Minister for Justice says broadcaster failing to engage with multicultural Ireland today
JUSTICE MINISTER Alan Shatter has accused RTÉ of a complete failure to reflect and engage with intercultural Ireland in a damning appraisal of the under-fire public service broadcaster.
The comments by Minister Shatter – who accused RTÉ of being 30 years behind the times – were made during his address at the launch of Near FM’s intercultural series Culture Shots on 13 June in Dublin.
“I don’t yet believe RTÉ has adequately recognised the changing Ireland, the intercultural nature of Ireland, the different strands of backgrounds that we have in Ireland and the richness of the backgrounds,” said Minister Shatter in his address.
“If we hear anything about integration or issues relating to new communities it’s usually in the context of conflict or difficulty as opposed to the positive contributions that are being made. It’s time we saw faces on RTÉ which represent the Ireland of 2012 rather than the Ireland of 1980.”
Minister Shatter has since discussed the issue with Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, according to the Department of Justice on 26 June, but no information was provided on the outcome of this.
A spokesperson for RTÉ, speaking on the same day, told Metro Éireann that it had not received any representations from the Government on these issues, while the Department of Communi-cations issued no response by press time.
Minister Shatter’s remarks at the Dublin event were in response to earlier comments by Chinedu Onyejelem, editor of this newspaper, who had expressed his “disappointment” over RTÉ’s coverage of cultural diversity. “I don’t think it is right for RTÉ to be giving us travel programmes in the name of intercultural programmes, I believe they need to do more,” said Onyejelem, who also denounced the “lack of immigrant employees in mainstream media organisations”.
Ireland now has a significant non-Irish population of some 12 per cent, in addition to tens of thousands of naturalised Irish citizens and young people from migrant backgrounds who were born here.
An RTÉ spokesperson acknowledged that “the profile of RTÉ staff needs to better reflect the diverse population we exist to serve”, and that the number of non-Irish or ethnic minority staff in its ranks constitutes “a small proportion” of RTÉ’s workforce of approximately 1,900.
This overall staff number is expected to reduce over the coming months as further applications for its voluntary severance scheme are processed.
The spokesperson added that a strategic priority in the fulfilment of RTÉ’s public service objectives, as outlined in the broadcaster’s Statement of Strategy 2010-2014, is to “promote inclusiveness and diversity” by reflecting “the daily lives, concerns and the cultural and regional diversity of the people of the whole island of Ireland”.
“The television series 21st Century Child would be a good example of this,” the spokesperson added. “This series, over a number of years, followed a group of families from different backgrounds in an intimate and candid look at what it means to be a parent, grandparent and child in modern Ireland.”
As Ireland’s national public service broadcaster, RTÉ receives almost all revenue generated from the television licence fee, which comprises an annual payment of €160 from every household, business or institution that has a television set.
The Government has said it will transform the licence fee into a household broadcasting charge, which will be paid regardless of the device used to access content, but full details have yet to emerge.
In 2009, the broadcaster introduced a part-time diversity co-ordinator role attached to RTÉ Radio 1, but a spokesperson was unable to confirm if this arrangement is still in place