Nobody likes RTÉ television. I mean nobody. If you ever bothered to ask anyone about the station (and let’s face it, you never have or will), the only response you’d get is a shoulder shrug and maybe, just maybe, “ah sure it’s decent for the sport like.”

But do you know what it’s not decent for? Literally everything else. Seriously, as television stations go, it’s just disappointing. Despite being funded heavily by the Irish taxpayer, both RTÉ One and Two are mediocre at best. Yet our wonderful government is probably going to hand the monkeys at the wheel another €30 million or so in order to keep that mess of a broadcaster afloat.

Why? Just look at its track record! RTÉ has had a budget problem for some time now. While the main cause is supposedly increasing expenses, I think everyone among us knows that it’s really because of the rampant mismanagement within the organisation. They’ve repeatedly gone over budget, and almost always have to run back to the Irish taxpayer for a bit more cash to pad out the coffer.

I’d be okay with all that if the station actually produced anything worth watching. However, quite simply it does not. Leaving to one side the trainwreck which is Fair City, the station hasn’t produced any drama of particular value since Love/Hate.

I was planning on emphasizing this by listing off all the bad shows the station has put out in the meantime, however, I’m having trouble remembering them because they were so bland and uninteresting. Honestly, it doesn’t matter that I don’t remember them, the point is they’re not worth remembering.

On the other hand, a show I wish I’d forget is Rebellion. This crime against entertainment aired in 2016 as part of RTÉ’s lineup of centenary programming and boy, was it a mess. Almost all the characters were unlikeable, the single character that was actually likeable was more bland than stale bread. Even worse, the show had this strange forced angle to it, as if it was trying to portray the role women played in the rising, when in actuality, it just ended up showing how progressives have no business making television.

Many defenders of RTÉ will try and point out that Ireland is a small country, so I shouldn’t set my standards too high for the national broadcaster since they could never afford real talent. However, this blatantly isn’t true, and neither are the arguments that you need money to make good television or that Ireland simply does not have the domestic talent pool to make a good show. My evidence for all this? Three words: Éirí Amach Amú.

Éirí Amach Amú, known in English as Wrecking the Rising, is a three part production aired by TG4 as part of the 1916 commemorations. So far, much like Rebellion. However, na buachaillí ag TG4 had a number of ideas about how to not reproduce the abomination RTÉ had aired a number of months previous.

A good first step was stripping it of all progressive talking points, something they could get away with doing since they were not in the media limelight. Secondly, they added a Sci-Fi element to the plot, making the over examined point in Irish history a little more original and dynamic. Last, they dropped any pretence of being serious and made the show a comedy of the dirty Irish variety.

The result: probably the funniest Irish production of the 21st century.

Éirí Amach Amú was a masterpiece of Irish television, something that could be put squarely down to nothing other than genius writing, as well as a bit of pragmatic enginuity here and there. What’s more, it wasn’t a one-off fluke for the stáisiún teilifís as Gaeilge.

The show was actually a repeat of the success they had with An Klondike, which they had aired the year before. Depicting the fortune of a group of Irish brothers going off to the Yukon during the gold rush, the show was so good that it was purchased by Netflix and re-launched on the English-Speaking platform as Dominion Creek.

Both these series show how good Irish television can be produced on a reasonable budget, as well as the fact that not only do we have a lot of native talent, but we have a lot of native talent within the Irish speaking community alone!

And yet, despite all this, RTÉ is still failing. They are not failing due to lack of resources of any kind, or due to the nature of the market either domestic or abroad, but because they are incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery. It’s a big problem, one so big in fact that only the cruel hand of the free market could possibly fix it.

Not only should RTÉ not receive an extra €30 million, but it should simply stop receiving taxpayer money full stop, at least until they figure out how to produce some decent content. In the meantime, we could just give the money to TG4 instead. It would be a much better investment since not only would we get better TV out of it, we’d boost the Irish language across the nation as well. What’s not to like?

Peter Caddle

Posted by Peter Caddle

Peter is the Burkean's resident expert on all things popular and cultural.

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