Politics and Television the Challenges


About this Item

A look at the development of the sometimes complex relationship between television and politics.

  • Title
    Lifting the Veil - The Politics of Television
  • 1st Broadcast
  • Contributor
    Peter Feeney (Producer, Writer, Presenter)
  • Clip Duration
  • Material Type
  • Clip title
    Politics and Television the Challenges
  • Extended description

    With television 21 years on the air Peter Feeney's programme looked back on the relationship between RTÉ and politics.

    This extract looks at the influence that politicians had or tried to have over television. 

    Gunnar Rugheimer says there were people among senior staff within RTÉ and to some degree within the RTÉ Authority who were prepared to stand up to political pressure. However many members of the Authority were political appointees and did not see it as their role to prevent ministers or the ruling government party having an influence on RTÉ.

    In the early days politicians were eager to appear on television but with the development of various current affairs programmes getting politicians to come on air without them trying to impose conditions.

    Ken Gray a former television critic at The Irish Times explains how politicians became more wary of appearing on television.

    John Bowman thinks politicians were slow initially to utilise television. The broadcasters saw their role as essentially journalistic. They broke the Lemass view of broadcasting as an instrument of public policy.  Bowman feels that the relationship is probably at the right balance now.

    Gunnar Rugheimer thinks there was resentment by politicians of the growing importance of the role television and television reporters were beginning to play in Ireland. Politicians felt they were being upstaged and this led to great difficulty in getting arrangements about political reporting and broadcasting.

    Dónall Ó Móráin says that he believes that there is a group of politicians who fight in public on many matters but the one matter on which they agree is being at one against the broadcaster.

    Oliver Maloney says broadcasters and politicians in part do not understand each others business. Broadcaster may highlight issues but politicians still have to solve them. Politicians resented what they saw as broadcasters taking on a role of higher morality.

    The newspapers often made great play of government interference in RTÉ affairs. Was there really that much interference?

    Kevin McCourt says that it is endemic to broadcasting that there will be interference. There was interference and he suspects there still is. The print media made more of this than he did during his time at RTÉ.

    Oliver Maloney says there isn't a role and should not be a role for politicians in broadcasting other than those on the statute.

  • Information

    The title 'Lifting the Veil - The Politics of Television' is taken from an Irish Independent headline in December 1961 when the new television service, Telefís Eireann, announced its first programme schedules. Now, 21 years later, this extended documentary presents a programme-maker's view of the conflict between broadcasting and government. It looks back at the earliest conflicts, like the dispute between the then Minister for Agriculture, Charles Haughey, and the RTÉ newsroom, in 1966, through incidents like the "7 Days" money-lending programme and the subsequent tribunal up to the present-day conflicts over coverage of the Northern troubles.

    (RTÉ Guide November 11 1983)

  • Local keywords
    RTÉ, Broadcasting, 1980s, Television, Politics, Gunnar Rugheimer, Ken Gray, John Bowman, Dónall Ó Móráin, Oliver Maloney, Kevin McCourt, Peter Feeney
  • Geographical coverage
  • Topic
    The Media
  • Publisher Broadcaster
  • First broadcast channel
    RTÉ One
  • Production year
  • Country of production
  • IPR restrictions
    Rights Reserved - Free Access
  • Rights terms and conditions

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  • Item type
  • Item colour
  • Item sound
  • Aspect ratio
  • Language used
    English (eng)