Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rabbitte criticised for claims RTE staff 'too cynical'

Emma Jane Hade

Published 01/09/2014 | 02:30

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte

A leading media expert has criticised the attack on RTE by former Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Rabbitte yesterday revealed that he believes the public service broadcaster's staff are too cynical in their line of questioning, accusing them of often adopting an unnecessarily negative approach.

Mr Rabbitte said that he believes that "what can go wrong?" should be considered as the "signature tune of the national broadcaster since the financial crash of 2008".

In his Sunday Business Post column, the former Labour party leader yesterday accused the broadcaster of giving the economic recovery a daily "ice-bucket treatment".

But Colum Kenny, a professor of communications, questioned the extraordinary remarks from the Labour TD.

"I think Mr Rabbitte is still clearly smarting from the people's decision in the most recent elections, and I don't really see his point," Mr Kenny said.

"He needs to be more specific about these things. I think it would be more useful if he could say exactly what his point is, because I think we need stronger journalism."

Mr Rabbitte was minister with responsibility for RTE until the Cabinet reshuffle earlier this summer, when he was ousted from his role at the helm of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

He had held the position since the 2011 general election. He was replaced by failed Labour leadership candidate Alex White.

In the bizarre attack, Mr Rabbitte acknowledged that he had previously been a champion of RTE, writing that "the charge is fair" in relation to accusations of him being a "defender of the public broadcaster".

He also said that he believes the public service broadcaster is a "public good", and can hold a central role in "political and social life".

However, he continued to say that it "ought to be possible to subject politicians to rigorous questioning without seeming to set out to undermine confidence in politics itself".

He said: "It should be possible to criticise the running of the household without pulling down the house."

However Prof Kenny said that he believes RTE is not unnecessarily negative.

"I understand why people want journalism that is sceptical and critical, because they are experiencing the fruits of a political mess. And it is difficult to understand what his point is in that article," he told the Irish Independent.

"I don't see RTE generally as being very negative. I wouldn't like RTE to be very positive either.

"I think journalists have to be objective and to ask the questions that the people want asked. And, I think in general, they are doing that quite well.

"And, if there are particular failures in the area of current affairs or news when it comes to matters of current controversy, there is a mechanism there for people to complain to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

"I don't think that RTE is unduly critical, but I wouldn't like RTE to be unduly positive either.

"There are exceptions of course, but I don't think I would like to see an RTE that was less critical of the political process."

RTE last night did not comment on the remarks.

Mr Rabbitte, who was the leader of the Labour Party between 2002 and 2007, has been openly critical of Tanaiste Joan Burton's choices of Cabinet appointees since he was sacked, and admitted that "of course I wanted to stay on".

The 65-year-old also publicly snubbed the new Tanaiste by exiting the Dail chamber before she made her reshuffle speech.

Irish Independent

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