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1 October 2009 Edition

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Fun with Pat and Seán

LISTENING TO RTÉ’s Pat Kenny and Seán Whelan on Tuesday morning I suddenly realised who the main players on the Yes side of the Lisbon debate are. It’s not bumbling Enda Kenny, ranting Dick Roche, IBEC’s sidekick Eamon Gilmore or any of the people from the Yes political parties.
It’s not Pat Cox, the most pompous man in Ireland, or the scary Jehovah Witness like fanaticism of the Generation Yes Tory boys that’s making the difference. It’s journalists like Kenny and Whelan who’ve decided, in the national interest of course and no doubt genuinely motivated, to abandon any pretence of neutrality in the Lisbon debate.
And it’s not just on radio and television. It’s worse in the newspapers.
TNS MediaMarket has published three sets of research analysing the coverage of the Yes and No side of the debate in the national and Sunday papers. In the first piece, done at the start of the month, the Yes side was getting 51% of the coverage compared to 24%, less than half, for the No side. In the second set the Yes side dropped to 44% but is now back up at 46% in the penultimate report issued on the 23rd of September. The No side peaked at 24% in the middle set of figures.
Simply put, the Yes side of the argument gets twice as much coverage in the papers than the No side. Bear in mind as well that the No coverage is hardly likely to have been positive. Leaving aside the coverage of the debate most newspapers have already made clear in the opinion pieces and editorials where they stand and push their line, hard. The Sunday Independent a couple of weeks back allocated pages to its columnists to write on Lisbon with Eoghan Harris admitting in the introduction to his piece that he had been told to write about Lisbon by his editor.
It’s easy to whinge about the media and Shinners do it a lot. There are probably few political parties with as carefully honed a persecution complex as Sinn Féin and though there is a genuine bias against the party from certain journalists and publications, it’s a bias we tend to exaggerate.
The difficulty here though isn’t that Sinn Féin or other elements on the No side get tough questions. They should. And the lies some people on the No side have told should be confronted and challenged. That’s good journalism. Cóir and Libertas have taken hammerings from the Irish media and rightly so.
But they never turn the same rigour to the Yes side. IBEC and the Labour Party support a Yes vote for diametrically opposed reasons. IBEC say it will allow open up health and education services to private investment. Labour and Congress say it will prevent this from happening. As far as I’ve seen not a single journalist has bothered to explore that question.
Writing in the Irish Times over the week the normally astute Kathy Sheridan acknowledged that she was left speechless by the suggestion she would even investigate where the Yes campaign is getting its money from. The Times went after Ganley’s funding in Lisbon 1 and was right to do so. It’s not keen about going after the funding arrangements of the Yes campaign.
Tuesday’s double act by the European Union’s man in Dublin Seán Whelan and Pat Kenny was a particularly jaw dropping example of RTÉ staff making clear where their interests lie.
It’s available on the net if you want to catch it and worth a listen. They’re rarely that obvious.

BACKING LISBON: Last Tuesdays Pat Kenny Show, RTE reporter Seán Whelan with his back to the people 


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