Quality programming

Having half an eye on the football highlights yesterday evening after getting home, I was subject to the usual bombardment of ads during the breaks. My new personal ‘favourite’ is the McDonald’s ad with a group of friends driving around in the early morning, ruing their bland packed breakfast. Then one of them exclaims “I have an idea!” and they go to McDonald’s drive thru. This ‘idea’ came after driving past a massive McDonald’s sign, so it wasn’t a sudden flash of inspiration that led her to blurt out her revelation in her irritating accent. It was a giant ad. Anyway, they buy the processed filth and drive on, stuffing their faces on their merry way, paying little attention to the actual road.

But this is not a missive on fast food, nor on advertising in general. Ads pay for tv programmes to be made, and so are a necessary evil. One can always switch over or mute them anyway. But the frequency of ads always makes me think about RTÉ (Ireland’s state broadcaster) and their licence fee. I find their latest ad amusing, as it solemnly informs viewers that licence inspectors are now working from a database. I am sure those who watch tv without a licence must be terrified by this ominous proclamation.

The problem I have with the licence is that it is an outdated concept, technology has far surpassed the level where an aerial was used to pick up a fuzzy signal and transmit it to a clunky box in the corner of the living room. Now, if you have a tv, you pay a service provider for a package of hundreds of channels (of which you might ever watch 3 or 4) which includes the public channels. Why pay twice? After all, it’s not like RTÉ are pushing the boat out and providing quality, thought-provoking, round-the-clock programming. Looking at the TV listings for this evening, I see no fewer than five soap operas, back to back across the three channels. All after the RTÉ news which is painful to watch. Not only is it a government mouthpiece, it is cringeworthily badly presented. I disagree with their director general’s assertion that we are getting ‘incredible value for money’, and that the fee should be doubled.

But the main issue is the ads. If we are expected to pay a licence fee for the programming, and the exorbitant salaries to the top broadcasters, they why are there ads every fifteen minutes? They want to have it both ways. If they want people to pay a licence fee, then get rid of the ads. BBC don’t run ads during their programming, and they produce a lot of quality television (not their news of course, vile Tory propaganda). I watch the BBC much more than RTÉ. All I ever really watch on RTE is the sports coverage, and if it came to it, I would watch the football, rugby, and hurling elsewhere.

So, let them continue with their ad revenue, and stop paying talentless parasites like Ryan Tubridy salaries that are  four or five times what consultant surgeons get paid, and scrap the licence. How much do they spend on employing licence inspectors anyway? Let them go get a real job, and get rid of the licence. However, that’s not the thinking of the powers that be. Realising that charging for owning a television is anachronistic, and that many people now consume media on laptops, tablets, etc., they have been proposing a new household broadcast charge, regardless of whether the household has a television or not. This plan has been scrapped, and resurrected, before. The thinking behind is that if you can watch RTÉ on any device, such as your smartphone, then you have to pay Joe Duffy and the others for the privilege. Does he, and the person who came up with the McDonald’s ad, not deserve every penny?

But for now, we are required to put up with horrible and irritating ads, and pay extra for it. It’s like having someone kick you in the fork and then thanking them for it. “I have an idea”: scrap the fee. And scrap the praying-mantis-in-a-suit Tubridy while we are at it.

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