TIM FANNING MY VIEW
A selection from the RTÉ archives shows how Ireland has weathered the changes
Interesting programmes are traditionally thin on the ground at this time of year, but this week is an exception. Over the coming days, RTÉ continues its TV50 season with more fascinating material from the archives and a couple of smashinglooking documentaries. Pick of the bunch has to be John Bowman’s Battle Station, which is showing over two nights (Mon-Tues, 9.35pm, RTÉ One). It charts the relationship between RTÉ and powerful institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Government. It also looks at the balance the station has sought to strike between its public service remit and the requirement to pull in large audiences.
Most of us tend to take RTÉ’s independence as a given (though there are those who gripe about the station’s political bias), but it’s worth reminding ourselves that this isn’t the case in other Western European countries. And that it could have also been very different here too.
Throughout this week, RTÉ delves into the archives to show us an Ireland that is not so distant but very different in terms of geography, culture, sport and politics. One of the most significant developments of the last three decades has been the cessation of hostilities in the North. Reminding us of just how far we’ve come since the horrendous days of the 1970s and 80s is The Border – The Great Irish Divide ( Wednesday, 11.40pm, RTÉ One) in which Bernard Loughlin walked the lanes and roads of the Border under the shadow of British Army watchtowers.
An episode of 7 Days from 1976 entitled It’s A Hard Oul’ Station (RTÉ One, Friday, 7.30pm) meets the residents of Sheriff Street long before Dublin’s decaying docklands had been transformed into the modern quarter we know today, while a 1963 interview with the late John B Keane ( Monday, 11.35pm, RTÉ One) finds the playwright talking about his childhood in Kerry and the daily humiliations he experienced as an immigrant in London.
At a time when much of RTÉ’s content is derivative, it’s worth remembering how much we owe the broadcaster for documenting the traditions and customs of Irish urban and rural life. The first generation of RTÉ programmemakers were spurred on by an idealism that has become somewhat jaded over the years, perhaps in response to commercial realities.
Finally, another interesting documentary is Weather Permitting (Tonight, 6.30pm, RTÉ One), a history of RTÉ and Met Éireann’s weather forecasts. Sadly, no matter how much else has changed for the better in this country, the weather never seems to.