Monday 24 October 2016

Michael O'Doherty: Treatment of stars' referendum views shows RTE thinks public are idiots

Oliver Callan during
Oliver Callan during "A Noble call For Marriage Equality" in support of The Yes Camp at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin
An Bord Bia wants to know why you're not eating more of these
Georgia Salpa and Joe Penna
Georgia Salpa

In one of the most famous judgments ever handed down by the European Court of Human Rights, it stated that freedom of expression entailed the right to share ideas that are not just popular, but also those that "offend, shock or disturb any sector of the population".

It's a concept that seems to have escaped our national broadcaster, which last week not only insisted that a guest on the Saturday Night show remove a 'Yes' equality badge, but also reprimanded one of its staff for expressing an opinion on the marriage equality referendum.

On the one hand, observe the way TV3 has supported its employee, Ursula Halligan, who came out as gay last week. While the station has stopped Ursula from covering the referendum, it has publicly supported her stance in relation to it.

On the other hand, we have the national broadcaster's absurd treatment of Oliver Callan, who was cautioned for attending a 'Yes' campaign rally. Oliver, it should be pointed out, is not involved in any on-air debate of the subject as Halligan would be, yet RTE insists on treating him as a headmaster would a pupil who'd been caught having a sneaky fag behind the bike shed.

"Oliver has assured RTE that he won't be making any further public comments during the referendum campaign," a pious statement declared.

Furthermore, there's an absurd inconsistency involved in RTE's position. It insists that staff cannot air personal opinions either on air or off, and any form of product promotion is likewise banned when it appears on our TV screens, meaning for example that Kathryn Thomas cannot talk about what she wears when she presents the Voice of Ireland.

Yet the minute the show is over, she is allowed to name-check boutiques, designers, hair stylists and make-up artists on Twitter, very often seen by more people than actually watch the TV broadcast. And what does RTE do to this? Well, it simply turns a blind eye.

Part of the reason why RTE is so sensitive about being seen to promote any opinion over another involves our old friends, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Because Ireland's greatest institutional nanny is guaranteed to be on hand to slap RTE on the wrist lest it transgress any of the lines of demarcation that it has solemnly sworn to uphold.

All it takes is one busybody with too much time on their hands to write in and complain about a presenter airing an opinion, or not encouraging opposing opinions, as happened to Derek Mooney when he interviewed a couple about their civil partnership ceremony nine months ago.

And rather than laugh off the frequently trivial gripes, often expressed by no more than one or two people in the entire country, RTE takes them seriously.

Most of us, including the vast majority of RTE viewers, know the difference between a broadcaster trying to get its viewers to vote one way and a presenter expressing a personal opinion.

So it's time that RTE stopped treating us like idiots.

It is genuinely offensive, shocking and disturbing.


An Bord Bia tackles the big issues - why are we consuming less and less cake?


Never one to shy away from the big questions of the day, An Bord Bia is embarking on a vital course of action. It's been announced this week that the semi-state body has put out tenders to market research firms in order to get to the bottom of one of modern Irish life's great imponderables: why are we eating less cake?

It may, to the untrained eye, seem strange that at a time when the state is pouring billions into tackling our chronic obesity problem, An Bord Bia has found a better way to spend taxpayers' money - boosting our domestic confectionery manufacturing business by finding out why people under 25 in particular are consuming less, and generally get people to eat more cake.

It is doubly bad timing considering the recent World Health Organisation report that Ireland is on course to become the most obese nation in Europe, suggesting that 89pc of Irish men and 85pc of Irish women will be overweight by 2030. And it is triply bad timing that they have done so in the week that the late Derek Davis talked so movingly about his own battle with weight, and being faced with the reality that a premature death would mean he would never see his grandchildren grow up.

"It wasn't a fear or a terror that I felt, but a melancholy," he revealed. "Particularly when the kids were so young. That I wasn't going to see them grow up. To me . . . that was shattering."

Aside from the sheer bad timing of this undertaking, however, how about knocking it on the head just for financial reasons? Because rather than embarking on this idiotic task, how about phoning up their colleagues in the Department of Health, who will probably give you the answer for free?

After all, there's a good reason why Ireland's under-25s are eating less cake. The penny has finally dropped that it's chronically bad for you.


Jedward at least make some sense


Next weekend, the electorate will be asked whether the minimum age you need to be to run for president should be lowered from 35 to 21. This may seem dangerous, particularly when you consider that Jedward have already revealed their policies.

"I'd want to get stuff done," said John or Edward. "I'd full-on be out there and make all the decisions. I wouldn't just be signing off on stuff."

This may sound like nonsense, but consider a proclamation of our incumbent president, when speaking in the US last year: "The current distribution of live chances has to be redressed, we cannot be consumed in our own consumption."

If you ask me, Jedward make at least as much sense.


Just a slight flaw in your plan, Georgia


Georgia Salpa has gone to incredible lengths to keep her forthcoming marriage to Joe Penna secret.

Having apparently turned down the chance to cash in with a lucrative magazine deal, Georgia is so concerned about having her private day away from the eyes of the press that she has not even revealed the name of the venue on the wedding invites.

Instead, guests are being asked to fly to an airport, where they will be collected by a coach and taken to the secret destination. Is it just me, or is there not a tiny flaw in this plan?

After all, having revealed the airport in question to be Milan, surely all the press have to do is turn up there, wait for her very recognisable model friends to exit and then follow that coach?

Nice try, Georgia.

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