THE INTRO to RTÉ’s autumn season launch is familiar to perusers of press releases from assorted Irish film festivals, Screen Ireland, IFTA and film industry organisations: “This upcoming season from RTÉ celebrates Irish culture, creativity and Irish talent, with Irish drama, unique Irish stories, and Irish talent taking centre stage.” Yet, do RTÉ possess the ability to follow up on these words with original programmes?
The PR pitch is clearly that the broadcaster’s output exists to underpin its pleadings for more income. In an interview last month, RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said: “We are living month to month trying to manage the finances.”
That may be true, but then Montrose has partnered with many international competitors in recent years, on shows such as Normal People, without whom these series would not get the green light, as Forbes indeed admits, referring to the return of Smother and Kin.
“Quite honestly, we couldn’t afford to do it ourselves. Having people like AMC coming on… is a very good way of making sure that this content is seen outside Ireland,” she said.
The problem is that there is little in it for RTÉ when the international rights are owned by the larger production partner.
A detail neither Forbes nor the recent PR guff addresses is the actual extent to which the new programming is produced by external, independent producers, and how much of that is commissioned or merely bought in by RTÉ. That information could leave the station looking like a hulking superstructure with inordinate staffing levels. It raises the question, if it is more efficient to commission these programmes externally, then why is RTÉ not entirely a commissioner broadcaster?