New Year's Eve broadcast to start RTÉ celebrations


RTÉ KICKS off an extended celebration of its 50th year in television this weekend. TV50 will be marked across RTÉ Television, radio and with newly commissioned programming as well as the re-broadcast of classic moments in Irish television.

Broadcasting live from the Gresham Hotel in Dublin’s O’Connell Street on New Year’s Eve 1961, Teilifís Éireann was launched by President Eamon de Valera with the words: “Never before was there in the hands of men, an instrument so powerful to influence the thoughts and actions of the multitude”.

As cameras filmed invited guests in the ballroom, people gathered in the snow outside and around TV sets nationwide to hear poetry read by Siobhán McKenna and Micheál Mac Liammóir and music and song featuring Jimmy O’Dea and Maureen Potter.

Journalist Miriam O’Callaghan will host New Year’s Eve Liveon Saturday when, at the stroke of midnight, TV50 will be officially launched on RTÉ 1.

Joking that Gay Byrne had declined to host the New Year’s Eve show because “no one watches it”, O’Callaghan said she was very excited to do it and said viewers could expect “a big star line-up.”

In advance of the night, she was joined yesterday by station stalwarts Ryan Tubridy, Bill O’Herlihy and Jim Bartley, alongside past colleagues Zig and Zag and Bunny Carr in toasting TV50 at Fair City’s McCoy’s pub.

As part of the TV50 programme, up to 20 archive programmes will be launched on RTÉ Player each month.

Carr, presenter of legendary quiz show Quicksilver, recalled joining the broadcaster as a “commercial reader” two days after it opened when the first ad he read said: “Buy Belinda baby pants.”

Carr described the station’s early days “as total chaos” and said RTÉ “opened long before it should have.”

An employee of RTÉ for 22 years, Carr added: “I had a two-year contract in 1962 and it lasted until 1984.” He joked that Gay Byrne had only a three-month contract.

RTÉ sports presenter Bill O’Herlihy said the 1990 World Cup penalty shoot-out in Genoa was the highlight of his 46-year broadcasting career.

O’Herlihy said the 1969 Seven Daysprogramme exposing illegal moneylending in Ireland, which led to an Oireachtas tribunal, “damaged” him.

He said he was “a victim of the government’s decision to put manners on RTÉ current affairs”.

However, he continued: “The days of RTÉ being afraid of government are long, long gone.”

O’Herlihy will be covering his 10th Olympics for RTÉ next year.

Late Late Showpresenter Tubridy started broadcasting on RTÉ 2FM aged 12.

Reviewing books for Poporama,the children’s programme hosted by Ruth Buchanan and Ian Dempsey, he recalled his time on the show.

“There was a fog of Benson & Hedges smoke from him and More Menthol from her – there was just smoke in the studio because it was the Eighties.”

Working as a runner on 2FM’s Gerry Ryan Showbefore climbing the ranks to host the Late Late Showin 2009, Tubridy said this year’s Toy Show, which drew one and a half million viewers and was the most-watched television programme for 17 years “was one of the most enjoyable nights of my life”.

“It put a bit of wind in my sails. I really just loved it.”

Managing director of RTÉ Television Glen Killane said he hoped TV50 would “not only serve as a comforting slice of nostalgia for us all in tough times but also be a source of great national pride.”

Director general of RTÉ Noel Curran said television had served “as both a window and a mirror to an evolving nation.”

RTÉ’s TV50 highlights

Dec 31st, RTÉ 1, 11.30pm

New Year’s Eve Live

RTÉ’s TV50 coverage kicks off when Miriam O’Callaghan presents a live music and chat show, looking back at the year that was and ahead to events celebrating the anniversary.

New Year’s Day, RTÉ 1, 9.30pm

TV50: The Entertainers

A look back at 50 years of entertainment on RTÉ through the eyes of entertainers such as Gay Byrne, Terry Wogan, Mike Murphy, Larry Gogan, Twink and Dara O’Briain.

Jan 2nd , RTÉ 1, 9.30pm

TV50: 50 Years in the Glow

Presented by comedian Pat Shortt, this documentary tells the story of the last five decades of RTÉ Television, as told by the viewers.

Jan 5th , RTÉ 1, 7pm

TV50: A Little Bit TV

A series of eight profiles of well-known Irish television presenters who share personal and professional memories while reflecting on the changing nature of television. Bill O’Herlihy starts the series.

In the first week of January, RTÉ 1 will also rebroadcast programmes from the archives including:

Rural Portrait - King of the Road,( Monday Jan 2nd, 8.30pm) A 1968 profile of Michael Cleary and his father who between them have worked the roads of South Tipperary for 90 years.

Wheels of the Road – Life in North Kerry( Friday Jan 6th 8.30pm) Shot over 10 days in 1974, this documentary captures the sounds and rhythms of rural life.

Scope - The Four Roads( Friday Jan 6th, 7.30pm)

A 1973 documentary capturing the daily life of 70-year old traveller Winnie Mongan and her family.

Also 50 next year are the RTÉ Guideand The Late Late Show, whose anniversary will be marked by a special programme this summer.