I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.


Rage for Profit

Farrel Corcoran

There was a drumbeat for RTÉ blood-letting coursing through Irish newspapers in the latter part of 2023, a heady staccato of accusations in bold headlines: bad management and weak governance at the national broadcaster, secret pay deals, scandalous spending, hidden slush funds … debacle, furore, fiasco, farce! This was probably the worst emergency to have rocked the station since it took a severe thrashing from the government of Jack Lynch over its 1969 documentary investigating illegal money lending in Dublin.

Again RTÉ became an embattled organisation, mired in controversy. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rounded on ‘its culture of arrogance and entitlement’. Other politicians echoed his verdict in televised Oireachtas Committee hearings. A trade unionist gave a more sombre assessment of what it would all come to: ‘the talk is of a decreasing number of programmes being made in RTÉ … things that are currently done in-house by people who have decent jobs, who get maternity leave, who get holiday pay, who can get mortgage approval … public money will be used to sustain a gig economy … where people will be working from gig to gig, with no security and none of those rights and entitlements’. This would probably turn out to be a correct assessment.

A few commentators worried that the extended series of bruising encounters between RTÉ executives and politicians  was creating a prolonged ritual of public shaming of the station, fed by a social hunger for disciplinary spectacle, from which it might take years to recover. It had happened to the BBC a few times too.

This crisis originated in curiosity about media personalities’ income, something that had been in the ether for at least three decades and which is itself an effect of the celebrity culture we live in and an endemic feature of RTÉ’s complex relationship with its audience. The situation today differs sharply from twenty-five years ago, when speculation about the pay cheques of Gay Byrne, Marian Finucane and Pat Kenny began to accelerate and reached fever pitch around the general election of 1997, which led to the formation of a coalition government. Soon afterwards, there was a direct call from the new taoiseach for information on RTÉ pay. This issue had been buried somewhere in the fine print of the newly agreed Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. I was chairman of the RTÉ Authority at the time. The big question that all of Ireland apparently wanted answered urgently, underpinning headlines in the tabloid press for years, could be dodged no longer, despite issues of staff  privacy and confidentiality. We solved the problem simply, by typing a list of names and salary bands on a sheet of paper and showing it, face-to-face and without a copy, to the minister. She in turn took notes, had a quiet word with the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and tánaiste Mary Harney – and that was the end of the matter. Face was saved on all sides.

Of course we also tried to drive home the important message to politicians that the context of those jaw-dropping salary levels was political in essence. The government had decided to end the RTÉ monopoly a decade before and encourage new radio and television stations  to emerge, a process shamefully stained by political corruption. The deregulation of broadcasting triggered hyper-inflation in the very small market for celebrity presenters, in the bidding process to poach (or retain) the few media ‘talent’ who were proven audience-catchers. Competition was very good for celebrity salaries.

The changes in circumstances between then and now are profound. Committees of the Oireachtas have the ability (limited by the 2011 referendum) to ask questions in public with full press attention, and that makes all the difference. But here’s the point: can the pendulum of change swing too far, towards endless probing of the administrative innards of RTÉ, with no end in sight, with obsessive analysis of staff issues that were already being dealt with by the new director general and the new board? After all the grilling by Oireachtas Committee members in front of TV cameras, poking around for the nitty-gritty of who knew what and when, it became obvious that there was no major corruption to be discovered at the station, no breach of company law, no brown envelopes from property developers, no Galway Races tent, no bribes to ministers to gain competitive advantage, no dodgy dealings to enter new mobile telephone markets. But the grilling didn’t stop.

If this had been another state company, with none of the news interest that adheres to RTÉ, the investigation into staff pay would have been over in a few weeks and the whole affair would have faded from public interest. Outstanding issues would be handed back to the new boss and lessons would have been learned. The public would have already tired of the whole saga, the clamour for instant corporate purity, the insistent fussing about exit packages and non-disclosure agreements and whether executives involved in failed commercial enterprises should be fired with no pension.

RTÉ is not perfect, but its flaws are far outweighed by its many virtues. It would be a great shame if it became so cowed by the present humiliation ritual, being made to wear the dunce’s cap in front of the class for the whole term, that its appetite would be diminished for performing its most vital role: scrutinising important controversies in public life without fear or favour, observing due impartiality, in order to inform a universal Irish audience. The strength or weakness of this appetite should be included when politicians airily discuss the ‘culture’ of the station.

