Michael O'Doherty: Why has regulator pulled the plugs on TV3 while letting RTE off the hook?
It's entirely appropriate, given the season, that I should write about Father Christmas, or the newspaper columnists' equivalent, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (the gift that keeps on giving). In its crosshairs this time is TV3 and, for once, it doesn't involve censuring the broadcaster because of a solitary complaint from "Outraged in Oughterard".
Instead, the BAI has stepped in to rule against the sponsored feature on Xpose by the online clothing brand iClothing, which has resulted in the latter pulling the plug on its regular appearances on the show.
After watching three days' worth of content, the BAI concluded that "it is our view that the commercial arrangements in place influenced and drove the editorial content".
It complained that iClothing was the only brand represented in the fashion segment, and that presenters seemed to endorse some of the outfits, which goes against the long-standing BAI dicta that every side of a debate should be given, even if it is something as trivial as the latest trend in shift dresses.
"The segment included one supplier and entailed the displaying of their products and services," it pompously declared, "with no comparison to other offers."
Implicit in the BAI's adjudication, of course, is that TV3 has in some way been trying to mislead the public by passing off a blatant commercial plug as independent editorial.
It's a view that is offensive in the manner in which it insults the intelligence of the very people it purports to represent, suggesting, as it does, that Xpose viewers wouldn't understand that iClothing had paid to have its products displayed thus.
Worse still, there's a blatant double standard at play. As correctly pointed out in defence of TV3 by the owner of the offending business,"TV3 don't get a chunk of the licence fee like RTE, so they have to run their station as a business".
If you needed any reminder of this, you had only to tune in to the Ray D'Arcy Show on Saturday night, which saw Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden appear together to promote their Boyzlife tour.
While in no way wishing to criticise the guys, who came across as very affable, I'm at a loss to spot the difference between iClothing's commercial spot on Xpose and the lads' segment on Ray's show, other than the fact that RTE, courtesy of its licence fee revenue, doesn't need to charge the guys for allowing them on?
At the end of the chat, after multiple plugs for their tour, Keith was allowed a full minute to sell tickets for their upcoming concerts in Belfast.
Needless to say, Ray didn't feel the need to compare the value of the Boyzlife concerts to any "other offers".
Perhaps the good people at the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland would like to explain why they are not on the back of RTE for allowing someone, or in this case Keith and Brian, to plug their business under the guise of an "editorial content"?