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In case you don't know it is from Ireland, and its name is in Gaeilge
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of Spider-Man!
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Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) [1] is Ireland's national public broadcaster. Started in 1926 as a state-owned radio station Radio Éireann, later in 1960, it broadcasted the TV channel Telefís Éireann. In 1961 under the Broadcasting Authority Act, RTÉ has reconfigured from a section of the government's Department of Posts and Telegraphs, into an independent public broadcaster. This is a broadcaster that is owned by the people and thus not under the whims of the government, in a style and arrangement similar to the BBC. It is funded by a mixture of an obligatory annual licence fee, advertising, sponsorship and its own commercial enterprises. Today it broadcasts three TV channels, seven radio stations, a catch-up service, the RTÉ Player, a website, rte.ie, and various other commercial enterprises. Although it is an organisation for those in the Republic, it also available those in Northern Ireland through digital means despite not paying the Irish licence fee.

Many major Irish celebrities started or spent a significant part of their career at RTÉ including newsreader Miriam O'CallaghanWikipedia, presenters Terry WoganWikipedia, Gay ByrneWikipedia and Ryan TubridyWikipedia, comedians Dara Ó BriainWikipedia, Tommy TiernanWikipedia, Neil DelamereWikipedia and Andrew MaxwellWikipedia, and musicians BoyzoneWikipedia, U2Wikipedia and The CorrsWikipedia (which includes Jim Corr).

Close but no cigar[edit]

Until the Broadcasting Act, RTÉ was effectively a state institution under the wing of the Department of Posts & Telegraphs, which meant that it was in effect part of the Irish government. After the act was introduced, it gave RTÉ independence from the government. However, this freedom was limited as the act also gave the minister of the Department some rights to overrule that autonomy. Two of these rights were firstly the right to choose who was on the governing board, the RTÉ Authority, and secondly the right to censor certain items from being broadcasted. Unless you were able to catch the frequencies of the BBC which easily overspilled over Ireland, many things were simply unheard of, for example, the whole genre of jazz music was banned until the late 1950s!

One way that the minister could rule was over the broadcasting, which was items relating to the Troubles in the North. Under a ministerial order under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, in 1971 all members or spokespersons of any organisation that were connected to terrorism which in effect was principally aimed Sinn Féin/IRA, could not broadcast anything at all at any time. Even items unrelated to the Troubles were forbidden, such interviewing a Sinn Féin member who was the union leader of the Gateaux strike [2] or taking a call from a member of the public to a gardening show, on the grounds the individual was a Sinn Féin member. It was only abolished when the former minister and now president Michael D. Higgins, didn’t renew the order in 1994.

In the mid-1970s to early 1990s, the Marxist Workers Party of Ireland establishes a covert cumann [cell] within RTÉ called Ned Stapleton CumannWikipedia, consisting of various journalists to try to influence the organisation and its broadcasting. This lead to issues and tensions within the organisation over objectivity.


Like other parts of Europe, Ireland has an obligatory annual public broadcasting licence fee. This consists of a flat-rate household charge of 160 euro. Non-payment of this charge can result in a fine of 1000 euro or time in prison. [3] Despite the financial risks and being managed by a government agency, non-payment is rife at nearly one in seven households not paying a TV licence, three times the rate of the UK and Germany. [4]

Unlike the UK where the licence fee covers nearly all the costs of public broadcasting, RTÉ has to subside this financing by other means. This includes having advertising breaks, sponsorship (…RTÉ Weather sponsored by Ulster Bank…), product placement (there is a reason why the corner store in the soap Fair CityWikipedia is a Spar) and government cultural grants (…this programme was helped by the Irish Film Industry…). Plus on top of that, some of RTÉ output is completely commercially funded like the pop station 2FM and rte.ie, which makes you wonder where the money goes. Also since the Great Recession, RTÉ has been in permanent financial crisis [5] and has had to slash budgets including cutting programming and hospitality, while many major big names like Tubridy or radio personality Ray D'Arcy, continue to have six-figure salaries. [6]


Like many Irish institutions like the Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Constitution of Ireland), the Catholic Church has its beady eye over RTÉ.

Even today, it still plays The AngelusWikipedia bell twelve times, twice a day at 1200 and 1800 on the main RTÉ One and RTÉ Radio 1 stations. In fact, this leads to a unique situation where the primary evening TV news program starts at one-minute past six, better to clear your soul than to know what is going on in the world. Originally it showed a picture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, [7] but now it shows people gazing into the distance without any reference to the religious aspect of the bells at all.[8] Despite calls for RTÉ to scrap it,[9][10] RTÉ says it is the country's most popular religious programme at around half a million viewers.

The bishop and the nightie incident[edit]

In 1966, on RTÉ’s flagship chat show The Late Late Show, the presenter Gay Byrne did a Mr and MrsWikipediashow style piece with a suburban couple Richard and Eileen Fox from County Dublin. Asked what was the colour of the nightie (nightgown) that Mrs Fox wore on their wedding night, initially Mr Fox said it was transparent and later Mrs Fox said she didn’t wear one at all which led to laughter by the audience.[11]

After that incident, the Bishop of Clonfert, the Most Reverend Dr Thomas Ryan, wrote to The Sunday Press condemning the show as immoral and the presenter as a promoter of filth. Later he asked his parishioners to write to the producers of the show saying that they will not tolerate such a programme. Afterwards, RTÉ apologised on air but took no further action.[12]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]