In my view, a disproportionate amount of attention has now been paid to the internal workings of RTÉ’s administration. Politicians need to trust the new director general and turn their attention instead to the major media challenges facing Ireland in the era of Big Tech, Chat GPT, Deep Fake, AI and the divisive far-right political mayhem swirling around online. There are many very significant media policy issues landing in the in-tray of the regulator, Coimisiun na Meáin, of serious and urgent importance to our country, that deserve sustained attention from policy makers.


What are the big challenges facing public service news as we head into the second quarter of the twenty-first century? The first area to explore is the American news industry, a laboratory for other countries to peer into, with a view to thinking about the future of RTÉ. The US is the epicentre of the global political economy of news, where neoliberal market forces have almost extinguished any traces of a public service ethos. It is therefore salutary to examine  RTÉ’s Anglophone-world context in a canary-in-the-mineshaft way, to gain some insight into how the media ecosystem in Ireland could evolve by the middle of this century. Because of our geographical position and historical and economic entanglement with the business and cultural tendencies unfolding in large near-neighbours, it is fair to say that for at least one more generation Ireland will be living in the slipstream of big North American and British trends.

In their recent book Chokepoint Capitalism, Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow argue that the accumulation of  concentrated corporate power in the media sector in recent decades means that the US has ended up with a very small number of dangerously powerful corporations. It is a kind of ‘command economy’ structured around the greed of corporate boardrooms, serving the profit hunger of shareholders above all else. Through the power of monopoly, giant corporations have all but eliminated competition in  publishing, film production, music, video streaming, games, radio, television, bookselling. Amazon dominates the market for books. Disney controls 35 per cent of all US cinema box office receipts. Google and Facebook have a lock on digital ads that are wrapped around music, video and online news. YouTube controls online video. Live Nation/Ticketmaster dominates concert ticketing and live music. Netflix dominates streaming. Spotify towers over recorded music and the emerging podcast business.

Each of these monopolies has its own anticompetitive flywheel, designed to create market chokepoints enabling them to capture an undue share of value in particular parts of the cultural sector. They are all seeking to achieve the same thing: to lock in users and suppliers and force markets to take on an hour-glass shape – workers and suppliers at one end, consumers at the other, and predatory corporations squeezing at the neck. This is chokepoint capitalism in the twenty-first century. It has a profound impact on what Shoshana Zuboff has called the ‘epistemic chaos’ that is dominating public consciousness in contemporary America. If the drive to extract more and more value from public information has so profoundly affected the shape of the American public sphere – what people read, watch, hear, interact with, imagine, remember, know and believe – we need to ask what insights might be gleaned from this chaos.


Consolidation in the American newspaper industry accelerated dramatically when newspapers started to be targeted for leveraged buyout by corporate raiders from the finance sector. Key to this was using newspapers themselves as collateral in the financial deal, which then had to set about finding ‘efficiencies’ that their precarious, debt-heavy position demanded. These cut-backs included selling off assets, such as printing presses and buildings, then leasing them back from new owners, as well as firing permanent staff and replacing them with cheaper workers or requiring colleagues to do three or four employees’ work. Local newspapers were merged into huge nationwide chains. Foreign news bureaus were closed. Newsrooms were merged across regions. Reporters were replaced with wire services such as Reuters and Associated Press. Despite the need for diversity in news in a country of over 300 million people, the reality is that by the late 1990s, the national chains were carrying mostly the same articles in every paper. The spread and variety of news was suffocated.

Then online ads arrived. They creamed off the newspapers’ traditional source of revenue by tracking users’ online behaviour and monetising it through targeted advertising. From very modest beginnings, Google and Facebook quickly learned how to gobble up ever bigger slices of the ad market to the point where they control three-quarters of it today. A huge new form of wealth transfer got under way as Facebook’s social media oligopoly grabbed the fascinated attention of Silicon Valley and went global. News organisations in many countries, including Ireland, where RTÉ commercial revenue is coming under severe pressure, find themselves locked into Facebook algorithms. But they don’t get paid for their news being accessed on the platform, even though Facebook profits handsomely from the ads sold with the news. As advertising revenue is siphoned away, this cripples the ability to offer as wide a range of information as readers and viewers have been accustomed to.

