Tuesday 20 February 2018

RTE advertising exceeds limits

Sir -- Mr Dawson's spat (Sunday Independent, January 10, 2010), concerning RTE's licence fee income has brought a couple of significant items back to my mind about the strategic planning and legislation for "our national station" half a century ago. When those plans were being laid out in Dail Eireann in the year prior to the launch of 'Telefis Eireann', a clear commitment was given to the Irish public that advertising would constitute no more than a small fraction of the station's broadcasting time. It was explained at the time that advertising income would have to be enhanced by a licence fee because of our relatively small population and the relatively low level of TV set ownership back then.

Despite its obviously huge income from its 'normal' advertising nowadays on top of its licence fee income, RTE has now sneaked in a full 90 minutes of continuous advertising each morning in the form of 'Tellyshopping' where, if one wants to watch something other than cartoons in the morning, one has to subject oneself to a non-stop merry-go-round of ads for body-altering physical fitness equipment and character-affirming fragrances and pay the national station €160 per annum for the privilege. I cannot believe that the station is not seriously in breach of the 1960 commitment on advertising volumes per hour. And what is all this money for? Apart from paying the Director General his most generous salary to run the show and paying a king's ransom on a self-employed basis to several 'household name' presenters to provide an unceasing whinge of more questions than any wise person could ever answer, we must nowadays content ourselves with repeats ad nauseum and pale mimicries of show formats cogged from our neighbours' schedules.

In its early days, Telefis Eireann still managed, despite minimal income and relatively few employees, to have an attractive mix of home-produced programmes such as its drama series, Tolka Row and, give it its due, the Late Late Show.

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