The importance of Public Service Broadcasting

We are influenced by what we see, read, and hear.

For this reason, it is important that the content we consume is of the highest quality. High quality news and current affairs content should be impartial and ultimately aimed to inform the public with the key information and facts of all news stories. Good public service broadcasting keeps citizens informed and well informed citizenry is an essential part of a high functioning society.

Just recently, we have seen the credibility of our own public service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) falter badly. This is due to the ongoing controversy around secret payments made to presenter Ryan Tubridy through a “barter” account. This scandal has tarnished the reputation of RTÉ and its senior management personnel, who have been hauled in front of the Oireachtas to answer questions of the secret payments finding. 

This ongoing issue in RTÉ, which should be investigated in its entirety, should not detract from the necessity of a public service broadcaster. In fact, the reporting of the controversy by those working in the RTÉ newsroom has been commendable. The journalists working on the story within the organisation have been key drivers in the pursuit of truth around what exactly transpired between RTÉ and Ryan Tubridy by holding senior management to account live on the airwaves and television studios.

Those who now call for RTÉ funding to be scrapped or stop paying their TV licence are being caught up in the media frenzy of the Tubridy case and have rather forgetful memories of how important RTÉ was during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The public would regularly tune into the Six-One news bulletin on a daily basis to be updated on infection numbers and not to mention the rigorous and much needed questioning by RTÉ reporters and broadcasters to members of the Government and NPHET during that time. This questioning provided the public with the opportunity to determine their own opinions on various COVID inspired legislation, whether they agreed or not with the decisions taken by both Cabinet and NPHET at that given time.

There are three main principles that guide good public service broadcasting: balance, accuracy, and reality.

Balance is needed because the public needs to know that editorial decisions taken behind the scenes are done so in a fair manner that ultimately attempts to deliver a space for all sides of an issue to be heard.

Accuracy is important because citizens need to be able to tell that the information they are receiving is a ‘fact’ and is also presented in a manner which is appropriate for the topic and should not be perceived as biased.

Finally, public service broadcasting needs to be based in reality and take into consideration the society and culture of the day, while also challenging both society and culture with thought provoking content. Reality should also take into consideration the best method of delivering the news of the day.

Ultimately, the reality for RTÉ is that the reputation of the organisation has been damaged instrumentally by the recent Tubridy payment scandal. Although this means that senior management needs to take the necessary measures to help restore balance, accuracy, and reality to the public service broadcaster, it should not be forgotten just how important public service broadcasting is and the many times it has shown this.


Dylan Morley is a PR account executive with Fuzion, a full service Brand Communications agency who operate from offices in Dublin and Cork

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