Boredom rules at RTÉ as election looms

They were all at it. The weeks before and after Christmas, each daytime news programme, from Morning Ireland to Drivetime, on RTÉ Radio 1 (which the public pays for through licence fees) was filled with mediocre reviews of the year. How much of the year gone by do we really want to hear about?


Evidently, we can't get enough of it – it's done again and again and no one in RTÉ seems to listen to the other shows as they replay the same old clips of the year, hour after hour. That said, they couldn't play Joe Higgins's legendary ‘Paddy the Plasterer' Dáil speech often enough; the one he made in relation to payments received by Bertie Ahern from Manchester businessmen. Nor Ahern's graveside eulogy to Charlie Haughey, just to show the hypocrisy of our ‘great' leader. But it is times like this that make the good stand out from the ordinary.

On 31 December, Gerald Barry's This Week (Sundays, RTÉ Radio 1, 1-2pm) had the last review of the year to be aired and it outperformed the lot. Extracts from This Week throughout the year revealed Barry's broadcasting expertise. He does more than just churn out the usual when covering big stories like Haughey's legacy, murders, Aer Lingus, the health service in crisis etc. This review programme started with quotes from Ireland's political leaders which beautifully illustrated the hypocrisy of the ‘coalition mating game'. He replayed McDowell on how the gardaí shot John Carthy dead in Abbeylara: “The management of this siege was unsatisfactory and the casualty should not have happened.” Mary Harney was heard saying she would have consultants' contracts sorted by spring 2006 and that she had no intention of standing down as leader of the PDs.

It is this sort of radio which RTÉ should do more of in the next six months. The run-up to the election is a crucial time in reporting and that reporting influences the election outcome. RTÉ's necessity to give political parties the equivalent amount of coverage time as they have seats in the Dáil mitigates against any significant changes to who represents the public. It makes no sense that a new party with no Dáil representation is not entitled to any coverage – which makes it even harder to get reported on RTÉ, let alone elected. This, combined with the dull, old formulas of RTÉ's weekday ‘news' programmes from 7-9am, 10am-12pm, 1-2pm and 5-6.30pm does not provide much hope for challenging or refreshing coverage in the run-up to the election.

It also provides NewsTalk in their first national calendar year with an excellent opportunity (despite their significantly lower resources) to use their younger, energising talent to provide the country with some alternative, dynamic election reporting. And while George Hook does not fit into the younger category, his ability to bring a lightness of touch and a sense of humour to the reporting of serious stories means he will continue to give the drivetime shows a run for their listenership.πSara Burke contributes once a week on NewsTalk to The Breakfast Show's review of the daily papers