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Susan Daly: They really are a bunch of mad hatters out in RTE

The whole country was caught on the hop by the floods-snow-floods cycle of hellish weather. But is that any excuse for some of the gear that RTE news reporters have fetched up in for their outside broadcasts?

We know it wasn't quite suit-and-tie weather but some of these lads and lassies looked like they had fallen into a prop box for Tom Crean: Antarctic Explorer on their way out the door to work.

Paul Cunningham's Pakistani pakol hat -- which, frankly, looked like a knitted condom -- was so outstandingly bizarre that it got its own Facebook fan page. He was even seen wearing it at a press briefing with Brian Cowen. Indoors.

Furry

Mary Calpin joined in the mad hatters' party with a Bond villain furry number and Paschal Sheehy upped the ante with a frayed camouflage baseball cap stealing the attention from the thaw.

You can't knock the reporters for entertainment value. They were right up there with the poor unfortunate who had his slip on an icy pavement recorded for posterity by RTE news.

It would seem that these standout sartorial moments were down to the reporters themselves. That is to say, no-one in RTE's wardrobe department seems eager to rush forward and claim credit.

But there seems to be more of a concerted effort going on in the brand-flashing department. From the number of fleeces and anoraks bearing the North Face logo, you might think RTE News was sponsored by the brand.

The Berghaus clothing logo got an outing on one of the bulletins briefly this week. In the main, however, it appears that North Face is the label any self-respecting TV journo wants to be wearing in the field. Now unless the outdoor clothing brand has donated a job lot of sample-size fleeces to the RTE newsroom, has it any business getting all this promotion on the national broadcaster?

Sponsors

RTE has extensive guidelines on product placement and sponsorship deals, which it lists clearly on its website. Sponsors who make a "direct or indirect contribution" to a programme, be it through funding or provision of goods or services, are supposed to get a sponsor credit at the beginning or end of the programme to make clear the relationship. I didn't notice any such "Survival clothes by North Face" at the end of the news, did you?

The thing is, if RTE aren't being given free clothes or cash by a brand that they are giving prominence to, they are missing a trick. It's ironic because TV3, a commercial station that knows all about squeezing the last cent out of everything, got a bit of a lash for all the product placement on The Apprentice.

The new Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is currently considering whether RTE, as a public service broadcaster, should be allowed to be as free and easy with certain types of sponsorship as other independent stations are. I don't know if this means they might have to tell their reporters to turn their fleecy little numbers inside out so a non-sponsor brand doesn't show.

Maybe it will herald a return to those school uniform-type RTE anoraks you used to see the regional correspondents sporting at the ploughing championships. But let's hope Paul Cunningham gets to keep his hats.


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