RTÉ saga distracting from the real issues

March 4th, 2024 3:54 PM

By Southern Star Team

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THE ongoing saga at the national broadcaster is distracting government from the more important issues of the day as several elections loom.

Cynics would say that the government might be happy to keep the distraction going, which may explain why there appears to be very little effort by the coalition partners to put an end to the debacle. We are now eight months into a financial scandal that has grown many legs, in various directions, and shows no great signs of being resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.

With every new D4 revelation, the pot that contains the licence fee which pays for our national broadcaster is under threat. With a general election likely within the next 12 months, some candidates are proposing an amnesty for anyone before the courts on charges of not having a licence.

Others are suggesting the licence fee be scrapped altogether, and many still believe that the licence fee is the only true independent means of funding the sector.

There has been no clarity given on the issue, and in the meantime, public service broadcasting is struggling to emerge from the fog of scandal.

One may even wonder at the point of spending so much time worrying about funding when an existential threat is facing the television and radio industries – and not from any scandal. Very few people under the age of 30 are consuming content on TV or radio.

Phones are the primary source of information for young people today – and the most popular platforms on these devices are streaming services and social media sites like TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat.

For years the clunky RTÉ Player has been the butt of jokes and the broadcaster’s new DG has said he wants to address it, as soon as the promised government funding is sanctioned. But that very funding is now at risk, and the eventual stipend may not be enough to invest in any new technology, let alone develop new sources of income.

And while our politicians seem preoccupied with the shenanigans in Montrose, very real issues are, ironically, being forced down the priority list for news editors determined not to be lax in their reporting of their own organisation. This is then mirrored by other, independent, news organisations, not wanting to miss out on the latest gossip from Dublin 4.

Meanwhile, we have just seen the numbers of homeless in this country hitting a new high of 13,531. Married to that is the ongoing scandal of what is happening in our hospitals. Massive trolley queues, a system bogged down in constant (often justified) litigation by former patients and their families, allied with horrific overcrowding on wards and in A&E departments, all combining to create a broken system that nobody seems able to repair.

And while there has been some improvement in the housing stock, we are still a long way off sorting out the issues which are leading to rising rent and house prices.

Our obligations to those fleeing war and persecution are adding to the pressure on the system and successive governments seem unable to sort out the entire mess.

Added to this, we are losing some of our finest graduates and school leavers who are still emigrating in large numbers, and our farmers were just this week protesting what they see as an over-enthusiastic regulatory system putting an unfair share of the sustainability and climate action burden on them.

It is time that someone grasps the nettle of the chaos in RTÉ so that we can focus on the very real issues that will be brought up on the doorsteps when the politicians start looking for votes.

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