New Priorities

RTE anseo agaibh – but in what guise?

kevin Rafter

RTE is gearing up to mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of a domestic TV service in Ireland. Commissioning editors have expressed an interest in independently produced programming to be broadcast in the run-in to the next year's anniversary date. Telefis Eireann first broadcast on 31 December 1961 with an official blessing from the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, along with music, song and poetry, and a live broadcast from the Gresham Hotel in central Dublin.

Eamon de Valera spoke of his privilege in addressing the watching audience but the president added words of caution: “Like atomic energy it can be used for incalculable good but it can also do irreparable harm. Never before was there in the hands of men an instrument so powerful to influence the thoughts and actions of the multitude.”

Caution is a good word to describe RTE as it edges closer to this significant anniversary date. Indeed, in looking back over the last half century of television broadcasting, the state owned broadcaster may well mark down July 22nd 2010 as a key date in its history. That was the day when RTE confirmed that Cathal Goan was not seeking an extension to his seven-year tenure as director general. It was also the day when the government signalled that the privatisation of state assets including RTE was on the agenda.

Communications minister Eamon Ryan had kind words for the departing senior RTE executive.”Cathal knows that the number one job in public service broadcasting is programme-making and he has remained committed to that throughout his career,” Ryan said. RTE remains the big beast in the Irish broadcasting sector but Goan's successor faces a tough climate with continuing pressure on advertising and increasing competition especially for younger viewers and listeners. Faster broadband is also only going to accelerate audience fragmentation as the web wins more viewers.

On top of this agenda is now the future of the current operational structure at the national broadcaster. UCD economics lecturer Colm McCarthy is heading a team of three experts in examining how commercial semi-state companies can stimulate job creation and support Ireland's economic recovery. Interestingly, no private sector voice will be involved in the process. The review group has been asked to consider the potential for asset disposals in the public sector in view of the indebtedness of the State. A list of possible asset disposals will be presented to the Department of Finance within months.


‘With Cathal Goan leaving RTE, a new director-general can be expected to make changes. RTE has moved beyond being a broadcaster, it is a cross-platform media business' – Kevin Rafter

Minister Ryan has been vocal in his opposition to the sell-off of An Post and key energy assets, including the ESB and Bord G

Share with friends:

Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy