It is remarkable just how much RTÉ can chime with Irish government policy. Oireachtas Retort looks at Montrose’s latest offering of unreality TV.
The broadcaster’s role in normalising austerity and undermining dissent is nothing new but their lifestyle & entertainment content is equally insidious. Think of it as Fáilte Ireland for the home audience.
Towards the end of Ireland’s housing bubble we had I’m An Adult Get Me Out of Here – “a property show with a difference” – in which people were ushered onto ‘the ladder’ and into houses they can no longer afford. Each episode of Nationwide comes with a generous dose of small business while the Brennan brothers, Norah Casey and Feargal Quinn are provided with personal vehicles to peddle the cult of entrepreneur. Dragon’s Den, The Takeover. The boss is fetishised as astute, infallible and the source of all ‘common sense’.
The emphasis is individual choice and never solidarity. Diarmuid Gavin never asks why his Dirty Old Towns have been neglected. Feargal Quinn wants Local Heroes not sustainable solutions. RTÉ have a dedicated business programme but none for workers. A Consumer Show but nothing for citizens.
Couldn’t be long then before jobs and youth unemployment get the same treatment. Independent producers Coco Television, who usually confine themselves to generic home makeovers, have decided Ireland’s young need renovating. The call for participants is brief but revealing:
New RTE Show wants to get you a job!
Are you aged 18 – 25? Are you unemployed? Well CoCo TV is looking for participants to be part of a new Factual Entertainment Show that aims to take you off the live register and put you in the work force.
Inclusion of the live resister here straight away is instructive. Those figures are of little relevance to the unemployed and it doesn’t fall to the national broadcaster to change them.
Maybe you left school early and have struggled to get work. Maybe you are a young mum who wants nothing more than to find a new career. Maybe you just feel you are unemployable.
Global financial collapse? Euro crisis? Small business nursing debt of €56bn?
Maybe the problem is you.
Living away from home for part of the filming, you will be coached and trained to within an inch of your life. Everything from a style makeover to being put through your paces by a communications expert, will help guarantee you get that job!
“Trained to within an inch of your life” because the unemployed must be disciplined.
A new haircut and few hours with some Terry Prone wannabe will get you a job because that job exists and the problem is you.
The show will be hosted by “two hard working professionals”, who themselves “have fought their way to the top”. Of er, fronting reality TV shows.
The social welfare and student support systems are still full of irregularities where many find themselves caught between inflexible rules of eligibility for one scheme or another. How then, can RTÉ’s guinea pigs be away filming while supposedly available for work and entitled to jobseekers allowance? Special exemptions for TV entertainment while others can get no leeway on grants or medical cards?
Since taking over at the Department of Social Protection, Joan Burton has lead a campaign of coercion and humiliation worthy of any of her Fine Gael counterparts. The much and purposefully publicised addition of twenty gardaí to her arsenal – nine more than worked on the recently failed Anglo Irish Bank case – means jobless now start from a position of having to prove they are not criminals along with appeasement of employers.
RTÉ’s commissioning brief offers good insight into why this sort of stuff gets made;
We need `know how’ and `take away’, programmes have to inform but if they don’t engage and entertain as well, we’re not interested. We must be able to compete for viewers hearts and minds with box sets and series links. In short, we need to distract, divert, entertain and inform. Not a big ask really.
We are open to:
– Submissions that really engage with the pre-occupations and obsessions of Ireland in 2014.
– Programme with closed narratives. There have to be clear resolutions each week.
– Big Public Service Campaigns, if we can stitch a meaningful campaign into your idea, then it has an automatic advantage.
Our next act sees youth unemployment as a handy filler between ad breaks. “Distract, divert, entertain and inform”.
When it comes to deep structural unemployment on RTÉ, it’s a case of don’t adjust your TV set, adjust yourself.