SENATOR John Whelan called for the establisment of a parliamentary television channel in a Seanad debate on media standards last Wednesday.
“I call on the Minister to support the efforts being made by the Ceann Comhairle and the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission to urge the State broadcaster to take up this opportunity to run a parliamentary channel similar to BBC Parliament, so that the public can see matters of interest being deliberated upon by committees and Houses. If RTE is not interested, fair enough, but a section of the television licence could be diverted to TG4, which might take up the same opportunity.”
Senator Whelan also queried the use of the annual TV licence fee. “At €160 per annum, the fee is not to be scoffed at. Indeed, it is more than the household charge and septic tank registration fee. We are entitled to ask about what bang we are getting for our buck and to what end the money is being channelled into public service broadcasting.
“Is it being used to sustain an unsustainable wage model for celebrity presenters at a time when the station is losing up to €30 million per annum? Whatever use the licence fee is being put to, it is not being used to cover the Houses.”
Senator Whelan also addressed the code of practice that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is proposing to introduce. “Broadcasting contains a great deal of cronyism, vested interests and conflicts of interest. One suggestion in the draft proposal is that presenters should not give their own opinions. Vested interests pose a clear problem, in that some people are engaged as media coaches and spin doctors to handle the media message behind the scenes on the one hand and, on the other, appear on programmes masquerading as independent analysts and pundits.
2Where there is a direct conflict of interest, no good journalist has anything to fear from this register of interests. It rightly applies to politicians and it should also apply in the broadcasting area.”