Entertainment TV & Radio

Monday 11 December 2017

Cuts are putting RTE output at risk, warns former head of TV

Joe Mulholland, former managing director RTE television, Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins
Joe Mulholland, former managing director RTE television, Photo:Arthur Carron/Collins

Eimear Rabbitte

THE former managing director of television at RTE has warned that the broadcaster is in "dangerous times".

Joe Mulholland, who left Montrose in October 2000 after 30 years, raised concerns about the effect of cutbacks on the level of quality output produced by the state broadcaster.

"It's a dangerous time I think," the Donegal native told the Irish Independent.

"I've always said there is a limit to the number of broadcasting organisations this country can support.

"If you want to retain some quality in broadcasting, quality costs more money than low-brow content and that's what I would be afraid of -- that quality broadcasting will suffer. In fact, in some respects I think it is already suffering," he added.

Mr Mulholland feels that RTE needs to distance itself from producing too much content for the mass market and should stay true to its unique and broad source of programming.

"Because of the need to attract listeners and viewers in a more open marketplace, people are going for more mass market, whereas in quality broadcasting you very much need minority programming.

"We need to maintain things like literary programmes and art programmes that will not get your big audience."

He said he was "surprised" and "saddened" to see Pat Kenny, with whom he had many dealings while at the broadcaster, leave RTE.

As the man behind current affairs and documentary series 'Today Tonight', Mr Mulholland was responsible for bringing Kenny from radio to TV.

"I was very surprised and a little bit saddened in that I was involved in his career over the years," said the 73-year-old.

"He was part of RTE, but my own attitude over the years was that if somebody wants to go, you keep your peace and let them go.

"Saying that, there were people I tried to stop leaving RTE and sometimes succeeded, but the market is a much more open place these days."

Mr Mulholland said that Kenny's departure would signal greater interaction and movement across the market in future.

"It's a small country and I suppose the opportunities are greater now.

"As I have learned, nobody is irreplaceable in life no matter what kind of business it is and Sean O'Rourke has taken over the morning radio show and is doing a very good job, as I would expect."

Mr Mulholland, who founded and is closely involved with the MacGill Summer School, said he had "very little" contact with his former colleagues.

"I have always believed that when everything is done you close the door firmly behind you and don't go back, so that is what I have practised."

The winner of the 2008 Donegal Person of the Year Award, Mr Mulholland was on hand to launch the memoir of former banker and fellow Donegal man Paul Shovlin in Dublin.

In 'When Push Comes to Shove', Mr Shovlin, a former CEO of Barclays Bank PLC Ireland, gives an insight into the inner workings of the banking system prior to the Celtic Tiger.

Mr Shovlin dedicated the book to his grandson Alex Smith (4), who has Down syndrome, with the proceeds from the launch going to Down Syndrome Ireland.

Irish Independent

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