Tuesday 24 April 2018

Television review: More by accident than design?

Sports News (RTE1)
* Designing Ireland (RTE1)

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan

It has been quite a while since I've written about errors of fact or errors of style in RTE's sports coverage, for the very good reason that I haven't encountered any of late, and none has been brought to my attention.

There was a Six One News sports bulletin which reported a tennis match in progress that was actually finished for at least half-an-hour, but I'd allow that one on grounds of routine institutional torpor.

Now it may just be that without realising it, I simply don't listen to RTE any more, but even if that is the case, it would eventually come to my attention that, say, an RTE announcer had claimed that snooker player John Higgins was the son of Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, or perhaps my favourite of them all, the reading of the football results in which a drawn match would be called "a draw" - as if listeners mightn't be aware that when one football team scores the same number of goals as the other, that is indeed "a draw".

Since I campaigned so tirelessly on this matter, it is only right that I give them some credit for responding in the way that they have done - and it is only right too, that they give me some credit in return.

Because credit is all that I'll be getting here. If I had been hired by RTE as a consultant, and my advice had resulted in such an improvement in this most vital of all departments, I would have received a consultant's fee in the region of 497,000 euro - indeed even if there had been no improvement at all, I would still have received 497,000 euro.

But they're on their own now, and facing a very different type of challenge, with Senator Paschal Mooney criticising RTE television which "starts with the results of English Premier League matches", and which last Sunday night contained "not a single line" about the Connacht senior ladies football final between Kilkerrin-Clonberne of Co Galway and Kiltubrid, Co Leitrim.

Senator Mooney added that he's not just saying this because he is from Leitrim, that RTE television routinely starts with the English football results followed by Irish results, with hardly anything about women's sports such as that Connacht final - but he finds that the coverage on RTE radio is much better than the TV department in this regard.

There are distant echoes here, of Senator Mooney's championing of "Irish" music, particularly of the country 'n' Irish variety, but in his own way he is trying to make a contribution to what he perceives as the common good.

And like my own contribution, the senator's suggestion that RTE television is doing it wrong and RTE radio is doing it right, does not come with a fee of 497,000 euro attached, though it contains an insight which is so pure, its value is probably unquantifiable.

It means that RTE Sport can now concentrate all its remedial energies on the radio side of things, because despite all my best efforts, and some apparent improvements in certain areas, clearly there is still something very wrong going on in there.


We all have much to learn from Designing Ireland, a kind of history of Irish design which for many of us contains a revelation in every frame. Busaras, for example, is again cited as an Irish design classic, perhaps the greatest Irish building of the 20th century.

We are invited to imagine arriving into this place from the west of Ireland in the 1950s - "it must have seemed a bit like travelling into the future".

And yet for simple country people such as myself, it doesn't feel like that. Maybe we should be standing there in awe of Michael Scott's modernist masterpiece, as if it were the Pantheon in Rome, but in truth we just want to get out of there as quickly as possible, either haunted by the journey we have just had, or fearing the one that is to come.

But it is nice to know - in theory at least - that while we are standing in the queue for Donegal, we are literally in a great place.

So I was enlightened by many scenes in Designing Ireland, but on Busaras I would add this note - that it is a magnificent bus station is its triumph and also its tragedy.

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