IrishTV is a satellite channel in expansion. The moneybags behind it is a London-Irish millionaire and a hefty Tory bankroller, John Griffin.
The channel has been around for a couple of years under the stewardship of Mayo-based Pierce O’Reilly on Sky 191 and carries a mix of Paddy’s Day neo-liberal tourism Ireland twee and a Nationwide-style redneck roundup (think Ryanair, potato cakes and country & western music). The 150 new jobs (30 in Ulster) announced will see an expansion of the channel’s regional coverage although other details are a bit hazy at the moment.
John Griffin recently sold taxi firm Addison Lee and divvied up the £300m payout with his son and their business partner but not with the 4,500 taxi drivers in their employ. Mr. Griffin is one of those Tory exemplars; he started with one cab in the ’70s, working part-time while putting himself through accountancy training and trying to save his family business. He built the firm up to be the largest private hire company and became a leading Tory donor.
In early 2012 he donated £100,000 in one day to the Tory coffers and later that month he held private meetings with the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, where they discussed privatising the ministerial car pool and plans for Olympic transport.
Griffin insisted, according to The Mirror that he wasn’t fishing for contracts as his business dealt with FT500 companies not politicians (Addison Lee contributed £250,000 to the Conservative Party & Mr.Griffin gave Mayor of London Boris Johnson £50,000) adding:
“They are our people. The big shots, not politicians. Politicians don’t have contracts but I like to go along and say hello because it is civil.”
He added: “Politicians are not running the country. Businessmen are. They are the housewives. We give them the money.”
No stranger to the limelight Griffin starred in The Secret Millionaire on British TV and more recently he also courted controversy when he seemed to blame cyclists for their injuries and deaths on London’s roads, saying that they:
“leap on to a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat”.
He added that people were safer taking his taxis as they’d be “sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax”.
He also commanded his drivers to use bus lanes, contrary to the law which only permits black cabs not private hire vehicles. Boris has been silent on the issue.
We’ll wait to see what kind of influence, if any, IrishTV will bring to bear on our own gang of political vultures.