Former reporter says lack of racial diversity is the real problem at state broadcaster
RTE's former political correspondent David Davin-Power has strongly criticised a lack of racial diversity at the national broadcaster.
His comments come as the Sunday Independent today reveals details of a lobbying blitz by RTE on ministers, advisers and senior Government officials as it seeks TV licence reforms and extra funding from the Government.
Writing in today's Sunday Independent, Mr Davin-Power says controversies surrounding salaries of top stars and the gender pay gap row have detracted from more pressing issues including racial diversity and short-term contracts offered to researchers and journalists.
He also outlines why he believes it appropriate for Bryan Dobson to earn more than fellow RTE Six One news presenter Sharon Ni Bheolain: "Bryan Dobson and Sharon Ni Bheolain were colleagues of mine for many years; they were, and remain, consummate professionals. But they do not do the same job.
"On top of his duties in news, Bryan is the national broadcaster's anchor for election programmes and special events. He is the go-to guy for the seat-of-the-pants rolling coverage at which he excels. It's a talent honed by many years of experience.
"That's not to downplay the role played by Sharon, an excellent anchor in her own way who brings her own strengths to the Six One news; it's just a fact."
Mr Davin-Power adds that the State broadcaster was failing to reflect a new modern Ireland.
"Ireland has become dramatically more diverse in recent years ... you wouldn't know it to watch or listen to RTE," he says. He adds that recent controversies have also diverted attention from "the plight of researchers and journalists on short-term contracts that offer no security, a situation which the media rightly decries in other areas. Many of those inside and outside RTE who called for the gender imbalance to be investigated seem blind and deaf to the situation faced by some of their colleagues in this position. Then there's the glaring lack of racial diversity on air and in the broadcaster generally."
The Sunday Independent has learned that RTE, led by Director General Dee Forbes, has lobbied ministers, senior civil servants and other politicians on 31 separate occasions since the administration was formed for a reversal of cuts enforced during the recession. It is also seeking changes to licence fee collection and a €15 increase in the TV licence, currently at €160 a year.
Ms Forbes met or spoke with ministers, officials and TDs on seven occasions since taking up her role. Colleagues have joined her in lobbying for improved public funding.
An RTE spokesman defended the lobbying of ministers, politician and officials, saying it complied with all relevant legislation.
"RTE has highlighted publicly on many occasions the significant impact of over €50m being lost each year to public service broadcasting and programming in both RTE and the independent production sector, through evasion, high collection costs and device definitions that are no longer reflective of how people are consuming TV channels and programming," he said.