For non-Irish folks reading this, RTE stands for Radio Telefís Éireann. RTE is an organisation of about 2000 people based in unimaginably expensive HQ in Dublin. The organisation is a publicly funded (through “broadcast license fee”) television & radio network that also runs ads to fund itself.
This post should be a laundry list of reasons RTE should be wound down and it’s assets sold off, but that would be unbecoming. Instead, I wanted to briefly note what I think RTE should be.
Before I can do that though, I must call out the obvious (if you’ve ever seen RTE programming): RTE is not the BBC in Ireland. The BBC is well funded, mostly well-run and strives to serve the best interests of it’s audience, the British public. RTE is a pseudo-commercial clique of self-interested & incestuous individuals that strives to serve the best interests of it’s employees (generally speaking, relatives of other employees or politicians).
Disregarding recent scandals about the sheer amount of money the tax payer shovels into RTE to pay for bloated salaries of poorly performing “talent” or behind-the-scenes folks, the latest news story to hit about RTE is that they lost the rights to televise the 6 Nations rugby tournament. If you’re not European, this isn’t a big deal. But it’s a huge annual sporting occasion that, thankfully, Ireland has a very strong lineage to represent within. RTE lost the license to a fully commercial rival, who’s broadcast on day 1 ran adverts that cut off the opening kick of the opening game in the tournament (Ireland really shouldn’t have any broadcasters!).
But RTE is important. It has a strong and proud history. And indeed, if it were to strive to serve the people of the island it would prosper. The issue it has is that it sees itself as competing with foreign TV, Netflix or YouTube. And rather than chalk it up as a lost cause, they keep pumping tax payers money into garbage knock-off shows.
RTE’s TV network is effectively comprised of 3 stations. RTE 1, 2 and an Irish language counterpart. RTE 1 is an attempt at being a BBC clone, and it fails awfully. What it should actually be is some sort of news, current affairs & sports. RTE does effectively nothing to support local & national sports (of which we have lots). Where’s the local rugby? The local inter-county GAA or League of Ireland football coverage dominating the station? Instead the channel is paying around €3000 per episode for a cheap rip-off of Dancing With The Stars. This isn’t promoting the national culture or informing the nation. It’s cloning something almost all Irish people have access to in British formats anyway!
RTE 2 could be wound down, but I think it’s a phenomenal prospective vehicle for youth programming & experimental work. Akin to Channel 4’s (moreso E4) efforts with youth production. Give a budget to some grads and see what happens. Moreover, use it to screen independent Irish film & TV production. Right now, outside of YouTube, the best place to watch quality Irish content is at film festivals or a 9-inch screen in the back of a headrest on an Aer Lingus flight to the US. Americans on vacation get better access to Irish production than Irish people sitting at home channel-hopping.
Irish people already have access to 150,000 TV stations through various mediums. We can already stream most content online anyway. If we want to watch some crap reality TV, we can. RTE could differentiate itself with locally produced, useful and informative content that would justify the broadcast license in the first place. Instead we have overpaid and under-talented gobshites pretending that they’re rivaling the BBC.