American newspaper revenues plummeted from almost $50 billion in 2006 to just $14 billion a dozen years later. There are few commercial resources remaining that will fund investigative journalism and scrutinise government. The absence of in-depth journalism enables corruption and waste to flourish. The watchdog role of the press disappears. Social causes deserving of full coverage are neglected, especially as advertisers worry about their  ‘brand safety’ in a fragmenting public sphere full of angry polarised divisions. They shun content deemed controversial by automatically blocking keywords such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ or  ‘Gaza’. Foreign news desks, and the ability to maintain an overseas presence, are scaled back severely. Large, complex, slow-moving issues, such as the dangerous slide towards cataclysmic climate heating, or the steady movement of the far right from the political fringe towards the centre in many countries, get neglected.

American news media are entering a new era of robot or automated journalism, where an increasing amount of the content people consume is a product not of human judgment or creativity but of algorithms that filter information and reflect what platform users want back to them. An increasing proportion of news is now generated by AI without human involvement. About a third of Bloomberg News content is generated by a robot reporter. The same goes for Associated Press coverage of sports and LA Times stories on local earthquakes.


How did we get to this stage of what Andreas Hepp calls ‘deep mediatization’, dominated by a small handful of oligopolistic behemoths, without any public or political deliberation about the human impact of all this? One answer is in our history. The spread of digital media coincided with the time when established media across the globe were being deregulated. The impact of deregulation in Ireland is an essential part of the history of RTÉ. It is highly probable that in the 1960 and 1970s, before the neoliberal revolution swept away what might loosely be called Keynesian economic values, public service digital platforms would very likely have been chosen as an organisational model for the internet. This would have been proposed in parallel with the long tradition of public service broadcasting in Western Europe. Ideally, such platforms would have been independent of the state but remain in public ownership and would not be serving private economic interests alone.

But the self-interested forces that underpin surveillance capitalism saw an opportunity to make enormous profits and made their fortunes when no one was really looking at how their methods were exploiting people’s private data. Hepp rhetorically asks ‘can it be that a platform that connects billions of people, collects comprehensive information about them and that is the backbone of public discourse as well as of many businesses, is in the hands of a private company?’

The core of the problem for RTÉ and other Irish news organisations is the same as in the many other countries where companies like Facebook and Google have acquired enormous power over publicly circulating information. By participating in the behavioural ad market as it currently exists, news organisations slowly erode the value of their own rate card as they enable a host of middlemen to pocket more of their revenues. There is a better alternative, as a small number of media companies in Europe are discovering, that may offer an escape for public broadcasters.

The Dutch public broadcaster NPO has designed a public service website which turns its back to the dominant surveillance model built on tracking user behaviour for advertising purposes. Instead of this, NPO uses data gathered from the content of what users are viewing or reading in order to provide their audience with ‘contextual’ advertising. Inspired by the spirit of the EU’s GDPR privacy protection law, contextual advertising avoids exploiting people’s personal information. Instead of bidding on the user, advertisers target the material the user is reading or viewing. Someone reading a restaurant review might be interested in a new online reservation system. Someone viewing a sports programme might be a good candidate for ads supporting gym subscriptions or exercise bikes.

NPO had to build out descriptive metadata on its video content to allow more granular contextual targeting, but the complex work involved is helped by having automated technology already in place to generate subtitles on visual content. NPO’s experiment with contextual advertising, which it promotes as compatible with its ‘public task’, has seen its commercial revenue soar as it doesn’t have to hand over any of the revenue  earned – which can amount up to 70 per cent in the surveillance system – to companies like Google. Giblin and Doctorow suggest that smaller news publishers could increase their commercial revenue by creating their own cooperatively owned network for managing contextual advertising on a not-for-profit basis. Broadcasters like RTÉ already have the advantage of belonging to the European Broadcasting Union, which could be the basis for such a new system.

Contextual advertising has the added benefit of attacking a core problem that emanates from the Real-Time-Bidding-Process (RTPB), an advertising technology that lies at the heart of the Google/Facebook model of surveillance capitalism. RTPB draws in vast quantities of Internet users’ personal information, from cookies, data trackers, discount programmes, personalised ads and a host of other things we blithely sign up for when we use the internet. This private data is scattershot back out across the Web in the form of high-velocity trading in personal data.

