Why is RTE’s flagship news so dull?

dobboWhy are RTE’s flagship news bulletins so dull, predictable and safe? The same heads, the same tales … drawing the same reactions. Yawnarama!

I have my iPhone and my laptop, so I’m fairly up to speed on what’s happening. Surely Bryan Dobson and the team have something new, or value to add? Footage from Roy Keane’s press conference 13 hours ago scripted in that dramatic present tense just doesn’t cut it!

News: “Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events”, says Google. So how does an Enda Kenny filibuster in the Dail, from six hours ago, qualify as newly received — or noteworthy — however breathless it might make poll corr Martina Fitzgerald?

Oh look, here’s our Taoiseach himself, that carefully e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e-d delivery, eyes fixed on interlocutor, upraised hands chopping out the metre. Like a child carefully reciting a poem he learned in school to the grown-ups. Worried he’ll get it wrong or laugh inappropriately under the weight of it all. Or, worse, we will. Well done, our little Enda.

The actual words on matters of national consequence merely drone by.

I can’t help thinking of Oliver Callan as Enda Kenny, the small town schoolteacher who can’t believe he’s shaking hands with Angela Merkel and the big wigs over in Brussels, hoping they like his good suit 

Next item: someone has been murdered/drowned/found dead in a country place: cue the priest’s mournful words tannoyed to the mourners outside the church, and to us. Poignancy by numbers.

Cut to the local councillor or, better, a neighbour, who nods and confirms he/she is, yes, shocked, and yes, the community is devastated …

More on the repeal the Eighth Amendment debate … the latest twist in the old abortion saga — our politicians more concerned with guaranteeing the right to fudge than anything else.

Thinking of Oliver Callan, it’s hard not to see our political big guns as mere graduates from the Terry Prone to Dissemble academy.

Like Michael Noonan enunciating very slowly for the hard of intelligence, or Gerry Adams moving and talking like a mechanical toy that was left out in the rain.

Look, we know it’s not easy editing the bewildering Babel of bombings, business buy-outs and flood-marooned farmers at home and abroad into one tight 50-minute package. But the people doing it, do it every day, so the real challenge is to keep it fresh, informative and engaging.

So what, you say, it’s only the news and how else would you do it? Sure there is always the internet. Or Twitter: unfiltered, uncensored and immediate?

The news agenda is broadly the same all over the net, cherrypicked — usually unpaid —  from the terrestrial news channels, piggybacking on the work done by working reporters and camera crews.

Follow a big story on Twitter and yes, the dramatic newsflashes will pop in but these can be as confusing as they are illuminating.

For the most part, it’s largely hacks tweeting and retweeting to each other as the rest of us eavesdrop cybernetically on a zillion opinions, quips and article references.

I followed the Brexit debate on Twitter. Checked in every day with @paulkrugman, @GeneKerrigan, and the Guardian guys slagging off big bad Boris Johnson. David McWilliams, or @davidmcw, should I say, must have hardly slept, dashing from an Aran Islands holiday to headline the Dalkey Book festival, tweeting and retweeting all the while, even the tweets that praised his original tweets, all the way to the Leave result he predicted. He must have been exhausted by the time he reached his first summer school.

I largely followed the Stay people, and keyboard warriors all, our jests, aphorisms and opinions influenced nobody, changed no wavering opinions. We were just like spiders spinning yarns in the world wide web, or school kids sneering behind the bike shed of history.

Back after the break to the news:

The set-piece reports and stock film images roll by … ah great, some colour: Michael O’Leary is on! Depending on your politics, you will lap up what the Gigginstown Guru has to say, or his Ryanair Profits Before People sound-bytes will turn you into a spittle-flecked lunatic. 

The news finally ends, and after the weather — predictably volatile — David McCullagh is standing in front of a TV audience telling us about some debate coming up on Prime Time.

Debate? A few carefully selected blow-hards who come out in a practised rash when dissenting opinions are voiced, let alone explored, and it all kicks off, yakkedy-yakkedy-yak. Actually, it’s more of a controlled explosion as Miriam and David and their bosses know who they are dealing with and exactly how far they will go. Even as smiling Miriam wraps it up before handing over to David and his studio panel, the dissenting audience voices fall silent as the lights dim. Job done.

Why it does it all not make me — us —  want to take to the streets in rage and indignation, rather than sag back into the same soft suburban sofa in limp despair? Reaching for the remote and lining up that Match of the Day we haven’t watched yet.

Oh the joys of pondering the big picture when you’re glazing (sic) at the little picture on your TV screen. Isis, what Isis? Stick on Chelsea versus Arsenal.

— Enda Sheppard

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