RTÉ bucks recession with more investment in home-made documentaries and drama


TWO NEW afternoon shows, a raft of new documentaries and a feature-length film about Bob Geldof and Live Aid have been announced as part of RTÉ’s television autumn schedule.

The national broadcaster claims it has bucked the recession by investing in more programming with its spend on factual programming up by 14 per cent and entertainment by 16 per cent. The investment amounts to around 40 hours of extra screen time.

It has also funded two major co-produced dramas – a second series of Single-Handedhas been made with ITV, while the BBC co-produced When Harvey Met Bob, the film about the relationship between Bob Geldof and concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

RTÉ’s director of programmes Steve Carson said the broadcaster had managed to increase its output from last year because of pay-cuts taken by staff and independent production companies last year and by the stabilisation in advertising revenue this year.

“It is no secret that we have had a really tough time financially like the rest of the country, but we have managed to keep the money on screen. I regard it as a victory to reduce costs by such an extent, but not have an impact on our schedule,” he said.

The Afternoon Showwill be replaced by a lifestyle programme presented by Maura Derrane called 4 Daily, which will be followed by a more topical programme called Daily Extra, to be presented by Newstalk radio’s Claire Byrne and TG4’s Dáithí Ó Sé.

Byrne originally quit television for radio, saying it was not challenging enough, but believes the new format will suit her.

“Newstalk was fantastic but it takes a toll on you when you are getting up at 4.30am. This opportunity came along and it felt like the right time to move. I’m looking forward to doing current affairs with a human touch,” she said.

Sunday Independentjournalist Brendan O’Connor will present a series of The Saturday Night Show, having successfully hosted a strand of the programme last autumn.

“I’ve known about it for a while, but with the launch I’ve realised that it is a big responsibility. I’m edging into the fear territory now, but hopefully I’ll relax by the time it happens,” he said.

A six-part documentary series called From Here to Maternity, about the maternity unit at Cork University Hospital; the five-part The Story of Ireland, a co-production with the BBC presented by Feargal Keane; a three-part series on organised crime and a two-part documentary on Ireland’s banking collapse will also feature this autumn.

In addition, there will also be a documentary about Phoebe Prince, the Irish schoolgirl who took her own life in the US in January following a campaign of bullying; one about gifted children; another about the former US president John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland, to be presented by Ryan Tubridy, and one following the new generation of Irish emigrants.

The popular Reeling in the Yearsseries will be brought up to date by covering the Noughties.

The public will also be asked to vote in Ireland’s Greatest, having nominated the shortlist last year. The final five people are John Hume, Michael Collins, Bono, James Connolly and Mary Robinson.

The drama schedule includes a four-part series set in Dublin’s gangland called Love/Hate, Wild December, by Edna O’Brien. and Hardy Bucks, set among twenty-somethings in Co Mayo which was a major internet hit and now gets its own slot on RTÉ Two. The restaurant drama Rawalso returns.

Eddie Hobbs and Keelin Shanley will present a new studio-based consumer programme. One of its focuses will be on the value for money we get for the taxes that we pay.