State Media Silent On Dana Allegations

Picture of RTÉ Studios in Donnybrook
Not Quite Perpendicular?

RTÉ, the Irish state broadcaster, seems to be refusing to report the substance of the allegations against Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon‘s brother.

This scared me half to death when I heard the news this morning. You see in Ireland we have some quite stunningly repressive libel legislation. How else could so many politicians have gotten away with so much? It did appear that this blog was the first here to relay what was being reported in the US, and when even the state-owned broadcaster didn’t dare repeat the answer to the question the whole country was asking, I had a horrible feeling that I must have overstepped the mark. Just how much would I be liable for? So it was with enormous relief that I saw the Irish Times today.

They at least followed suit after the IrishCentral scoop – so quickly and thoroughly in fact (Colm Keena’s background report is excellent) that I suspect they had the story prepared but didn’t want to be the ones to break it. The Irish Independent meanwhile, supposedly the leading quality broadsheet, coyly states only that there have been accusations of a sexual nature against a member of Dana’s family – nothing she hasn’t said herself. It all adds up to a picture of some pretty craven behaviour on the part of the Irish media.

RTÉ may at least have the excuse that as a national broadcaster they are bound by charter to be scrupulously fair to candidates. But when that reaches the point where they cannot report allegations which are now known publicly – as I write they are still saying only that she is upset by “media coverage about a family member” – it becomes pantomime. What’s more it now favours her unfairly, because their flagrant censorship lends weight to her apparent conviction that she is the victim of media persecution.

Which is ironic, to say the least.

Doing The Digital Switchover

Photo of the RTÉ News Studio
RTÉ trying to look cool

We decided to make the switchover to digital TV, a year ahead of the deadline. Not, let’s be honest, for the many wonders this new technology brings. Nor for the early-adopter cool. No, it was mainly because of stuff in the attic.

You see up until now broadcast TV in Ireland has been on both UHF and VHF.

No? My God, do I have to draw diagrams? That means you need two aerials¹. And because our attic is small these are too close together, bouncing signals off each other. So any time you move one it buggers up reception on the other. In short, trying to get a good picture on all channels was about as much fun as being repeatedly stabbed.

So after we moved the aerials to get the attic insulated, I decided it wasn’t worth going through all that again, and that we should skip straight to the new technology. It’s not expensive. You may have heard you need a new ‘digital’ aerial. In fact you just need a UHF one, so if you’re already getting TV3 or TG4 you’ve probably OK. A very nice bonus is that the all-or-nothing nature of digital makes it a hell of a lot less sensitive about position. Even though ours is so off-beam it renders analogue channels in snowy monochrome, we still get a crisp digital picture.

Nor do you need a new TV, you can buy a digital tuner to connect to your existing set for less than €100. And if you rent one, then it’s the rental company’s problem. Ours was more than happy to swap our 21″ analogue CRT for a fairly nifty 26″ flatscreen at the same rent. (It has so many inputs!!!)

 In short then, approximate cost and hassle of switching to digital = Sweet FA.

So should you rush to join me on Saorview?² Yes if you have a bad picture, in which case the switch could make an amazing difference. Otherwise, nah. For one, it’s not guaranteed to work yet. You may find it ups and disappears on you randomly. (Though if it does, you should still be able to tune in the old analogue signal.) While HD is nice and all it’s not exactly a viewing revolution, and only Network 2 is being broadcast in HD yet. There’s 3e if you’re not getting that already, which justifies its existence by showing Futurama, and RTÉ’s new digital channels, which no one remembers asking for. And that’s about it – so far anyway.

Except that this may be your first brush with owning a widescreen TV – or at least, one with a widescreen signal to match. I’d like to say this makes sense of the whole thing, but it’s still a mess. You were used to films being letterboxed on your old 4:3 TV. Now you have to choose between programmes being cropped, stretched, or pillarboxed. And you must choose, because not everything looks best the same way. And you must not choose stretched. Goddamit people are fat enough these days.

Any other cons? Well on this set at least there’s a very noticeable delay when you change channel. Maybe you get used to that. And you’ll need a new Saorview-compatible DVD player to record from the digital signal, so factor that in when calculating… well, calculating the expense the government is putting you to for as yet no very clear reason.

  1. You may prefer to call them antennas.
  2. We call it Saorview, from the Irish Saor, meaning ‘Free’, and the English View, meaning ‘Radharc’.