As a recent report from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) emphasises, unregulated surveillance capitalism not only undermines the fundamental right to protection of personal data and privacy but also constitutes a threat to democracy and the public sphere. While a news organisation would normally sell its audience’s exclusive attention to selected advertisers, use of RTBP means that same audience is exposed to profiling by the ad tracking-industry standards body, the IAP Tech Lab, a global body supporting the digital ad industry. The IAP Audience Taxonomy standardises how people are micro-targeted and is used by thousands of companies across the web, including those engaging in fraudulent, disinformation and other bad-actor activities. The current advertising system leaks massive amounts of data, billions of times a day, about what everybody does online. This  allows voters, for instance, to be demographically and psychographically profiled and then microtargeted with disinformation during an election campaign.

Outside the ad industry, very little is understood by the general public and policy-makers about how these algorithmic tools do the micro-profiling and micro-targeting of people, in an arbitrage system that involves thousands of intermediary tech companies. There are no security measures to protect the personal data circulating in this high-speed, real-time, free-for-all market of buying and selling personal data, at the core of what Shoshana Zuboff  dubbed ‘surveillance capitalism’.

The ICCL study of RTB data reveals Cambridge Analytica-style psychological profiling of individuals’ movements, financial problems and mental health vulnerabilities. Children are particularly vulnerable. The Irish regulator, Coimisiun na Meáin, is one of the first in Europe to take on a watchdog role to stop tech companies building intimate profiles of children in order to manipulate them for profit by artificially amplifying hate, hysteria, suicide stories and disinformation in their personalised social media feeds. And we still have very little public understanding of the political impact of ‘recommender systems’ in selecting emotive and extreme content for people on social media most likely to be outraged, so that enhanced indignation  will engage them for longer periods on particular platforms. Greed for profit drives this dangerously opaque system. Without algorithmic amplification, material from tiny extremist groups would not be widely seen. With amplification, its impact finally breaks free from the online environment and becomes a major factor in events like the Dublin street riots of November 2023 (recently explored in these pages).


What would the Irish public sphere look like if it became totally degraded by the unregulated greed of monopolists in the media sector, combined with the free-for-all surveillance buccaneering now rampant on the Internet, raiding people’s  personal information solely for profit with no thought for the damage this causes? The idea of the ‘desertification’ of news is apt, as we consider the long-term future viability of a healthy public sphere in Ireland. It suggests that the information available to citizens can become so fragmented, riddled with disinformation and commercialised, to the point where investment in good journalism fades away entirely and leaves  people living in an information desert.

We see the contours of this crisis already emerging in the US. The most recent data on the American newspaper industry are contained in a February 2024 report from the Medill Centre for Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago. An average of 2.5 local papers per week across the US closed in 2023. At this rate, the country has lost one-third (2,900) of its newspapers since 2005 and two-thirds (45,000) of its journalists. Alarmingly, more than 200 counties across America, some of them encompassing large cities, are now what Medill calls  ‘news deserts’, where the workings of local government, the excesses of local law enforcement or the conduct of local business or national corporations face no scrutiny at all from journalism, and therefore have little public accountability. There is, in addition, a strong demographic and social class profile to this ‘desertification’ of the public sphere. About 230 currently ‘single-source’ counties are at high risk of losing their newspaper in 2024. Many of these are located in high-poverty areas or serving significant Black, Hispanic and Native American populations. The key concept in mainstream economics for understanding this threat to well-functioning democracy is market failure.

The notion of market failure in a media ecosystem is familiar also in discussions about what is the role of public service media in Europe. An extremely limiting view of RTÉ, for instance, would see its role as mainly to respond to market failure, to produce content that would not be sustained in a totally commercial system: news, current affairs, in-depth documentaries, historical or climate-related material, coverage of the arts or non-mainstream music – jazz, classical, traditional – and so on. This minimalistic approach would see the station shrink to a small fraction of the Irish broadcasting landscape, with no opportunity to cross-subsidise minority programming with more popular drama or less expensive non-scripted content. The more liberated commercial media sector, in this scenario, freed from having to compete with RTÉ, would quickly succumb to an unhindered logic of profit-making, inflicting Irish society with the dersertification of broadcasting. This is already happening in other countries, in and beyond Europe.

