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GAA President Liam O'Neill 'shocked' at treatment by RTÉ after rights deal revealed

Updated: Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 19:00 | Comments

New three-year deal revealed yesterday
New three-year deal revealed yesterday

GAA President Liam O'Neill has strongly criticised RTÉ over what he described as unbalanced coverage it gave to the latest broadcasting deal.

Yesterday, the GAA revealed the broadcasting rights deal for the next three years. RTÉ secured rights to broadcast 31 games of the All-Ireland Championships, with 20 games to be shown on Sky Sports.

RTÉ has exclusive rights to 25 games, Sky Sports has exclusive rights to 14 games. The remaining six games - the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in football and hurling - will be shown by both broadcasters.

"Every single one of the interviews was aggressive" - Liam O'Neill

In addition, Channel 7 in Australia will carry free to air coverage of all 45 games to fans in Australia. TG4 and Setanta retain their existing arrangements for league and club games.

Speaking this afternoon to GAA.ie, O'Neill said he was shocked at the treatment that he and GAA Director General Paraic Duffy subsequently received in a series of TV and Radio interviews with RTÉ.

He said the reaction was misinformed "because they reacted before the news story ,.. That was a bit unprofessional of some people doing that."

The GAA President felt undue coverage was given to the Sky Sports aspect of the deal.

"They zoned in on one particular part of the deal. And quite frankly, in relation to last night, we are shocked by the treatment we got from RTÉ. Every single one of the interviews was aggressive.

"RTÉ are our partners. They have got 31 of our games. They have radio, we give them access beyond what would be given to broadcasters in other sports and in other countries. We didn't expect them to be in our favour - we weren't looking for that. We were looking for balance and I don't think we got balance last night."

O'Neill pointed to the plans for a new worldwide streaming initiative by the GAA and RTÉ as well as the deal in Australia as evidence that the GAA had sought to broaden the appeal of Ireland's national games.

"They didn't realise the package was as extensive as it is and I think when the ordinary GAA person on the ground sees what we have done and when they see it in action and when they realise that finally, after talking about it for generations, we have actually gone out and done this.

"We will see what Sky bring to this. I think when people see the improvements and the different approach Sky take, I think people will be happy."

This evening, RTÉ rejected the criticism from Liam O'Neill, saying it was statutorily obliged to be fair, impartial and balanced.

Head of RTÉ's TV Current Affairs David Nally said: "I'm very surprised by Liam O'Neill's comments. We're very satisfied that the coverage of this issue yesterday on RTÉ was fair and impartial and that the GAA got a very fair shake.

"If you take Prime Time as an example, nine people spoke in studio on this subject. Five of them spoke in favour of the GAA and the Sky deal, three against and one neutral.

"How that can be singled out as a programme that was biased against the GAA, I find that hard to understand. 

"It's the job of an RTÉ Current Affairs presented when interviewing somebody one-on-one to ask hard questions, the questions that the audience would like asked.

"That is an opportunity for the interviewee to answer those questions and get their message across to the audience. That should not be mis-understood as some kind of bias against the person being interviewed and I think the viewers at home understand that."

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