RTE last night defended its decision to screen Emmy Award winning series 'Mad Men' at midnight.
This week, the national broadcaster aired the first episode of the fourth series of the HBO drama on RTE1 at 12 midnight on Monday.
Set during the 1960s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, 'Mad Men' has received critical acclaim and won multiple awards, including 13 Emmys and four Golden Globes.
TV3's director of programming, Ben Frow, said his station would have scheduled 'Mad Men' at 10pm, and said the scheduling by RTE was proof that the station often purchased US TV series in order to keep them off rival broadcasters in Ireland.
"RTE buys programmes that we want like 'Mad Men' and then shows them at midnight. I can tell you if TV3 had it we would not be airing it at that time of the night. RTE are doing this with a lot of programmes," Mr Frow said.
However, RTE has defended the midnight scheduling.
"RTE prioritises high quality home-produced programming for an Irish audience and, as such, acquired programming like 'Mad Men' must fit into the extremely busy schedules around Irish-made programmes," an RTE spokeswoman told the Irish Independent.
"In the US, 'Mad Men' is a cult hit where it attracts average audiences of about one-fifteenth of that enjoyed by the likes of 'CSI', 'The Mentalist', 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Grey's Anatomy'.
"Similarly, 'Mad Men' attracts a limited but loyal audience in Ireland and has done over the course of the previous three series. RTE is confident that the new fourth series will attract the same audience," she said.
The station said it was "the sole broadcaster to view 'Mad Men' with a view to buying it and there was no competition from any other Irish broadcaster".
Mr Frow said he had been surprised at plans for a new current affairs programme by RTE which they intended to air from Monday to Thursday in roughly the same time slot as the existing 'Tonight With Vincent Browne' debate programme on TV3.
"RTE could have screened 'Mad Men' in that part of the schedule and given Irish viewers a choice. Instead RTE is using licence-payers' money to commission a debate programme when Vincent Browne already has a debate programme in that slot. What RTE is doing is narrowing viewers' choice," Mr Frow said.