How to break in
The first step for most people hoping to work in television is a degree course in journalism or communications.
Many aspiring presenters do a training course at the Bill Keating Centre or the Park Studio, where Marty Whelan, Ferdia MacAnna, producer David Malone and newscaster Michael Murphy are among the lecturers.
Some go the route of working for a number of years in local or national radio, developing an on-air personality that they will one day try to transfer to television. For example, Mairead Farrell honed her media personality on radio before being spotted by television producers and landing a spot on ‘The Panel’. She's currently working on a documentary for RTE.
Others get a foot in the RTE door through research or production jobs, either within the station or with independent production companies. These can be low-paid contracts but provide a valuable introduction to the industry and its big-name presenters. Often, researchers or production staff will start out in young people's television before moving up to work on a peak-time programme.
Others, like Ella Mac- Sweeney, will make the crossover from a specialist show such as ‘Ear to the Ground’ to mainstream programming as their appeal becomes obvious. Kathryn Thomas's presenting job on the travel show ‘No Frontiers’ was for an independent production company.
Irish speakers inevitably start out in TG4 — think Grainne Seoige, Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh. Before TG4 existed, Bibi Baskin wrote for an Irish-language newspaper. Further up the scale, as reputations are being established, it becomes more about networking and being liked by bosses at the station. Along with good looks, talent and professionalism, the focus is also on having a longterm goal, having the staying power and thick skin to weather rejection, criticism and of course, getting on to the books of an agent like Noel Kelly or Joanne Byrne, who between them, look after many of the big names in RTE.
Once you make it, RTE's stars are vigorously protected by its press and information officers.