‘We would be quite happy to have RTÉ relocated to Athlone’

And other nuggets from this week’s Seanad’s debate on broadcasting

There were many fine words about the importance of public service broadcasting in the Seanad this week, as Minister for Communications Denis Naughten dropped in to make a speech.

He was followed by a succession of shorter speeches, questions and what a New Yorker cartoonist would call "shorter speeches disguised as questions".

Here are some extracts.

Relocation, relocation

Sinn Féin’s Fintan Warfield had read an interesting article advocating the relocation of Channel 4 away from London. “I am thinking out loud, but wouldn’t it be something to explore the breaking down of the Dublin media and for our public broadcaster to lead that initiative?”

Recalling that Eamon Ryan had raised the issue of an RTÉ relocation with him last year (Moore Street was Ryan's Montrose-baiting suggestion), the Minister from the Midlands noted that the historic radio transmitter in Athlone was still intact.

“We would be quite happy to have RTÉ relocated to Athlone,” said Naughten to some echoing guffaws. “I just don’t know what would happen to Ciarán Mullooly’s job then.”

The fate of RTÉ’s Midlands correspondent was “something that we need to be conscious of”.

The Browne mangle and the “charity” of politicians

Michael McDowell wrapped up his contribution with some thoughts on Vincent Browne - specifically Tonight with Vincent Browne. To much laughter, he dubbed it "a case of car crash dummies for politicians".

Browne's late-night TV3 programme is "one of the greatest beneficiaries of the political system and the charity of politicians" (more laughter), yet somehow no gratitude is forthcoming. Their reward instead is to "get mangled... so that his ratings can look good".

No politician with “any sign of rationality” would appear on it, and yet they continue to do so. “For some reason we are decent to the man and we respect his record in journalism and keep his programme going for him.”

Senators in their 70s don’t see the point of “Network 2”

Fianna Fáil's Terry Leyden was clear in his belief that more people should pay their television licences to support high quality public service broadcasting. But his definition of that didn't extend as far as RTÉ2, as the channel is currently called.

“I wouldn’t have any problem with Network 2 going into privatisation actually quite frankly. I think that it is surplus to requirements. Only for sport, there isn’t not much that I see on it quite frankly,” said Leyden.

The shocking revelation here is that a senator who was born in 1945 was not an avid viewer of Can't Cope, Won't Cope and hasn't yet succumbed to First Dates.

Could it be that he doesn’t personally fall into RTÉ2’s target demographic?

All-male panels are unacceptable, hears all-male Seanad debate

With no female Senators participating in the debate, it fell to feminist ally Aodhán Ó Ríordán of Labour to bring up the issue of gender balance (or rather the lack of it). "The practice of having all-male discussions has to be terminated," Ó Ríordán told his fellow men.

A “creeping issue”, he added, was that RTÉ’s flagship programmes were too willing to give platforms to nasty, vitriolic people who are “little more than cartoon racists”.

Ó Ríordán has had more than enough, thanks, of “dangerous, dangerous people with dangerous, dangerous viewpoints, with no political mandate at all” being “shipped in from abroad” to provide some dispiriting “entertainment value”.

Well, he’s not the only one, is he?

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

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