Tuesday, May 18, 2010

RTE Frontline III

I have posted previously (here and here) about RTE's The Frontline programme with Pat Kenny. Having avoided the show for much of the spring, I found myself at home last night with not much else on TV and decided to give it another go.

Firstly, I still think that at times Pat Kenny is one of the best broadcasters that RTE have when it comes to current affairs. He has the knowledge and sharpness of wit to deal with most issues adroitly. After ten years in the wilderness of light entertainment on the Late Late Show his return to serious TV presenting is welcome.

Unfortunately, last night's show reminded me of why I gave up on The Frontline. Firstly, the makeup of the audience is about as predictable as the one that used to attend Questions and Answers. After about two sentences it is easy to determine people's loyalties. In fact with the advent of Twitter and the #rtefl hashtag, spotting plants in the audience has turned into a drinking game of sorts. Sinn Fein member - drink! SIPTU shop steward - drink! Barrister - drink! Libertas conspiracy theorist - neck the bottle!

My next gripe is the politicians that appear on the show. Last night we were treated to the third division duo of Michael Kennedy (FF, Dublin North) and Brendan Howlin (Lab, Wexford). Kennedy must be one of the poorest media performers in the Dáil. He spent five minutes going around in circles, with incomplete sentences, cliches and effectively kicking for touch on every issue. Now maybe that's the batting the Government want their backbenchers to do but we the public deserve better from our public representative. Howlin didn't do any better - in fact he probably did worse. He should have read the document he was waving around before trying to quote from it. Joan Burton must have been screaming at her TV watching his inept performance on Labour's proposals to close the gap in the public finances.

Constantin Gurdgiev did provide some light entertainment with his witty comments about how the Rainbow coalition balanced the books by accident rather than by design. I tend to not agree with much the man has to say but I strongly objected to Howlin's repeated interruptions when he was trying to elaborate on how he would try to balance the books. After Kenny's questions to Howlin on the specifics of the Labour document which took an age to answer I gave up again.

Maybe over the summer break The Frontline's team will have a look at the format and figure out how to improve the show. The Joe Duffy on the Telly style only goes so far and the repeated efforts to turn lots of issues into a public sector vs private sector fight don't help either. There is potential but a fair bit of work is required before I am going to become a regular viewer again.

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