, very edgy as usual”, Ms Ní Churraighín said. They include Stateless, co-created by and starring Cate Blanchett, and the BBC’s Small Axe anthology series from acclaimed director Steve McQueen, while acquired international documentaries will be shown in a new season of Fíorscéal.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics