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The Media in Ireland must represent the views of all sectors of society.

Irish Media Scrum

I will be discussing the issues raised in this article on the panel of Coleman at Large with Marc Coleman on Newstalk 106-108fm tonight (Tuesday the 30th of July) from 9pm.

Tonight on TV3 presented by Tom McGurk this Monday night discussed the issue of the media elite, editorial standards and representation in the Irish media.  The issue of standards and ethics in the Irish media is an ongoing debate that divides opinion but is an issue of great importance of who is setting the media agenda and who’s agenda is being driven.  The regular mantra is that we are dominated by a liberal leaning ‘Dublin 4 centric’ media that is insular and myopic in it’s world view.  The main focus of this discourse should be on standards and ethics, media ownership and the personal agendas that are being driven by owners and editors of media entities.

In general the media in Ireland does not adequately represent women, immigrants, young people and new and emerging voices and contributors.  Where is the representation in the media of our diverse multifaceted society, where are the voices of minorities, people with disabilities, travellers, lesbian and gay people and the people of rural Ireland and the working class?  The profile of contributors to radio, TV and newspapers seem to in the main come from a middle class, urban socio economic elite mainstream section of society and there is a general consensus on the viewpoints expressed and opinions proferred.

This weeks Sunday Independent published a survey of female representation in the Irish radio market and its finding were in line with what was expected by lobbyists such as the Women On Air group, who have long campaigned for more women to be present in the broadcast media.  Numerous programmes don’t meet anything near it’s gender quotas when it comes to guests and on air contributors, never mind primetime programme presenters and anchors.  The survey by the paper showed that, “even the State broadcaster failed to live up to gender equality, with 70 per cent of RTE Radio 1’s programmes and all of 2fm’s show’s fronted by males.  Of the 21 prime time shows on 2fm, Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM and FM104, 100 per cent are hosted by men.”  Primetime on radio runs from 7am until 7pm and although women are represented very well as researchers, producers and newsreaders, when it comes to being the “face of the radio station”, it appears women are relegated to second class citizens.

There is a distinct sense that the graduates that are coming through the ranks into the media industry come from the same large colleges and universities and sections of society, that were attended by the editors who employ them.  This issue is slowly being addressed by students who are breaking the glass ceiling.  They are qualifying and being employed on their merit, experience, skills and passion, rather than the college they qualified from, but it is a slow process.

The emergence of online and social media has shaken up the media industry and has forced traditional media to rethink their approach and business models.  Radio stations are embracing digital platforms, extra digital channels, podcasting, blogs, citizen reporting and I-pad, I-phone and Android apps and publications.  Newspapers are changing at a slower rate, in order to survive online Irish newspapers need to embrace podcasting, as the Irish Times has done so recently with the hugely successful Second Captains podcast, there needs to be more of these podcasts commissioned by newspapers as well as implementating live Blogs to keep online news enthusiasts up to date with new and rolling news feeds.

At all times standards need to be maintained particularly in the broadcast media, the failure of RTE’s Primetime Investigates to verify sources in the broadcast of inaccurate information about Fr. Kevin Reynolds, showed a level of complaceny and ‘groupthink’ not acceptable from the state broadcaster.  The priest was wrongly accused of fathering a child in Africa and a subsequent report criticised the production from management level down, it resulted in the programme series being removed from the schedule although a similar incarnation still exists on the station.  We need our news and current affairs broadcasts to be fair, balanced and objective, but we must not neutralise the opinion driven broadcasters that makes, in particluar the Irish radio industry, a vibrant platform for debate and discussion.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland recently recommended that broadcasters must be impartial in their delivery of current affairs broadcasting, how they will implement these guidelines remains to be seen.  During The Frontline presidential debate a false tweet was read out by presenter Pat Kenny, this tweet started a chain of events that led to the downfall of Sean Gallagers bid for the Aras, the media must remember that social media and new emerging trends must be treated in the same manner as traditional forms of communication and must be subject to verification to ensure best practice and standards.  We are also waiting to see what contribution the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbite, will make to change and improve the media landscape, he promised a lot when he assumed office in the areas of media ownership and standards, so we will await to see what changes he chooses to make in these areas.

In many cases we see that a consensus emerges within the media landscape, but when this is the case true debate and diversity of opinion suffers, we have seen this in the recent abortion debate, same sex marriage, the economy, issues relating to austerity, the future of the Seanad etc., whereby an accepted norm is taken on board, the problem with this is that it extinguishes debate and alternate viewpoints.  In order to have a strong media we need all views to have an airing be they opinions that are perceived as liberal, centrist, conservative, right or left wing and we must be aware of selective coverage and reporting of news and current affairs issues.

In the Irish media we have seen very little coverage that focussed on debating our place in Europe, few commentators have challenged the Governments austerity agenda, we have seen little discussion on Ireland returning back into recession and the Governments failure to reinvigorate the economy through export led growth, and why is the extremely worrying levels of inequality in our society not being addressed in the media?

The current mantra in the media is that house prices are now bouncing back, we must be careful of once again talking up the economy like we did during the economic boom, whereby newspapers and economists were amongst the most fervant supporters of the property bubble.  Reports today say that mortgage holders are strategically defaulting on their mortgages, this is a very worrying refrain that we have heard numerous times in the media recently, and the more it is repeated, the more it is believed.

Where are the working class and struggling class voices in the broadcast media to tell us the truth of the situation that the day to day reality is that people are suffering.  Families are not strategically defaulting on their family homes, they can’t make their massive repayments because they are facing a higher cost of living, lower wages, stealth charges and a country that is mired in austerity and is in recession.  Our media should focus more on the banks default and mismanagement, these banks were bailed out by the Irish taxpayer, but now they seem to think it is acceptable to squeeze debt ridden families.  The Irish media must realise it is not the mouthpiece of the urban elite middle class demographic alone, rather it is there to represent and speak for all classes in society, all the people of this nation, all creeds, all beliefs and all citizens.

I will be discussing some of the issues raised in this article on the panel of Coleman at Large with Marc Coleman on Newstalk 106-108fm tonight from 9pm.

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One comment on “The Media in Ireland must represent the views of all sectors of society.

  1. irishonlineradio
    November 1, 2013

    Reblogged this on John O'Donovan.

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