Breheny beat: What next?
Will managers be entitled to suggest changing the presenter of 'The Sunday Game' or for RTE to submit staff rosters for their approval?
Published 08/06/2011 | 05:00
does a group of GAA inter-county managers have the right to interfere in the internal workings of a commercial organisation, albeit one which enjoys State support in the form of a TV licence? The answer is that they most certainly do not.
However sincerely based it may be, the decision by some managers to challenge RTE over its use of Brian Carthy this year is an unacceptable interference in the running of the broadcaster. That it's being done against the backdrop of a possible boycott, whereby managers refuse to co-operate with RTE Radio, is outrageous.
Let's remove the personalities from the argument in order to provide a clearer focus for what is a truly bizarre situation. I'm also doing that because I've known -- and respected -- Brian Carthy for many years as a colleague from another branch of the media, while I deal with managers on a weekly basis.
The key issue here is how managers view their responsibilities as leaders of county teams. They are perfectly entitled to take a stand on anything to do with their players or themselves, even to the extent of refusing to conduct interviews if they have grievances with a media outlet.
It might not be the most mature way of dealing with a perceived problem but, unlike professional sports, where managers and/or players are obliged to present themselves for interview, Gaelic games rely on the goodwill of the participants when it comes to media interaction. It works reasonably well, although obviously friction does arise from time to time.
The latest controversy is a totally different situation. The managers have -- as far as we know -- no complaints over RTE's coverage of their particular teams or indeed of Gaelic games in general, but are batting on behalf of an individual staff member.
What next? Does it entitle the managers to suggest changing presenter for the 'The Sunday Game' or other GAA presenters/commentators under threat of boycott if the request is denied? Withdrawing co-operation is a very blunt instrument which, once deployed, can be difficult to control.
Besides, how would managers react if some lobby group attempted to interfere in arrangements at their place of employment? Presumably, it would be treated with the disdain it would deserve both by them and their bosses.
The managers have engaged in a battle they can't win which is not a good premise on which to launch a campaign. If there's one thing that any organisation dislikes it's outside interference, especially when accompanied by an implied threat that there will be sanctions for ignoring it.
The GAA don't want to become involved in the 'RTE v Managers' dispute, not least because they have no way of solving it. They can't instruct RTE on the use of their staff, no more than they can order the managers to do interviews.
However, it's not good for GAA business overall. Sponsorship deals are entered into with companies on the basis that the GAA can deliver on certain requirements because they have contract agreements with specified broadcasters, of which RTE remain No 1.
If managers refused to engage with RTE Radio over an issue not directly related to the GAA, championship sponsors would rightly feel they were being short-changed, yet Croke Park could do nothing about it.
Still, the bigger issue remains the apparent belief among managers that they are sufficiently powerful to dictate to the national broadcaster on how it uses its commentators/reporters.
It's new and dangerous territory. If they achieved that with RTE, what next? Would all stations have to submit their staff rosters for perusal in case some individual broadcaster wasn't deemed to be receiving fair treatment?
And how long before a newspaper which was deemed to have carried a piece which upset a manager was blacklisted? And would all the managers support a colleague if he moved against a media outlet?
That might sound like taking things to extremes but, in the light of recent developments, it's not that far-fetched.
It will be interesting to see how relationships between RTE Radio and the managers develop over the next few weeks but, whatever happens, this has been a quite extraordinary move, which will leave a great many people wondering how there can be any winners.
In truth, there probably can't be.