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7 September 2006 Edition

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Media View

Kofi Annan

RTÉ presents two versions of same story

In today's world, more and more people rely on radio and television news for their information - partly because the newspapers can't be trusted to tell the truth and have dumbed down anyway, and partly because the broadcasting media are so much more accessible and quick.

But this gives great power to institutions like RTÉ. As a state broadcaster, it should be above the ideological partisanship that marks the print media, but this is not the case. RTÉ is as biased and partisan as any of them in spewing out anti-republican and pro-establishment propaganda.

In particular, the difference between radio and television in the way in which sensitive news stories are handled shows how this operates, with television being much more strictly controlled and censored.

Recent coverage of the Israeli war against Lebanon is very illustrative. Radio has more time, and so the whole story can be told. It's what television leaves out that is fascinating.

So, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's recent visit to the Middle East produced a radio report which correctly sequenced Annan calling firstly for an end to the Israeli blockade against Lebanon, and then adding a call for the release of the Israeli soldiers captured by Hizbollah fighters.

RTÉ television was having none of it. It led with Annan's call for the release of the Israeli soldiers, ignored the call for an end to the Israeli blockade and gave the misleading impression that Annan has singled out Hizbollah for critical comment.

How can the same news organisation present what amounts to two different versions of the same story?

The fact is that television is regarded more seriously within RTÉ, especially as regards the evening news bulletins. Those who edit these bulletins are carefully chosen as people who have proven their "reliability" in the way they handle such stories.

The frontline reporter - in this case Tony Connolly, who is by no means a progressive - gives his newsdesk the full report and television editors select what bits they want.

And it isn't coincidental that the bits they want are the bits that best reflect the outlook of Anglo-American imperialism, tempered only by some slight acknowledgement of the public distaste for what the Israelis have been doing.

Those who want to progress within the organisation, and perhaps earn the coveted right to be sent on foreign assignments, can read these signs as well as anyone, and adjust their behaviour and their reporting accordingly.

Sometimes, of course, they go too far, even for RTÉ. And a recent editorial meeting in RTÉ had to call the newsroom to task and insist that the Israeli army be referred to as such, rather than the more familiar and almost benign IDF (the initials of the Israeli Defence Forces).

But next time you hear a comprehensive radio report, wait and compare it with what goes out on television - and note the omissions. It's a good way of knowing what facts the establishment want suppressed.

The only problem, of course, is that this doesn't work in relation to republican matters, because the censorship and news control is all pervasive and radio is as strictly monitored in this regard as is television.

Readers may have seen RTÉ television's interviews with the former Taoiseach former defender of the Heavy Gang Garret FitzGerald, but in a preview of the series in The Irish Times that organ of rectitude seriously upset the great man.

Speaking to The Times, FitzGerald said that at school he had often been regarded as arrogant, standoffish and a bit of a prig. Unfortunately, the reporter misheard the quote, and The Irish Times duly reported that the great man had been regard as a "bit of a prick".

FitzGerald was outraged that such "language" should be attributed to him, and he demanded a full apology and correction which The Times duly published to a much larger readership than would have read the original offending word.

So, it's official: Garret is NOT a prick; but it does seem that he is indeed a prig.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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