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Why we should be grateful for RTE

Well, the Eurovision Song Contest was a right kick in the chops, wasn't it?

The bookies put Niamh Kavanagh at 25-1 and experienced Eurovision-watchers reckoned she'd come sixth, or even higher.

And then, humiliation.

Niamh and her Titanic-sized ballad finished third from the bottom on a measly 25 points -- which, for those of you still counting, is only three points more than Dustin the Turkey polled when he failed to get out of the semi-final two years ago.

Our nearest neighbours did even worse, coming last on 10 points, which at least gives the barstool England-haters something to gloat about before the World Cup, the real television event of the summer, kicks off on June 11.

So where do we go from here? What happens next?

We've tried everything at this stage. We've sent a puppet, Dustin. We've even sent a couple of Muppets, the McCauls.

Nothing seems to work, not even irony.

Already, old Eurovision hands like Shay Healy are talking about rethinks and reinventions. But haven't we tried that already a few times before?

Maybe the best thing to do would be to pull a Hungary, who dropped out of the competition on the grounds that they couldn't afford the expense.

There would be no shame in that. The whole world is broke at the moment, anyway and, besides, it wouldn't be the first time we've pleaded poverty and skipped a Eurovision.

Spare a thought for the people of Norway. Their equivalent of RTE couldn't really afford to host Eurovision either, so they sold the rights to live World Cup coverage to a commercial channel in order to cover the cost.

Despite that sacrifice, the show itself -- presented by no fewer than three twits who looked as if they'd been sculpted from Norwegian wood -- was as clunky and corny and kitschy as ever.

Which brings us to the only useful thing about the Eurovision: it reminds us just how awful most European television is compared to our own. I mean that.

I give out about RTE all the time, and I know people in RTE give out about me giving out about them all the time, but really...we're blessed.

So are the British, who give the BBC just as hard a time. To be honest, we'd be well out of it.

Still, at least the fact that Germany won by a mile (can you even hum the song today, though?) means we can't say it was ruined by block-voting.

Pity you can't say the same about Fame: The Musical. I'm no great fan of this type of show, but as I said when it began, Fame is far and away the best one RTE has produced up to now.

The standard of the contestants is high and the judges -- Robert C Kelly, Simon Delaney and genuine Fame legend Erica Gimpel -- know what they're talking about.

It's disappointing, then, to see the whole thing being tainted by the kind of unreconstructed parish hall bogularity that characterised the wretched All-Ireland Talent Show, which was more about tribal loyalties than talent. Don't vote for the best, vote for your own!

Last night's show, the final one before the semi-finals, saw Conleth Kane finish in the bottom two for the second week in a row, thereby forcing the judges into the difficult position of having to send him home.

Kane, one of the best performers in the competition, didn't deserve to be there.

He knew that and the judges knew it, but someone had to go.

It's a shame to see the best thing to happen to Sunday evenings on RTE derailed by small-town stupidity.

Democracy on television doesn't work.