Varadkar criticises dominance of RTE on airwaves
A LEADING government minister has criticised what he described as RTE’s dominance of the airwaves.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar described its domination as more than was desirable in any democracy. Addressing the MacGill Summer School on the topic of ‘The Media and Democracy’, Mr Varadkar also called for greater diversity in the ownership in the press.
“We don’t want an entirely foreign-owned press. Also we don’t want any one group or any one body having dominance in the media, whether that is a private company or even whether it is the state broadcaster. “RTE is very dominant on the airwaves and on TV much more so than any democracy would like,” he said.
The minister said that Irishowned was very important, and stressed the importance of diversity of ownership between public and private. He described RTE as having a unique standing in Irish life and performing an essential role.
“However, it also has the unique privilege of the licence fee. This carries with it very onerous responsibilities: namely the need to maintain high standards, consistent neutrality and proven objectivity. The minister indicated that the Government in its next session would move towards the introduction of media mergers legislation to avoid what he termed as “excessive dominance” in the media.
He also claimed the press ombudsman had not been “particularly effective” to date. “People I know that have gone down that route haven’t been very happy and have subsequently gone to law and that is the best way they can defend their name. I’m not sure that putting (the press ombudsman) on a statutory platform would make much of a difference,” he said. He added that the Government would consider in the future the introduction of proper privacy legislation which he claimed was overdue.
Meanwhile, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte – who was also at the summer school – called for a reduction in the number of grades in the civil service. Speaking last night, the minister said such a move might not only simplify the payroll and pension administration but might also reduce current levels of bureaucracy.
“I think it’s something that needs to be looked at. “We need an efficient functioning civil and public service. “Some of the old distinctions that come with it from the 19th century, the time has come to look at them,” he added.