Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Neill blasts 'shocking' RTE

GAA president hits back as rift over Sky deal intensifies

GAA President Liam Ó Néill
GAA President Liam Ó Néill
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A deep rift has opened up between the GAA and RTE just two days after they signed a deal for the coverage of the All-Ireland championships over the next three years.

Heavyweights from both camps slugged it out verbally yesterday, with GAA president Liam O'Neill describing RTE's coverage of the deal, which also features Sky Sports for the first time, as "shocking".

O'Neill was furious over the manner RTE dealt with the issue, claiming it was unfair and lacking in balance, a charge rejected by David Nally, RTE's managing editor of current affairs.

"I'm very surprised by Liam O'Neill's comments. We're satisfied that the coverage of this issue by RTE was fair and impartial and that the GAA got a fair shake," said Nally.

Croke Park were unhappy over what they perceived as an over-emphasis by RTE on the subscription charge element of the new deal with Sky Sports. It will leave GAA supporters who don't have Sky facing a choice between buying the channel or missing out on the 14 games the British broadcaster will screen exclusively.

"What happened last night was not fair. Indeed, the tenor of RTE's attitude was most unfair. They are our partners, people that we have done a deal with globally," said O'Neill.

"I felt disappointed and we're entitled to be disappointed. There was no part of the RTE coverage across their entire platform that was balanced. It was shocking."

O'Neill reserved his sharpest criticism for 'Prime Time', which devoted a lengthy segment to the deal on its Tuesday night programme, including criticisms of the GAA from members of the audience for linking up with Sky.

"The star of the show would have to be 'Prime Time'. That was a performance. Where do they get them from (audience members)," said O'Neill.

Asked if he thought RTE's approach was because they might have a vested interested in being antagonistic to Sky's link-up with the GAA, he said it was up to others to make up their own minds on that.

"I don't want to do to them (RTE) what they did to us. You make that call," he said.

He added that RTE presenters appeared to be briefed on the more negative aspects of the deal with Sky.

"There wasn't anything negative that they could have thrown at us that they didn't," said O'Neill.

Defending the handling of 'Prime Time,' which was presented by David McCullough and Miriam O'Callaghan, Nally said that five speakers were in favour of the GAA's decision to deal with Sky, while three were against and one neutral.

"How that can be singled out as an example of a programme biased against GAA, I find hard to understand," he said.

Nally said it was the job of a presenter to ask hard questions, similar to what the audience would like to be asked.

"It affords the interviewee an opportunity to answer those questions and get their message across," he said.

However, the GAA remains deeply unhappy with RTE, a situation which could lead to ongoing tensions between the pair in the countdown to the championship launch next month.

Irish Independent

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