DCU questions the future of the media

By Claire Acton, National News Editor

Dublin City University welcomed a number of Irish speakers to take part in a biannual series of lectures entitled: ‘The Media and the Public’. The aim of the lectures were to address questions surrounding, the direction of the media, whether they can still empower us and what new forms of ownership, financing and control will enhance our democracy and public life.

Director General of RTÉ, Noel Curran, delivered the inaugural lecture titled: ‘The Future of Public Service Media in Ireland’. The focus of Currans lecture was to establish how public media should be funded and how RTÉ can maintain relevance in the vibrant media environment it finds itself in today.

Throughout the lecture Curran focused keenly on the need for RTÉ to maintain its Irish identity and accountability to the public. It is public trust which he claims is RTÉ’s “currency”.

On the topic of funding, Curran notes that RTÉ adopts a dual funding approach as opposed to a licence fee alone such as the BBC. While with regard to the need to decrease the budget deficit at RTÉ he points at an 18% cut of their cost base and a reduction of 200 in staff numbers over the last two years.

Following this, Curran moved his discussion to highlight how RTÉ is entering a new era where it would be “open to broadcast partnerships and collaborations around key areas of content like sports rights and new digital television”. As such he introduced a new initiative called the ‘Analogue Switch Off’ which means households across the country will need to make the switch to new digital television. There was an undertone of digital media throughout his lecture with Curran commenting on Ireland’s reputation as an international digital hub with the attraction of Twitter, Facebook and Goggle offices to our shores. While he further noted that the time spent online by Irish consumers this year stands at 3 hours per day. As a result Curran strongly concluded that the future of broadcasting is clear, that it is all going online, calling Television and Radio “soon to be relics.”

However, RTÉ itself has been caught out on its reliance on social media for informative purposes. The use of Twitter at RTÉ’s Frontline debate saw a Tweet being read of by Pat Kenny. The tweet said that, Sinn Féin would reveal the man who allegedly gave a €5,000 cheque to the Presidential front-runner Sean Gallagher at a press conference the following day. The tweet had been found by RTÉ 12 minutes earlier during an ad break, and has since been found to have been from unreliable informative source.

Curren, a graduate of DCU, was awarded a BA in Communication Studies in the mid 1980s. He held a variety of posts in the print media before joining RTÉ in 1992. He initially worked as a reporter, producer and editor in RTÉ television and was later appointed as Editor of Current Affairs.