After its bias towards SF and Labour in 2011 RTÉ is sticking to regulations for #GE16

With feverish speculation about dirty tricks coming up in the final week of the campaign, Sinn Fein launches a brilliant let “Sinn Fein speak” campaign against RTE for not publishing interviews or coming to some of their press conferences…

Sound familiar? Fionnan Sheahan reckons it’s a repeat of a 2011 tactic when Sinn Fein pressurised RTE into breaking its own guidelines and giving themselves and Irish Labour too much coverage:

Sinn Féin doesn’t like the amount of coverage it has been getting on RTÉ. Neither does it like the party’s stance of abolishing the Special Criminal Court featuring.

The party doesn’t seem to realise the national broadcaster is obliged to cover the topical issues of the day on its news bulletins – not just pump out its propaganda.

For a party which objected to Section 31 censorship of the Provos during the Troubles, it now, ironically, wants to dictate what can and cannot be covered.

Sheahan is drawing from a well documented paper published in the Irish Political Studies journal by Kevin Rafter of DCU, according to which monitoring data from 2011 which showed that both parties swallowed far more airtime than their respective support allowed:

  • Fianna Fail in the 30–31 per cent range (guideline 31 per
  • Fine Gael in the 25–27 per cent range (guideline 27 per cent);
  • Labour in the 20–25 per cent range (guideline 13 per cent);
  • Sinn Fein in the range 9–12 per cent (guideline
    seven per cent);
  • Greens in the five-to-eight per cent range (guideline five per cent);
  • Others/independents three-to-eight per cent (guideline 18 per cent).

Hardly surprising Sinn Fein are trying the same trick again. But nor is it surprising that RTE are knocking them back so firmly this time. 

Intriguingly although he was invited to Vincent Browne’s Peoples Debate in Dundalk last night, Gerry Adams declined to come along. Given the forensic level of detail of Browne’s questioning on the Slab Murphy case that too is hardly surprising.

More surprising perhaps is his refusal to be interviewed by Matt Cooper, a highly regarded prime time presenter of Today FM’s Last Word. 

Anyhoo, this morning RTE did broadcast an interview with Gerry Adams by Sean O’Rourke… 

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  • Concubhar O Liathain

    Irrespective of what anyone thinks about Sinn Féin, NMS’ comment is beneath the standard I’d expect on Slugger.

  • Robin Keogh

    While many might criticise slugger for giving air space to the latest INM anti sinn fein onslaught, I personally think it is important for those of us who genuinely wish to protect democratic principles to become fully aware of from whom and from where the real threats to our democracy emminates. The above OP clearly supports the INM position which is fair enough, however such esteemed support does not imply that INM are either correct or in any way accurate.

    The headline today in the Indo accused Sinn Fein of intimidating RTE. But the actual article reads only that Sinn Fein objected to an RTE decision and accuses keyboard warriors of unseemly communications (something neither Sinn Fein or any other party has control over ). The headline was deliberaty misleading and represents the usual ramping up of anti SF smear with deliberate untruths.

    SF objected fairly to a decision by RTE to pair back covering the party’s campaigning on the basis that the party had recieved excess coverage during the row over SF policy on the SCC. A row which was pushed not by SF but by FG, Lab and FF along with the media itself, esp INM. SF like any other party has the right to challenge such a move if it finds the action to be unfair, nothing more, nothing less.

    SF are not alone here. Yesterday on RTE radio Micheal Martin responded to Aine Lawlors questions in a most unusual and aggressive way. He accused her and RTE of spinning the FG line against FF. His attitude and comments were far closer to intimidation than anything SF had engaged in. Last night on the week in politics an ex Indo editor was on the panel discussing the election. She tore into Enda Kenny while taking every concievable opportunity to praise Micheal Martin until eventually Aine Lawlor had to slap her down. She did so in a far more respectful manner than afforded to lawlor herself from Martin. FF’s most obvious attack on Aine and RTE naturally get little ink from the INM presses.

