Tuesday 12 December 2017

Michael O'Doherty: RTE shows offer plugs to guests? That's been going on for years

Today presenters Maura Derrane and Daithi O Se
Today presenters Maura Derrane and Daithi O Se
Ronan Keating with girlfriend Storm Uechtritz arriving for the Burberry Prorsum womenswear catwalk show at Kesington Gardens, as part of London Fashion Week

According to a newspaper report this week, Maura Derrane and Daithi O Se are pimps.

Ok, ok – that’s not the case. But their employers have been whoring out airtime on their Today show in return for financial gain.

Many will have been shocked at the revelation this week that some companies have been charged to promote their businesses on Today, paying thousands euro for a few minutes to showcase their wares.

In charging them to do so, RTE are tricking the viewer into believing that this is independent editorial, from which no-one is getting any benefit, rather than paid-for advertising.

Invariably, the busy-bodies in the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, who seem obsessed with no views being expressed on RTE unless the opposing view is given equal airtime, have given their tuppence worth.

“If you only choose one product and provide their prices, you have to ask what the editorial value is,” a spokesman said.

Just as invariably, the grand old man of RTE, Gay Byrne, has commented that such an occurrence would never have taken place on his watch, and also offered in his trademark three-part put down.

“I’m totally flummoxed, I’m amazed. It’s certainly a new approach.” Gay said he was “astonished” to learn that the State broadcaster is charging some guests to appear on talk shows, insisting that such practices are “completely foreign to me”.

At which stage, we need a reality check.

Because a ‘quid pro quo’ relationship, in which the guest gets something in return for airtime on RTE, has been going on for decades. In fact, Gay has been party to it himself.

Consider what Gay said following the death of Dermot Morgan. In a special tribute on The Late Late Show, when he described how he was always happy to have Dermot on the show to plug whatever show or tour he was doing – whenever he needed “a bit of publicity”, to quote Gay directly.

This practice still goes on today with The Late Late and Saturday Night shows, with some guests agreeing to come on because they are allowed to plug their latest movie or book.


This is every bit a commercial relationship as much as selling advertising space is, the only difference being that RTE gains viewers from the more “respectable” manifestation, whereas it gets cold hard cash from the blatantly commercial one. In each case, however, a guest is selling a product on RTE.

Of course, back in Gay’s time, cold hard cash wasn’t a problem, as much of the country didn’t actually receive any TV stations other than RTE. Nowadays, however, with dozens of rivals abroad, and TV3 and UTV in Ireland, the need to maximise commercial revenue is a more pressing concern.

People are allowed on TV to “sell” stuff in return for airtime or cash? Shock, horror! Next, you’ll be telling me that some RTE presenters earn more than the minimum wage.


It’s plain to see that some smokers can’t see the wood for the trees

Following the approval of the legislation by the Seanad this week, Ireland is set to become only the second country in the world, after Australia, to introduce compulsory plain packaging on cigarette packs.

This is designed primarily to remove the attractiveness of company logos to children, and any move which seeks to cure the world of this killer habit, whose effects cost the health service millions of euro each year, should be welcomed.

You would have thought that this proposition would, aside from the commercial interests of cigarette manufacturers, draw widespread acclaim. Naturally enough, you’d be wrong.

John Mallon, a spokesperson for Forest Eireann – an organisation tasked with the lofty goal of representing smokers – went on a news bulletin to suggest that the legislation is pointless and offered the following gem.

Yellow Pack products – the generic brands brought in by supermarket chains in the 1980s – were sold in plain packaging, and far from being less attractive to customers, they actually sold in bigger numbers.

Ergo, according to Mallon, plain packaging on cigarettes will make their sales go up.

The stupidity of this argument defies belief, ignoring as it does the sole reason why yellow packs sold so well – they were much cheaper than their competitors.


Plain packaged cigarettes, however, will be the same price and having noticed the photos on the gruesome effects of smoking, no child could possibly find them attractive.

It’s ironic that an organisation which opposes the move towards plain packaging is called Forest Ireland.

Because as a group they seem to fall foul of that common affliction – they can’t see the wood for the trees...

Time for gushing Ronan to grow up

Another week, another public declaration of love by Ronan Keating and Storm Uechtritz, with the former’s 38th birthday party causing him to proclaim “thank you to an amazing woman that loves me perfectly ... God I’m a lucky man. Thank you Lord for bringing this girl into my life. X”

Yesterday, when quizzed about her relationship with boyfriend John Conroy, Ronan’s ex-wife Yvonne declared her love thus: “We have a very grown-up and independent relationship.”

CONSUMER F_279.jpg
Ronan Keating with girlfriend Storm Uechtritz arriving for the Burberry Prorsum womenswear catwalk show at Kesington Gardens, as part of London Fashion Week

Coming just a few days after Ronan and Storm once again took to social media to gush about their love, I wonder if the “grown-up” comment could, by the remotest chance, be somehow aimed at her former husband?

Ryanair serves up some hot treats

There was a time that the only thing Ryanair trumpeted as being “hot” was its flight attendants, and every year it reminded the public of this by allowing them strip off for their much-maligned and tacky Girls of Ryanair charity calendar (inset).

With a new touchy-feely regime sweeping the airline, however, they have chosen to focus more on what the customer wants, and among its raft of new changes announced yesterday, it has shown off its new plane interiors and in-flight service improvements, which include publicising its “hot breakfasts”. Is it just me, or should we be fearful that, given the language used to describe its morning culinary offerings, the next step is to produce a Breakfast Calendar, featuring its most attractive croissants in a series of provocative poses?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you...

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