RTE Budget Sensationalism Grievance Shopping out of Control
Scarcely if ever has a budget got as much publicity as budget 2013. RTE went into over drive in the lead up to the budget. Six One News on Monday and Tuesday nights lead with individuals attacking likely cuts. Was RTE attempting to stir up public opinion in advance of the budget? RTE has almost exclusively focused on the impact of cutbacks and tax rises. It seems to be the policy of the station to engage in grievance shopping. Six One News on Wednesday night and tonight(Thursday) provided evidence of this in abundance. It is inarguable that budget 2013 has imposed hardship on families and homeowners. How could it be any other way? The government introduced cuts/tax rises to the tune of €3.5 billion. Looking at and listening to RTE's superficial coverage one would be forgiven for thinking that a cold blooded government has declared war on its people. There was an absence of analysis of the economic realities.
Six One News failed spectacularly to outline the economic background to the budget. The government is spending c51 billion euro and borrowing 13 billion euro of that. This budget deficit of 13 billion euro is funded by the IMF/EU. The national debt is in the range of 160-170 billion euro. Six one News failed to dissect the harsh economic realities underpinning this severe budget. In so doing it has done a disservice to the Irish people many of whom are unaware of the real state of government finances. Similarly the anti house tax campaign when only in its infancy received huge publicity from RTE. The amount of coverage accorded to Joe Higgins in the course of that campaign was truly amazing. Budget 2013 contained many imaginative measures which will help drive the SME sector in the years to come. This got no mention tonight. But then that is a positive story. It does not suit the grievance shopping mania pervading RTE. Interestingly Six One News failed to carry a report on the George Osborne's Autumn statement. According to this the UK faces austerity budgets to 2018. Savage benefit cuts have been announced for 250,000 people in Northern Ireland. This merited no mention on RTE either. The reality is that the government had Hobson's choice in framing this budget. Incidentally government Ministers in many cases have failed to explain the implications of the debt and budget deficit figures to the voters. It is imperative that the message is driven home that failure to eradicate the budget deficit could place many social payments at risk in their entirety. Over to you Messrs Kenny, Gilmore and other government ministers!!! Please spell out the harsh economic realities in terms which voters can understand. This is sine qua non if you wish to secure acceptance of the budget. It means spelling out the figures on the debt and deficit in CONCRETE TERMS.
Today Joe Duffy's Liveline majored on sensationalism. Callers afflicted by the cuts gave vent to their rage. Nothing wrong with that!! Undoubtedly people will suffer. However Joe Dufy consistently stirred things up. He on several occasions set fire to their indignation. When callers raised the new house tax Joe consistently spoke about a 10 euro weekly charge. Now this is pure and utter nonsense in many cases. Damn well Duffy knows it. He is not thick. The Revenue Commissioners were injected into the discussions by the host with regularity. He consistently failed to outline the economic backgound which necessitated the harsh budget. No mention from him of the 160-170 billion euro National debt or the budget deficit of 13 billion euro!! This is a pre-requisite for any informed discussion on tax rises/cut backs. Joe Duffy is believed to earn c400,000 euro per annum. Joe loves populist claptrap. Is it too much to expect a little analysis from a man earning c400,000 euro per annum. Duffy failed to link the slow growth in Ireland to the current international economic uncertainty. As far as Ireland is concerned it's a case of running hard to stand still until the international economy picks up.
A little less populism and more realism from RTE would benefit the country. Certainly coverage of budget 2013 leaves much to be desired from a station which is funded by the viewers. The omens are not good. The station appears to be surfing a populist wave in its quest for viewers and listeners.