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COLUMN: There’s nothing intelligent about replacing real news with AI fakes!

March 3rd, 2024 8:00 PM

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IT’S been another tumultuous week in the expansion of the supermassive black hole that is the ongoing crisis at the national broadcaster. Like any black hole of this size, it now can pull almost anything, or anyone, into its vortex.

It’s already had its way with poor ‘aul Tubbers, sitting over in London like Paddington Bear without a hat. Certain RTÉ top brass execs have been let go or ‘resigned’– only to sail through the skies over Montrose on golden parachutes twinkling in the south Dublin sun.

This week, the black hole took its latest victim, the RTÉ chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh, who is extremely well-liked and respected in the Irish film and TV industry, but this crisis cares not a jot for such things.

You’d wonder if the black hole has its eyes set on Minister Catherine Martin next, or indeed the government itself? Who knows, it could have completely enveloped us all in two or three years.

Soon, we may live in a 24-hour news cycle featuring only breaking news about RTÉ. In this dystopian North Korean scenario, we would have to get up in the morning and perform massive collective dances in front of the RTÉ logo, set to the clanging bongs of the Angeles. It would be funny were it not so serious.

This week also saw the launch of Soro, OpenAI’s latest marvel, which creates high-definition videos from text prompts, essentially giving anyone the ability to make convincing videos of pretty much anything. Although the product is still not open to public use, the possibilities for disinformation on a global and industrial scale are clear for all to see.

Of course, there is also hugely creative and potentially mind-bending potential for this technology although one thing is clear to me – public service broadcasting, as well as local journalism, will never be more vital than in the years ahead.

If we do away with the ‘town square’, what becomes of the town and how do we have the conversations we need to have as a civil society? If only those in power could get the finger out. I read with a hint of despair during the week that a row had broken out between two Oireachtas committees investigating RTÉ. Will they need to convene a third committee to sort it out, I wonder? It feels to me now that there are a lot of ego trips and politicking going on and the public is frankly sick of hearing about it. People want it sorted out. The Minister needs to grab hold of the situation – announce the next chair, give clarity on how the organisation is to be funded going forward (forget about getting licence fees from people now) and get it out of the headlines for Kevin Bakhurst to do what he has set out to do.

Fab four films from Sam Mendes

I WAS intrigued to learn that Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road has been given the keys to direct four separate movies on the lives of The Beatles. The mouth waters at such a prospect. But I don’t envy the guy. Where do you even begin with such a task? Will he approach each film with completely different casts? And how will he decide how to structure the stories? To approach them purely as biopics feels like it would be missing a trick. Something more surreal and experimental might be warranted – like the Todd Haynes-helmed Bob Dylan feature, I’m Not There, although you’d imagine something a bit more mainstream might be called for if The Beatles are officially backing the project. You’d wonder how Ringo is feeling about it.

Larry’s beef with Metro

I GRINNED to myself when I read during the week that a company representative for beef baron Larry Goodman’s ABP Food Group made a submission to An Bord Pleanála on the proposed new Metro for Dublin. The submission said that works on the proposed Metro would cause noise, vibration and dust that will adversely impact on animal welfare at one of their abattoirs causing ‘undue stress’, which will impact meat quality. I would have thought that the noise from construction would be the last thing on the poor animals’ minds. There are so many ways for this important infrastructure project to suffer further delays and setbacks. The Meat Before Metro campaign is not one I expected, I have to admit.

Did Mr Dyson hoover it up?

OVER in Youghal, it looks like the sale of Ballynatray House has been completed but there’s still no confirmation that James Dyson, the vacuum tycoon, is the new owner. Ironically, it seems that the man who famously backed Brexit might be considering a home in the heart of the EU. Life comes at you fast, I guess. It might just be idle speculation, of course, but the longer nobody confirms or denies it, the more the rumours will grow. After all, we all know nature abhors a vacuum.

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