RTE has taken to screening a notice at the start of shows -- "this programme includes product placement" -- which serves to alert the viewer that businesses, usually offering competition prizes, will be plugged.
They probably feel that this full disclosure reflects well, and that it can't be accused of bias towards giving airtime to anyone in an anti-competitive manner (though it doesn't stop it plugging the RTE Guide whenever they get the chance).
The practice, however, causes problems on their new series The Consumer Show, which last week led to the absurd segment when two punters were sent on a mission to source All Ireland Final tickets.
They tried touts, they tried friends, they even discussed online ticket sites with a technology expert -- cue a rambling discussion about 'tier one', 'second tier' and 'second-hand' sites -- while throughout Ireland viewers were shouting at the screen, "why don't they just try newspaper classifieds or eBay?" Because, of course, that would be 'product placement', most pertinently the type that RTE don't benefit from.
The most bizarre aspect of the show, however, is the renaissance of its co-presenter, Eddie Hobbs. To most of us, Hobbs is a likeable, intelligent man, but an anachronism of the Celtic Tiger years -- Ireland's first stand-up economist, whose time has come and gone.
At the height of his fame in 2007, Eddie launched a magazine, You And Your Money, and a company called Brendan Investments, which promised to let the ordinary man on the street benefit from the property boom in return for a small investment. In the intervening time, BI has bought an office block in Dusseldorf and bugger all else, while You And Your Money ceased its print run a few weeks ago and "decided to go online".
But at RTE, Hobbs has still got star quality and has been drafted in to present this bizarre show, which seeks to be cutting edge but has a stilted, preachy feel about it, and gets worse when Eddie reverts to the matey colloquialisms designed to make him sound like a man of the people.
When criticising GPs (rightly) for not having a price list on display in their surgeries last week, he intoned with his Cork brogue that "Jesus, we're not talking about the fourth secret of Fatima. All we want to know is what the poxy cost is..."
He then pleaded with viewers to demand that doctors publicise these charges.
The fact that the cost varies by about €10 from one GP to another rather puts into perspective how far Eddie's rabble-rousing clout has fallen -- he's trying to mobilise an entire nation to save a tenner.
But the show did throw up one gem. I discovered that supermarket 'buy one, get one free' campaigns are referred to with the acronym BOGOF, pronounced as "Bog Off".
My feelings exactly...
SOMEONE who seems to have got around RTE's anti-plugging policy is nob Oliver Callan.
On the Late Late a week ago, the Nob Nation man was allowed not only to offend the intelligence of viewers with his crass attempts at humour, but also to plug his website, the newspaper which pays him to write a column and, oddly enough, Paddy Power.
I couldn't work out why he included a random reference to the bookmakers, until I checked out his website.
Guess which company is one of its main advertisers? Ah go on, bet you a fiver you can...
In case anyone missed it, two of the gags that formed part of the routine were repeated in his newspaper column yesterday.
So if you laughed uncontrollably about Roy Keane's canine Triggs "sleeping with more dogs than Wayne Rooney", you could revel in Oliver's wit all over again in the News Of The World. And if, like the rest of the nation, your ribs cracked with mirth at his routine about David Norris running for President because he likes to "take it up the Aras", there it was again in print.
I'm sure the NOTW are thrilled about paying Callan for a column that is not only life-threateningly unfunny, but also includes the exact gags he aired to the nation a few days previously.