Who guards the guards?
The national public service broadcaster, RTE, has over the past few weeks been put under the spotlight in an unprecedented way. Like many other media outlets it has consistently led a charmed life, resolutely commenting on all the faults and failings of other institutions in Irish life, forensically interviewing their executives but seemingly above all criticism itself. In the past few weeks it has been put through the third degree itself before two Oireachtas committees, the PAC and that for the media.
And RTE now presents a very tattered image, its senior executives unable to account for governance issues and monies spent; Its pristine image badly tarnished; its commitment to public service broadcasting called into question.
The extraordinary thing is that it escaped scrutiny for so long. The old Latin phrase Quis custodiet custodes? has never been more apt. Throughout the last forty years practically every institution in Irish life has been put under the spotlight by the print and electronic media: The Church and the mishandling of the child abuse scandals, the Magdalene laundries, the Mother and Baby Homes, the Ryan report into state reformatories. These were followed by the various tribunals like the Mahon Tribunal into corrupt Payments to Politicians.
The Garda came under the spotlight in the Morris tribunal, the Charleton tribunal. And in 2008 and after, we had the banking and financial scandals, the state practically beggared to pay Anglo debts, and keep AIB and Bank of Ireland afloat. For a time it looked as if the state itself would go under.
In all of these cases RTE and other media reported and commented on the scandals, the mismanagement, appalling waste of public money. These media were the source of news, the only source, so it was natural the public came to trust them over against the corruption and the falsehoods which were elsewhere. Because of this the media has itself become a huge player in Irish public life, all the more so since the demise of the Church. Yet the media itself never came under the spotlight which it so vigorously applies to other institutions. There was no mechanism by which it could be made to account for itself . Some will point to the Press Council no doubt but this is a toothless body with very limited powers and many of its members are themselves journalists.
Press Council and Ombudsman
The Press Ombudsman set out principles for honest reporting in 2020 which includes:
2.1 The press is entitled to advocate strongly its own views on topics.
2.2 Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they were fact.
Here 2.1 in particular needs to be elucidated: Can a publication, while strongly promoting views it agrees with, consistently censor views it disagrees with? It appears it can. As we argue below, issues which concern men and boys are consistently, systematically and continuously excluded from discussion by virtually all the legacy media.
In sum there is no body with the power, the authority, the vigour and commitment required to carry out a thorough investigation. The Leveson Inquiry in England into a press scandal there brought about the fall of the News of the World but its most far-sighted recommendations were never implemented by Parliament.
MVI has already alluded in two articles into loss of trust in the media:
In the First we asked:
Is the media fair, objective, impartial as it would like to claim or has it become politicised, does it serve particular interests only? This question is particularly crucial in the case of public service broadcasting such as RTE, financed by the state. There is now ample evidence that the media is itself engaged in framing and shaping the story.
An earlier piece stated:
The media has become a major player in at least shaping news rather than in reporting news, in deciding which news stories get published and which are censored, in how stories are presented.
Censorship: The Systematic Exclusion of Male Issues
Censorship is a huge factor today as most media have become politicised, have adopted or at least favoured a particular ideology and then censor, block all news stories which run counter to it. One of the most blatant examples of this is of course the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention. It passed through the Oireachtas without a word being said in 2019. There was not one article of substance on it in print or online, RTE did not even devote a programme to it; there was no debate on it on current affairs programmes. It became a taboo subject. But while domestic violence against women is regularly on the news, the subject of domestic violence against men is just one of many other issues which hardly ever get a mention. Contrary to what might be expected of impartial media, there has never been a thorough dispassionate examination of the international literature on the subject despite the enormous quantity that exists. And no expert is ever interviewed unless that person can be counted on to give the Official Narrative.
Male suicide, its extent and causes; the treatment of men in the Family Courts and related issues re allocation of family home and access to children; fatherhood and father absence and how critically important these are; the growing subject of false accusations; the underperformance of boys in the education system and the complete absence of comment on it; and rough sleepers on the streets, 85% of whom are men.
These are some of the issues facing men and boys today which are overwhelmingly not the subject of informed commentary, or if they are mentioned at all it is of the token variety.
Censorship is alive and well in Ireland. There are other issues which are practically taboo: transgenderism, what it is and what it means; compelled speech; the gender recognition act; gender dysphoria among children and its treatment; the teaching of gender ideology in schools.
Public Funding of Media
Following on the sorry spectacle of RTE, a more general question can be asked about the health of the media in general. The case for looking closely at other media is at first glance less pressing, since they are private corporations. But the Tánaiste has acknowledged that other stations such as Newstalk also engage in public service broadcasting and ought to receive some of the state funding now allocated to RTE alone.
And the print and online media? They too made submission for public funding to the Future of Media Commission in 2020. Its opening statement reads:
The Commission is examining the challenges faced by public service broadcasters, commercial broadcasters, print and online media platforms.
Challenges these organisations face include: Sustainable funding sources etc
Since the government accepted all but one of the Commission’s recommendations, that for exchequer funding for RTE, it appears that state funding in some form will be forthcoming.
We are into unknown waters here. The point has been made: if a platform receives substantial state funding, then its integrity and independence must be in grave doubt.
On the other hand we must also ask: Should a newspaper which prides itself on being “progressive” receive funding from the state while continuing its slanted presentation of certain viewpoints while blatantly censoring others?
State funding of print and online journals must have robust accountability provisions attached and both of these questions must be adequately answered.