Wednesday 18 October 2017

'Boring' Brexit a turn-off, says RTÉ editor

RTÉ’s flagship current affairs programmes find covering Brexit a problem as it is considered boring. Stock photo: PA
RTÉ’s flagship current affairs programmes find covering Brexit a problem as it is considered boring. Stock photo: PA
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

RTÉ's flagship current affairs programmes find covering Brexit a problem as it is considered boring and a "turn-off" for viewers, a senior editor with the State broadcaster has claimed.

David Nally, managing editor for RTÉ current affairs television, said that while news bulletins are not ratings-sensitive, programmes like 'Prime Time' and 'Claire Byrne Live' are competing with football or entertainment shows on other channels.

Staff who work on those current affairs shows know from experience that Brexit is an audience "turn-off".

Mr Nally said: "You have to bear in mind that those programmes have 30 seconds at the top of the programme to persuade people to watch them. You have to be aware that the Champions League is on RTÉ 2, 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here' is on TV 3, and 'The Big Bang Theory' is on E4," Mr Nally said on a media-focused panel on Brexit organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA).

"Why does it have the tag of being boring? The easy answer is that it is complex and it lacks real people. The better answer over the last year is that it hasn't really changed.

"While I would say that RTÉ current affairs has covered Brexit several times, it is a difficulty to keep saying the same thing over and over to people, especially when you can't show them that it's affecting real people's lives, that it's changing, or that the big players, the big decision-makers are appearing on the programme," Mr Nally added.

RTÉ’s David Nally. Photo: RTE
RTÉ’s David Nally. Photo: RTE

But Fionnán Sheahan, editor of the Irish Independent, said he "disagrees strongly" with anybody who suggests that Brexit is a boring topic.

"What happened 12 months ago was a game-changer across this country and if we're not going to cover a topic like that comprehensively and throw any and all available resources at it, then I don't know why we are in journalism," he said.

Paul O'Neill, the newly appointed editor of the 'Irish Times', said the paper had published around 1,000 articles on Brexit over the past year. He added: "There is interest, but it really is nothing extraordinary."

Sebastian Hamilton of the 'Irish Daily Mail' said that, unlike the newspaper's UK version, it supported Remain.

He said that journalists need to employ critical thinking around their coverage.

On the same panel, Ian Kehoe, editor of the 'Sunday Business Post', said Brexit had impacted everything while affecting nothing. He said newspapers ran the risk of "Brexit fatigue" with their readers.

Irish Independent

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