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Channel must establish own identity if it's to have any chance of survival

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Pictured at the launch of UTV Ireland at the channel's headquarters and HD studios in Dublin's Docklands, on New Years Day, were staff and presenters of the channel

Pictured at the launch of UTV Ireland at the channel's headquarters and HD studios in Dublin's Docklands, on New Years Day, were staff and presenters of the channel

Pictured at the launch of UTV Ireland at the channel's headquarters and HD studios in Dublin's Docklands, on New Years Day, were staff and presenters of the channel

Yesterday's news that UTV Ireland has been forced to issue a profit warning will come as no surprise to anyone who isn't an investor.

In the six months since the station's launch, it has lurched from moderate viewer curiosity to apathy, to indifference and now, in the light of yesterday's announcement, crisis.

Every business loses money at the start of a venture, but this is a precipitous slide which augurs ill for the future. Especially humiliating for the company is their grudging concession that their figures 'remain volatile.'

In plain English, this means that UTV Ireland cleans the ratings board when they show Coronation Street, but the viewers immediately change the channel as soon as the credits roll.

So the board can issue a statement which boasts that they have a 40pc share during peak-time, but they have yet to devise a strategy to keep the viewers.

It would be a lie to say that UTV Ireland is a disappointment, if only because few people ever thought it was going to be an exciting new broadcasting venture in the first place. But their lack of ambition has been nothing short of contemptible.

Having managed to score a major coup by snapping up Pat Kenny from under TV3's nose, they then placed their star player on the bench - allowing him to make his debut on their much vaunted New Year's Eve launch, only to hold him back until the belated launch, a few weeks ago, of 'Pat Kenny: In The Round', a Monday night chat show that is notable only for its sheer tedium.

Simply buying in Ireland's most popular soap, and then signing its most newsworthy broadcaster is not enough.

Where is their identity? Where is the sense that this is a network that wants to be more than a pallid and ersatz (U)TV 3?

In fairness, their news output, with Alison Comyn and Chris Donoghue, are competent, but even those bulletins bear a worrying look of despair.

Opening a new broadcasting franchise in the current market is something which should certainly be applauded. But why would viewers stick with a station that has failed to find an identity and has made absolutely zero impact on Irish life?

If the channel wants to survive and thrive, it must establish a proper identity and offer more locally sourced programming.

The problem, however, is trying to convince their understandably twitchy investors to suck it up for the long game rather than a short term, soap-laden return.

Irish Independent