TV3 boss compares Irish media control to Soviet State system

In an exclusive interview in the latest issue of Hot Press (published Thursday October 8), the CEO of TV3, David McRedmond, admits the he would like to change “a whole lot” in the new Broadcasting Act.

He also says that he wants RTE out of the commercial sector, claims that the board of the BCI refused to meet him and argues that a freer broadcasting scenario in Ireland could see 50,000 employed in the audio-visual services sector.

On the issue of the new Broadcasting Act, which is about to become law, McRedmond says: “Broadcasting regulation in this country is all designed to control the independent and commercial sector. It doesn’t promote it, but controls the licenses, the output and the amount of advertising. We have this hugely dominant State broadcaster, more dominant than in almost any other country. But they are so massive that we are in danger of becoming a State with a single State broadcaster. It’s almost a Soviet-style system! That needs to be cut back. It’s profoundly anti-democratic.”

Regarding the television license fee, the TV3 head told Hot Press interviewer Jackie Hayden, “I don’t want the license fee for TV3. It should stay with RTÉ because we need a public broadcaster, but that’s all it should be! I’m arguing to get RTÉ out of the commercial market. You cannot be a commercial broadcaster and a public service broadcaster at the same time.”

McRedmond also told Hot Press that “A lot of politicians are in awe of RTÉ. But the real issue isn’t at government level, it’s at the permanent government level, the Department of Communications, the regulators, the BCI, the BAI, Comreg, RTÉ. This whole State system serves the State. They’ve had a huge influence on the Act, which is full of controls on commercial broadcasters. The whole thrust of the Act is wrong.”

Asked if he ever feels he’d like the BCI (now reformulated as the BAI with former RTE man Bob Collins as Chairman) to get off his case, McRedmond unequivocally says “Yes, I do”, going on to accuse the BCI of neglecting the station. “We don’t need to be regulated,” he insists. “There’s absolutely no reason why we should be told what advertising minutage we should have. I fundamentally question the degree to which the BCI, or the BAI as it is now, has ever understood TV3. No board members of the BCI ever came out to TV3, unless they were doing interviews on Ireland AM, or something. I tried to go in and see them and I wasn’t ever allowed to meet them.”

The TV3 man also defends the station’s controversial Play TV quiz programme.

“Look, we’ve been through the toughest recession, with revenues plummeting to minus 20% or 25%. We’ve had two rounds of redundancies and all taken pay cuts, and we’re doing our best to survive. And then we do something like Play TV and there’s been all sorts of complaints. It gets 12,000 viewers some nights. If somebody thinks, as you say, that it’s low-rent, they don’t have to watch it,” he says. “It’s post-midnight and it’s making money.”

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