Sunday 23 October 2016

Savage Eye can't see funny side of TV licence

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

No laughing matter: Dave McSavage's latest project was not picked up by RTÉ.
No laughing matter: Dave McSavage's latest project was not picked up by RTÉ.
Sex scandal: the media has been gagged.

Like many people who have taken an interest in Irish comedy over the years, I have a long­developed aversion to David McSavage.

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A squawking, unpleasant sort of chap who seemed to confuse abusing baffled passers-by with edgy humour, this scion of a Dublin political dynasty - his real name is David Andrews - always held himself with the arrogance of his class, even when he was pretending to be a radical outsider too dangerous for the comedy establishment.

The truth was that he just wasn't very funny.

But that was then and this, as they say, is now.

McSavage changed - well, he changed in the sense that some of his Savage Eye skits were funny. It was as if his rage-compass had finally found true North and he proceeded to get stuck into the self-regarding elite of Irish life with furious abandon.

Now, with the news that he is up in court later this month on charges of refusing to pay his TV licence fee, I find myself reluctantly agreeing with him once more.

According to McSavage: "I refuse to pay my TV licence fee because the money will go to RTÉ and they are not producing comedy. Their output is appalling and they have no respect or passion for the craft of comedy."

Few people will disagree. For every sporadically brilliant appearance by the likes of The Rubberbandits or Après Match or Irish Pictorial Weekly, we have to endure The Republic of Telly or an endless plethora of comedy panel shows where the aim seems to be as resolutely unfunny as possible.

To further bolster McSavage's claim, he has been savaged by Rory Cowan of Mrs Brown's Boys, who is bizarrely perturbed by the rival comedian's position.

According to Cowan: "Pay your f***ing TV licence Dave. How can RTÉ make comedy you do like, if they don't have the money for programmes? You have to pay for entertainment. How would Dave like it if punters decided they weren't going to pay into his gigs?"

It's a sign of how deeply embedded into the ranks of the establishment the Mrs Brown's Boys team truly are if they're defending an unjustifiable tax. But then nothing, absolutely nothing, about Mrs Brown's Boys has ever been funny, so it should probably come as no surprise that Cowan would carefully toe the party line.

For the record, both comedians are wrong, although Cowan is more wrong than McSavage.

For starters, Cowan seems to forget that people have a choice about paying into a gig or not. There is no such choice with the licence fee. Instead, there is compulsion and a form of legal bullying which is as absurd as it is infuriating.

But McSavage misses the mark when he says he won't pay just because he doesn't like the kind of comedy Montrose produces.

Nobody is going to like everything that RTÉ produces. In fact, there were plenty of people who could have used this argument simply because they didn't like Savage Eye.

Also, the fact that he has only come out with his brave stance in the wake of RTÉ refusing to commission his latest project simply smacks of conveniently timed sour grapes.

It's pointless to mention individual programmes as a reason for not paying your licence fee. Instead, if McSavage had actually wanted to make a point, as opposed to apparently withholding his fee in a fit of pique, he would have pointed out that it is an anachronism that simply has no place in modern society.

If our national broadcaster was as crucial as they like to claim, they would have introduced a subscription service by now. They haven't and they won't because they know few people would bother.

I've less problem paying the water charges than I do paying the licence fee, but bitching because your new show didn't get picked up is hardly the way to convince the public.

Equal pay? Game, set and match there, girls

The vexed issue of pay disparity in elite sports has been a hot topic for the last few weeks.

This contentious topic usually revolves around tennis and the recent spat kicked off by Novak Djokovic brought the whole, unresolvable argument back into the frame once again.

For the record, I've always felt that in tournaments where both men and women play the same number of sets, they should get paid the same. When it's the exclusively male best-of-five sets, as in the Slams, then it makes more sense that the men get paid more. After all, anyone who believes in equal pay for equal work surely also believes that people who do more work should get paid more.

But this week's row between the US women's sawkur team and the gender pay gap is a much more interesting topic.

Relatively speaking, the women's team is more successful than their male counterparts, yet when both teams compete in the Olympics, the men will be paid more.

Five of the female players have lodged a legal complaint about the disparity and, frankly, it's hard to disagree with them.

While the men's team have progressed enormously in recent years and were many people's underdogs in the last World Cup, the women's team is more successful and brought in more revenue to the US Soccer Federation.

Under those strictly financial terms, then, if anything, the women should actually be paid more than their hairy male peers.

But one factor remains unmentioned - remember when nobody got paid for the Olympics and simply competed for the honour of representing their country?



Ah, injunctions, where would we be ­without ye?

In much the same way that licence fee is simply absurd in this day and age because so many people just bypass the TV and watch foreign product on their laptop or Chromecast, the idea of a judge in one territory blocking information that is freely available in another is both baffling and, well, bloody stupid.

That's the current situation we find ourselves in with the news that a judge in England has granted an injunction against papers naming a "married celebrity couple" in relation to a sex scandal.

There's only one problem with this injunction...actually, there are many problems with the rich and famous being able to use their wealth to stifle the press. But the most pressing absurdity of this particular gagging order is that the couple have already been named in The National Enquirer.

This paper is sold in Britain so we can't break the injunction, but it really doesn't matter - anyone with half a brain can discover the identity of the couple and the nature of the scandal by spending 30 seconds on social media.

This is a perfect example of the shifting tectonic plates caused by the internet - judges suddenly realising that their judgments are no longer as absolute as they used to be.

To which we can all only say... about time.

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