Will RTE eat itself?

Above: Three little Ryans.

With their seemingly endless self promotion and intense cross-platform selling of a handful of flagship programmes, are the big wigs over in Donnybrook setting the RTE ship on a rocky course towards self-destruction?

It was journalist David Quantick, writing for the well-known magazine, New Musical Express, who first coined the term, “Pop will eat itself,” in an interview with little-known 80’s band, Jamie Wednesday.

The ‘Wednesday’s’ predicted the canibalisation of pop, due to the endless recycling of old ideas and lack of originality. Thirty years on and while the lack of creative imagination may have been just cause for concern, it’s difficult to argue that the band’s dire prediction actually came to pass (case in point: one Mr. Simon Cowell, who appears to be doing quite nicely, thank you very much).

And so to RTÉ, the most beloved of our state broadcasters. Tune into Ryan Tubridy’s radio show any weekday morning and there’s a good chance you’ll catch him chatting to someone from Operation Transformation, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice, or First Dates. Turn on the Late Late Show at the end of a week and you might just get a second chance to hear the identical conversation, only this time with images.

That’s, of course, if Ray D’Arcy hasn’t booked the same guests for his Saturday night slot, but even then the spoils can always be split, with dancers or singers on one show and judges on the next. Failing that, the producers can always fall back on the old reliable tactic of grabbing whoever’s left in the RTE canteen (usually a weather person) and dragging them on-set, willingly or not. And so it goes on in a never-ending cycle of self-publicity.

The enduring and unsurmountable problem with Irish television is that there simply aren’t enough stars to go around, never mind programmes to fill the schedule.

The constant need to generate ‘celebrities’ means that an appearance these days for even five minutes on the airwaves, automatically qualifies you to sit on a couch somewhere or star in a reality show. We have celebrity doctors, celebrity lawyers and even celebrity accountants (OK that last bit isn’t true).

Most incredibly, there was an appearance recently by none other than the State Pathologist on a popular reality cooking show (this IS true). If that doesn’t signal the end of days for popular TV, I don’t know what does. Will RTE end up eating itself? When you see Ryan Tubridy appear as a guest on the Ray D’Arcy show, you’ll know it already has.

By Paul O’Rourke