IN THE wake of damning criticism over their coverage of the biggest weekend of the year in Limerick, RTE has admitted that it should have given greater coverage to the visit of the Giant Granny in the city.
The major street theatre event under City of Culture attracted crowds of some 230,000 people over the three days, but it only received one two-minute report on the Friday evening TV news on RTE. It was placed some 45 minutes into the programme, while the events on Saturday and Sunday received no coverage at all.
In a lengthy statement to the Limerick Leader a spokesperson for RTE said: “Having seen the pictures following the weekend, RTE’s head of news, Kevin Bakhurst, (has) said he would have liked to have seen more of the event across their coverage on Saturday and Sunday, and this has been taken note of.”
Sinn Fein city councillor Maurice Quinlivan has been among those to complain about the coverage.
“Hey @rtenews there is a city in the MidWest called #Limerick, can you not give it a mention when we have a good news story?” he tweeted on Sunday, receiving huge support for his remarks.
Others responded to him saying the coverage was “diabolical”.
Karl Wallace, the former director of Limerick’s year as City of Culture, whose departure from the board in January was amply covered by RTE, was also critical of the lack of a national spotlight on Limerick for the milestone event.
Mr Wallace described the coverage as “poor”, especially as Limerick was the first Irish city to host a performance by the world renowned French street theatre company Royal de Luxe.
Former mayor of Limerick Kathleen Leddin also said that RTE “were only too happy to send a team to cover the controversy at the start of the year. Why not now?”
But the Mayor of Limerick, Fine Gael councillor Michael Sheahan, said when he heard people complaining he thought “would people ever lighten up and be positive? We covered ourselves in glory, that’s how I see it and we should forget about the begrudgers. We need to look at the wider positive picture. I don’t see what major difference any more coverage would have made to us.”
Three reports were carried recently on RTE radio’s Morning Ireland programme focusing on City of Culture, one of which was dedicated to the visit of the Giant Granny in advance of its arrival.
In a statement to the Limerick Leader, a spokesperson for RTE said: “Morning Ireland, the most listened to radio programme in Ireland, featured a three part series on Limerick City of Culture across three days last week, including Granny’s arrival.
“Morning Ireland reporter Petula Martyn liaised with the City of Culture organisers over a number of weeks to prepare for the series which previewed Granny’s arrival to the city and gave listeners a great insight as to what would be in store,” they stated.
Furthermore, in relation to Friday night’s slot, the spokesperson pointed out that RTE western correspondent Pat McGrath and a camera crew filmed a full TV news package on the Granny’s visit to the city, which ran during their prime time schedule on both the Six One News and Nine News programmes on Friday evening.
“The two minute report, which would be a standard duration, was transmitted in the middle of a busy Irish and international news week. The report was also broadcast again on a number of occasions on both Saturday and Sunday on our rolling news channel RTE News Now,” said the spokesperson.
“RTÉ is an official partner of Limerick City of Culture and in addition the RTÉ Supporting the Arts initiative has given extensive support airtime, on radio and television, to the event,” they concluded.
Videos of each day of the event by the company Fusion Shooters were sent to all national media, and were used by The Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, and the Limerick Leader, but were not featured by RTE.
Mike Fitzpatrick, director of City of Culture, said “it would have been lovely to have coverage all weekend”, but said “getting the message out beforehand was critical”.
He pointed out that all the coverage as a whole - on radio, TV, as well as local, national and international media - has been very positive for Limerick’s image.
The event was also covered by TV3, and he said Failte Ireland sent their own crews to cover the event, and their footage may be used in promotional material in the future.
“A lot of wonderful footage has been gathered, and it has put Limerick on the map internationally. The word went out there that Limerick was the place to be at the weekend. We should be really proud of ourselves, and we have to look at the value of this event for the future promotions. More will come out of it. We are telling key players that Limerick is open for business, and that we can do key projects.
“I wouldn’t swap anything about the weekend. It’s great that we are more demanding more positive messages to be sent out about the city,” Mr Fitzpatrick added.