    INM in their pages regularly rip shreds off RTE when the broadcaster dares to to provide balance and fairness in its political coverage, particularly when RTE ever paints the left in a positive light.

    INM are entitled to their view and their editorial line. But with such vast resources, such naked bias, such a dispropotionate level of control on the media industry and with an obvious intent to deliver blatant and deliberate untruths; we should be mindful of exactly where the real threat to democracy and political stability comes from. It is certainly not from Sinn Fein.

  • mickfealty

    Boys, I took the trouble to fact check it before I went with Sheahan’s take on the matter. I’ve even linked the paper (though it’s a journal so not necessarily the most accessible) and clipped the relevant parts relating to the last election in 2011.

    I’m more than happy to take any direct criticism on the chin. What exactly have I got wrong here?

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont think u have necessarrily got anything wrong, for me a lot of the story is left out in the OP wich is perfectly fine of course so i am just trying to fill in the blanks somewhat 😉

  • Concubhar O Liathain

    I was only referring to the now deleted comment.

  • Ciarán

    I can’t read the paper but does Kevin Rafter claim that complaints last time by SF were a deliberate tactic to elicit more coverage? Or… did he just analyse coverage and Fionnan Sheahan (and by extension you) is just putting his spin on it?

    Also, you’re just assuming that complaints this time are a tactic without querying whether or not there is any merit to what SF are saying. For example, what is the guideline coverage for SF in GE16… I assume it’s higher than 7% and have RTE met that guideline number?

    No one is asking for uncritical coverage but the other question which Fionnan Sheahan doesn’t ask is, has the coverage been fair and balanced (in fairness that might be an alien concept over there at O’Brien Towers)? SF reasonably make the point that their policy launches have not received the same attention as those of the other parties with RTE coverage limited to the SCC issue.

  • Zig70

    Did I read it right, SF are only due 7% of the coverage. Why weight the coverage, doesn’t that give an unhealthy bias to any party of government and an unnecessary disadvantage to new parties. If I was Gerry, I’d avoid Matt. Just mentions percentages and he’s fecked. Though the interviewer knew rightly it wasn’t 7p in the pound on over £100k.

  • mickfealty

    In 2011, they were, yes. I presume it has been reset because of SF’s upward shift popularity etc. I suspect they do it like that so that those more likely to wield larger power get proportionately more scrutiny.

  • Zig70

    I can see there is no easy answer to it, esp with so many independents. Maybe based on the number of candidates would be fairer. RTE bashing always goes down well, especially in the northern counties.

  • Jollyraj

    It’s often the way that the more extreme parties get more attention. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • mickfealty

    Ciaran, I can see how you might read that so I’ve altered the words so there’s no possibility of future misunderstanding. It’s a journal paper so more than my life’s worth to share it publicly here.

    I was able to track down a copy and that is the relevant data from the paper.

  • Hugh Davison

    Is this an advertisement for the Irish Independent?

  • Kev Hughes

    This is a complicated one here.

    i) Mick, you point to the twitter viewers of a post by GA/SF, unless I am mistaken, twitter is not run by RTE?

    ii) Vincent Browne works for TV3

    iii) Matt Cooper is on Today FM.

    Now, I suspect your retort will be something along the lines of ‘yes, but it’s not like he is not getting access to the media and look, he’s turning down actual appearances’, and that’s fair enough, but the point here is the actual access that SF is being given to RTE.

    Let’s go with a hypothetical that I think many may foresee very soon. The polls are not going the way the Coalition had thought so they go for out right Project Fear and sell the bogey man of SF in government. Going by the percentages you’ve listed above this would mean FF, FG and Lab getting some 71% of air time to trash SF while the latter would get only 7% as part of a right of reply. Yeah, that just doesn’t feel right.

    That, and it seems too neat for anyone’s liking. RTE is a state broadcaster and news provider; if the news is the decline of the Coalition coupled with the rises of FF, SF and Independents then I would expect there to be output that reflects this as opposed to working with a set formula which appears incredibly corporatist to say the least.