Thursday 22 March 2018

RTE must stop feeling sorry for themselves ... and say sorry to the viewers

TV3 boss Ben Frow says he would quit if RTE-style mistake were made under his watch at TV3.

Referring to the recent 'tweetgate' controversy and the libelling of Fr Kevin Reynolds, the TV executive told the Herald that he would resign if similar errors were made at his station.

"As director of programming, I get paid the bigger bucks to take the rap."

"If one of my team f**ked up, I would take the rap. Even if they made the mistake. Even if I knew nothing about it.

"My job as a senior person is to take ultimate responsibility. Would I resign if TV3 programming f**ked up? Yes, I would resign because I think it's the honourable thing to do. And I think if you get paid the bigger bucks and you are the boss, that comes with the territory.

"You just take it on the chin and go 'you know what? That's just part of the job', you don't dump on the little guy, you don't dump on the middle guy, you take the bullet."

However, he said that he believed there "will be another tweetgate" but that the real issue RTE needed to answer was "the cover up of tweetgate".

Frow also hit out at stars -- like Miriam O'Callaghan -- who he claimed are "feeling sorry for themselves".

"I think some of the results of their actions have had a devastating action on peoples' lives.

"Nobody seems to be saying, 'we're very sorry for the grief or the upset or the angst or the misery or the suffering that we've caused other people. We're all saying we feel sorry for ourselves and we're going through a hard time'," he added.

Frow -- who previously worked with Channel 4 and Channel 5 in the UK -- now believes two of RTE's flagship shows have been "really damaged". He revealed: "Their core current affairs brands are Primetime and The Frontline and both were really damaged over the last six months. That doesn't mean lessons won't be learned. Of course lessons will be learned. Hopefully apologies will be made, the appropriate apologies will be made.

"Procedures will be put in place. Will it never happen again? You can never say that but you can be damn sure that things will vastly improve."

Frow admits he feels sympathy for RTE's top brass given the serious challenges the station faces.

However, he told the Herald that he did not "envy" RTE director general Noel Curran.

"I don't envy Noel Curran, I don't envy RTE. Nobody wants to go through a hard time. Everybody does go through a hard time. That is life. Life is full of sh*t."

He admitted that he was often reeled in by his own station's legal team when it came to broadcasting material, adding jokingly: "I don't want to be the man who brings down TV3.

"We have very strict editorial procedures in place here -- rigorous -- where we all have various meetings, things to discuss and decisions are made. We think very very very carefully about what we do, how we do it, what impact it might have, what way we might do something."

He added: "We are much more on the side of caution. We have a legal procedure here that is extremely robust. I may argue to push for something. My legal team here will be absolutely adamant that we are 100pc absolutely sure.

"We are too small a company to get ourselves into great big trouble. We have to be stringent with our procedures. We have to be really bloody sure with what we do."

Frow left no stone unturned in his critique of the state broadcaster.

He even had an opinion on one of the network's best performing products -- Fair City.

The self-confessed TV junkie says TV3 will eventually rival Fair City with their own home grown soap.

"I hope that TV3 will have its own soap opera...There's always room for more soaps," he said but wouldn't say if it would be shot in the capital.

And he described a claim by a Fair City actor that Coronation Street copied their male domestic abuse storyline as "bonkers".

"Oh come on, so Fair City are not copying Brookside. And Brookside didn't copy whatever there was 35 years ago? They all copy each other.

"There's only so many story lines in the blinking world. It all comes down to love. sex and marriage at the end of the day."

He added: "I don't think the writers of Coronation Street all sat round watching Fair City, saying 'let's try and steal some story lines from Fair City'. I mean give me a break. Grow up. It's just bonkers you know. They all have the same story lines in one way or another, it's how you do the story line."

Meanwhile, Frow hit out furiously at the raft of critics that have lined up to slate the controversial late night show, Tallafornia.

The seedy and sexual scenes of the show have divided the nation -- with the programme even coming under fire from none other than David Norris.

However, Frow remarked that the show had attracted massive viewing figures despite being up against The Late Late Show. "I think it's too easy for people to just generalise about Tallafornia," he said. "It's not aimed at Senator Norris. It was aimed at 15-34 year olds. They're a very hard audience to get so in that sense it's a very successful programme.

"We are a viewer-led channel. The viewers dictate what we do. If people didn't watch Tallafornia it wouldn't be coming back.

"But I'm not going to say to 300,000 people, 'p*** off, I don't care if you watch it or not'.

"It worked very well, it's a very hard audience to get. It's a very hard demographic to get. Up against The Late Late Show -- everyone said it would never succeed against The Late Late Show.

"I think Take Me Out and Tallafornia were two big guns against 'The Late Late Show'. I'll take those f*****g ratings and I'll certainly take those 15-34 year olds.

"They are a great demographic to have. So it has a role to play within the broad spectrum of TV3."

Asked specifically about failed presidential candidate David Norris's comments that the show is "repulsive", Frow told the Herald that the senator was trying to "grab headlines" and "be cool".

And the TV boss confirmed to the Herald that a second series would be filmed abroad, with all indications pointing to a Spanish location.

"Watch Tallafornia, it's not that raunchy," he declared.


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