TV3 argues for current affairs sponsorship

Chief executive recounts bid to reclassify Vincent Browne’s show as entertainment

A sponsored ’Tonight with Vincent Browne’ would be a different beast, according to McRedmond. “We could have taken to show to Limerick, to Galway, to Donegal. We could have got two more researchers on the show.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

A sponsored ’Tonight with Vincent Browne’ would be a different beast, according to McRedmond. “We could have taken to show to Limerick, to Galway, to Donegal. We could have got two more researchers on the show.” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

At the Can We Trust Our News? media conference held in DCU yesterday, there was a heartfelt plea from TV3 chief executive David McRedmond: trust us not to be compromised by our commercial relationships . . . and let us have more of them.

Under European Union rules upheld here, sponsorship of news and current affairs programmes on television is not permitted. This has made life awkward for TV3, which would dearly love to have a sponsor for its late-night current affairs staple Tonight with Vincent Browne.

McRedmond recounted his valiant effort to circumvent the regulation in 2009 when he signed a sponsorship deal with Bank of Scotland Ireland (as was) and then reclassified Browne’s show as an entertainment programme. Once the regulator caught up with him, its chairman, Bob Collins, was having none of this cheek from Ballymount, Redmond recalled.

A sponsored Tonight with Vincent Browne would be a different beast, but not in the way that some might assume. “We could have taken to show to Limerick, to Galway, to Donegal. We could have got two more researchers on the show,” said McRedmond. “How am I to fund news and current affairs when I can’t be sponsored?”

There are some minor anomalies in sponsorship regulation – The Late Late Show, which includes current affairs segments in its editorial mix, is permitted sponsors, the incumbent being Sky Broadband.

Meanwhile, thanks to an intervention made six years ago by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s predecessor, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, sponsorship of current affairs programmes on radio is allowed, which is why Newstalk can sign Energia up to sponsor Pat Kenny.

The old “conflicts of interest” problem doesn’t arise, McRedmond argued.

“If anyone thinks for one moment that the sponsorship I got for Vincent Browne was somehow going to influence the editorial of that show, then I suggest they take that up with Vincent Browne.”

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