Tuesday 25 June 2019

TV3 accuses RTE of 'censorship' in guest appearances row

TV3, now rebranded Virgin, claims that RTE has strategy to exclude rivals

Pat Kiely, managing director of Virgin Media Television. Photo: David Conachy
Pat Kiely, managing director of Virgin Media Television. Photo: David Conachy

Samantha McCaughren, Business Editor

The boss of TV3, which was last week rebranded as Virgin Media Television, has written to RTE claiming the national broadcaster has been exercising 'de facto censorship' of its commercial rival.

Managing director of Virgin Media Television Pat Kiely wrote to RTE director- general Dee Forbes to claim that growing bias against the commercial television group was "undermining our combined efforts to support the television industry in Ireland".

Shortly after taking up the role at RTE, Forbes told a media conference it would make sense for RTE and TV3 to collaborate on some projects and that she was open to such co-operation.

In Kiely's letter, released to the Sunday Independent under the Freedom of Information Act, he said he would welcome the opportunity to discuss collaboration but also to discuss his concerns.

He said TV3 employs more than 300 people and hundreds more are engaged in independent production on TV3's behalf.

"For their creative work not to be showcased or deliberately excluded from RTE programmes is damaging to the TV3 business and the broader production industry in Ireland."

He also claimed there were an increasing number of examples of "what seems to be a deliberate strategy to keep references to TV3 to a minimum, if at all".

According to a tally by TV3/Virgin Media Television, in the first quarter of the year, 30 RTE guests appeared on TV3 programmes, compared with no TV3 appearances on RTE. Kiely drew particular attention to The Late Late Show, which it said in the first quarter of the year made no reference to either TV3's Six Nations coverage or Ireland's Got Talent.

TV3 staged a major coup in 2015 by winning the rights to air the Six Nations championship, which had previously been owned by RTE. There was no response from Forbes or RTE to Kiely's letter, which was sent in April and a suggested follow-up meeting did not take place.

It is understood RTE believes it gives adequate representation to TV3/Virgin Media guests but that in some circumstances where competition is particularly tense, it is not appropriate to give airtime to those promoting a rival station.

However, some industry insiders argue that RTE must be seen to take an extremely even-handed approach to its coverage of rival media, given it gets around €186m in state funding annually via the licence fee.

Sunday Indo Business

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