A more robust approach to the role of a public broadcaster in society would be to rebuild a publicly owned institution (therefore importantly still subject to parliamentary scrutiny) that would have the editorial and financial confidence to develop a bold and courageous programming strategy. If well-resourced, it would become a leader in shaping  the future of the whole media sector by making things happen that otherwise would not, taking risks that commercial businesses would not, de-risking the private sector rather than just filling in the gaps when market failure happens. Economists in the Keynesian mould in the UK, such as Mariana Mazzucato, argue that the BBC has historically been the key dynamic element in Britain’s creative industry. With its long global reach into the former empire and beyond, it has been the catalyst nudging private media companies to invest in risky innovative enterprises that are not commercially viable in the short run but that have strategic long-term potential for the whole British audiovisual production sector. Given adequate funding, something similar could  happen in Ireland, building on increased synergies between RTÉ and the independent film and TV sector, an idea that is discussed in public only briefly and usually euphorically, when an Irish film wins an Academy Award.


One of the main factors shaping the very public interrogation of RTÉ management in the recent crisis has been the chronic underfunding of public broadcasting and long-term apathetic political attitudes towards finding solutions to its funding problems. The licence fee has remained static for many years, with no linking to the main economic drivers in the Consumer Price Index and no ambition to tackle the very high licence payment evasion rates despite frequent and urgent warnings from RTÉ. The funding model has been ‘ruinous’ for a long time, with the arrival of digital competitors eating into RTÉ’s commercial revenue. The gap began to widen dangerously between what politicians expected, simply in terms of value for money, and what RTÉ could afford to provide. In very recent years, the station ‘lost’ two major icons that have been traditional to the European public service broadcasting model:  the capacity to make good children’s programming and to sponsor a national symphony orchestra. Neither could be supported any longer.

Lately the behemoths of the Internet, Google and Facebook have begun to push back against any suggestion that they should be required to invest some of their profits in the Irish cultural sector. Amazon is resisting the idea of paying a levy on its content streaming into Irish homes, a levy designed to generate revenue for investment in the independent film and television sector. Instead of a levy, it is lobbying government for a change in Revenue’s Section 481 tax credit, so that ‘unscripted’ television formats, such as Reality TV and Live Comedy could benefit. These are television formats that make up  a significant part of Amazon’s own streaming service.

Facebook and Google have consistently refused to accept the need to pay for news content that they share with users but do not themselves produce. Facebook has been resisting proposals from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to share advertising revenue with news organisations. The ACCC was tasked by the government with creating a mandatory code of conduct aimed at levelling the playing field in the news industry, after several Australian media companies collapsed because of a crash in advertising revenue. Facebook makes the perfectly neoliberal argument that any mandated revenue-sharing would force it to subsidise a competitor and thus distort the advertising market. It  suggests instead that Australia should create a ‘Digital News Council’ to investigate complaints from news organisations, along the lines of the Press Council model.


The key challenge for public service journalism is to win and keep the trust of its audience in the quality and truth value of the information and opinion it is generating. This is how democracy is supposed to function, drawing on a public sphere that is nurtured by a healthy media system sensitive to the need for pluralism and diversity. When it is at its best, RTÉ performs a kind of due diligence on the public sphere on behalf of people in Ireland by fulfilling its role as a public watchdog, revealing abuses in the exercise of power and generating debate on the functioning of government.

But the problem for all public broadcasters is how to have a relationship with the government of the day while also remaining independent enough to do its job properly. We have much to learn from current developments in the UK, where the BBC has come under significant pressure from the Tory government. Boris Johnson and other senior ministers signalled their intention to get rid of the licence fee in toto and turn the BBC into a subscription service, something like Netflix. Tory media  policy includes efforts to tighten political control of the BBC by colonising the governing body – and its regulator, Ofcom – with party cronies. Comparisons can be made with Victor Orbán, who has tightly controlled appointments to the state broadcaster and its regulator in Hungary, and to Poland, where a similar far-right project, pushed hard by the Law and Justice Party in Poland’s TVP is now being painfully reversed by the new prime minister, Donald Tusk.

The concept of impartiality of course is least likely to be respected by a managerial group of greedy corporate vulture funders, whose sole motivation is to serve their major shareholders or far right ideologues without any concern for a public service ethos. Impartiality is central, however, to public service news, though its realisation in actual news output can be problematic. In the case of the BBC, coverage of Israel and Gaza since October 2023 has reignited bitter controversy over the way that impartiality is being weaponised for ideological purposes. The editor of the Jewish Chronicle, for instance, claims ‘the BBC ‘s Israelophobia is out of control … its distrust of the Jewish state is bordering on pathological’. This trenchant criticism takes on another layer of significance if one knows that the owner of the Jewish Chronicle, Sir Robbie Gibb, has been a non-executive director of the BBC since 2021, appointed by Boris Johnson. As a member of the board’s Editorial Guidelines and Standards Committee, he has emerged as the ultimate self-appointed arbiter of impartiality within the corporation, at a time when the rival newspaper Jewish News fears that the Chronicle is engaging in a long-running politicised campaign to pit the Jewish community in Britain against the BBC.

