#IrishMediaWatch #GE20 : RTE 9oc News Wed 15.01.20

Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the case of a man who was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle. 

Housing issue dominates first day of election campaign
Paul Cunningham RTÉ.ie

Now that #GE20 is underway I’m planning to keep an eye on the national media outlets to see how they are covering the campaign trail, just to see how balanced the coverage is. For this first installment I have to say things were better than I expected.

On RTÉ’s Nine O’clock news Wednesday, the election featured third in their running order although the piece was related to the second story, about a homeless man who was badly injured by an industrial vehicle which was cleaning a canal area and apparently didn’t know the man was still in his makeshift tent.

This provided a segué into their election coverage as Leo Varadkar was questioned about it on the campaign trail, and in his remarks he suggested a statement from the Lord Mayor of Dublin was appropriate. In response, Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of politicising the tragedy since the Mayor is currently from Fianna Fáil.

After watching the quotes from the two men I thought “this is typical – on a classic progressive issue here’s the two Civil War parties finding a way to argue over anything BUT the search for real solutions.”. But to be a little fair to our national broadcaster, for this topic they did at least broaden the scope of opinion.

We also heard from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who outlined his party’s plans to allocate actual money to address the problem of homelessness by way of improved social housing. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s all very well saying what you;d do if your party held a majority in the Dáil, but the odds of that are slim and none.

Eamonn Ryan of the Greens also chimed in, saying that this was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Finally Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin appeared more interested in having a pop at RTÉ (re exclusion from debates, something I’d agree with her on if that were the topic) rather than comment on the situation at hand, although it is very possible that the clip was selectively edited.

So no progressive opinion in this piece, although Independent Councillor Anthony Flynn was interviewed for his opinion on the unfortunate homeless man.

VERDICT

As far as I’m concerned, any kind of election coverage that looks for opinion beyond the “Big Two” parties is an achievement by the Irish corporate media. I’ll give them 6 out of 6 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP

Record-breaking hospital waiting lists left until late in RTÉ News broadcast, with little or no discussion #IrishMediaWatch

“The most frustrating part is that we know how to solve this problem: increase staffing and bed capacity, expand community care, and get going with the Sláintecare reforms. Instead, the HSE continues to enforce its rigid recruitment controls, starving hospitals and community services of the staff they need. Our members are rightly appalled by the conditions they are forced to work and care for patients in.”

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha
Trolley overcrowding 9% worse than any other year

To be clear from the outset, this is not a post about the Irish health service. I will do them from time to time on this site, but what I m more interested in is the coverage by the Irish Media, and that is my focus today, specifically that of RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

And before I get to that particular episode, I should probably make my feelings known about RTÉ in general. Of course I don’t have a problem with the existence of public service broadcaster, but I do believe that the Irish one is, shall we say, far from a shining example of how one should be organised. I am opposed to the continued charging of a license fee and I feel RTÉ tends to approach broadcasting from a perspective of what I call “elitist group-think”.

But all of that said, even I can’t complain about their lead story on their primetime (lower case ‘p’ so as not to be confused with their current affairs programme with an upper case) news show leading off with news of the untimely passing of Marian Finucane. She was well respected both inside and outside Montrose and this was definitely news to be leading off with even if wasn’t on RTÉ.

That said, I still have issues with the sequencing of stories on this particular half-hour broadcast. After an extensive report which chronicled Finucane’s career, there then followed coverage the Australian bush fires, talks in the north on the resumption of the Stormont Assembly, and the appointment of Hillary Clinton as ambassador of Queen’s University, all before the commercial break.

When they returned, there then followed a further segment on Finucane where anchor Eileen Dunne interviewed a former colleague. Personally I feel this was unnecessary. There will no doubt be several tributes on the network in the coming weeks and that would be the time for such interviews.

I feel that time could have been allotted to a more intensive discussion on a report released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation which offered alarming statistics. Instead when they did get to the issue all they could fit in were brief quotes from representatives from the INMO and the Irish Patient’s Association (essentially saying “the numbers are bad”) as well as one from Minister for Health Simon Harris (essentially saying “when you look at it another way, the numbers aren’t so bad”).

Normally I am annoyed when an important topic such as this is covered with soundbytes from politicians representing just the government and the “opposition”, which these days is technically Fianna Fáil even though they are in what I call a “virtual coalition” with Fine Gael. But this report didn’t even have that.

In an ideal world, the Progressive viewpoint should always be heard when the topic is the public health service, as this is one of the movement’s main priorities. But even talking points from one of the so-called “principle left-wing” parties such as Sinn Féin and Labour would have done in my opinion. For the record, the piece on the RTÉ website follows a similar vein.

Maybe I’m alone in wanting the full range of debate on key national issues when it comes to our national broadcaster? But I think not.