A se­lec­tion from the RTÉ archives shows how Ire­land has weath­ered the changes

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

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.


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