The origin of the current Conservative campaign against the BBC, according to Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, is the short-lived free market thinktank New Frontiers Foundation, founded by Dominic Cummings in 2004 in an effort to brand the BBC as the ‘mortal enemy’ of the Conservative party. Since 2010, the corporation’s credibility has been under relentless attack from Tory governments and their friends in other media. Strategists like Cummings have come to see both the BBC and Ofcom, the regulator which year after year has given the BBC a clean bill of health on impartiality, as infected by the same ‘cultural Marxism’ that they say is giving a left-wing bias to its news and current affairs. The corporation, they say, needs to be confronted by a ‘war on woke’. This campaign includes support for the Fox News-style TV channel GB News, which promotes far-right viewpoints.

A more credible point of view is to see the BBC as being in a state of ‘permanent cringe’, with a cowed director general acting as a chief financial officer instead of the editor-in-chief he is supposed to be. As one BBC journalist put it to Rusbridger, there’s no point in getting the money if your editorial independence is gone. But the equation for the DG is that ‘he is not going to get the money unless he plays it right with the government’. The Tories have quietly wrested a significant degree of control within the structure of the BBC itself and would like to ideologically capture the media regulator too if they could. So far, Ofcom has been independent enough to be able to rebuke GB News for breaking its code of impartiality by allowing currently active prominent politicians, including Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, to present some of  its news and current affairs programmes.

In summary, many of the big trends outlined here are pulling public service media in a right-wing direction and starving it of financial support. Entertainment-centred soft news is thriving, as private-owned market-based systems turn public attention away from politics and international affairs and towards a tabloidised form of journalism. This emphasises a sensational approach to events and public figures in an easily digested mix of entertainment and news, sometimes dubbed infotainment. A melodramatic version of world events predominates, as the active news-gathering apparatus for making good foreign news withers away. Soundbite populism predominates, at the expense of expert analysis of issues of public interest. Audience attention is focused obsessively on sensational stories about celebrity gossip and scandal. Communication research over many years demonstrates that degraded journalism does have an impact on public discourse and on the functioning of democracy, most pertinently in the 2016 campaign to elect Donald Trump to the White House.

Social media trends have amplified tendencies that were already there in the public sphere, that normative ideal space originally theorised by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, where journalism and democracy work optimally together. There are social and political consequences for promoting tabloid priorities: the risk of simplifying important issues, devoting little attention to political processes, economic developments or social changes. Other genres of programming also become infected with tabloid values: excessive and gratuitous violence in fiction, the celebration of showbiz inanities in talk shows, the narrowing of musical taste, the abandoning of content highly valued by small audiences and so on.

Despite the great benefits public service broadcasting can bring to a country, its Achilles heel is its capacity to be ‘cowed’ – by licence fee and Charter angst at the BBC, or by prolonged public disgracing and deep financial insecurity in RTÉ. Unlike the BBC, RTÉ still operates in a more social democratic political environment. There is widespread support for some version of a public service ethos across most sectors of Irish society. But getting consensus on how the ideals of public service news should be translated into everyday reality is still a very fragile project. Gross political inertia over many years set the stage for the current public humiliation of RTÉ, which began very suddenly. As Kathy Sheridan argued in The Irish Times, the frenetic early treatment of the controversy started with curiosity about celebrity salaries. Then the collision of corporate dysfunction, long pent-up public reckonings and the human rush to self-preservation whetted some insatiable mutual appetite between the media, the politicians and the public. We will be living with the consequences of this collision for many years to come.

Further Reading:

Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow, Chokepoint Capitalism, Scribe Publications, 2023
Andreas Hepp, Deep Mediatization, Routledge, 2020.
Philip M Napoli, Social Media and the Public Interest, Columbia University Press, 2019

Farrel Corcoran is professor emeritus, School of Communications, Dublin City University. He is a former chairman of RTÉ.



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