John Boland: From national to niche in a multi-media world
WHEN RTE television was in its infancy, it attracted a captive audience fascinated with its every faltering step -- not a difficult feat given that, in the early 1960s, most Irish people hadn't access to UK channels and thus no competing claims on their loyalty.
That fidelity was tested when BBC and ITV transmissions became readily available in Irish homes, but there was still something about Telefis Eireann, as it was then called, that outside broadcasters couldn't match. That was its ability to show us both the world around us and ourselves, too -- acting as both window and mirror in the phrase used by John Bowman for the title of his recent history of RTE television.
All public service broadcasters, of course, strive for that kind of commitment to their particular communities, giving people not just what they want but what they should want, too -- educating and enlightening their viewers as well as entertaining them.