RTÉ and TG4 as public service broadcasters have been given an “impossible mandate”, according to Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister.
He told a media conference that those mandates are “probably in fairness impossible to achieve”.
“They must be all things to all men, women and children,” he said.
“They must by law make programmes that entertain, inform, and educate. They must fulfil their remit while still holding on to viewers and listeners in sufficient numbers to make the audience attractive to advertisers. The result is a mixed output.”
Mr Rabbitte said much of what the public service broadcasters do would not be done at all if they were not funded by the TV licence fee.
“I wonder if those particular programmes should not be identified and branded by the broadcaster as such,” he said.
He told delegates at the NEAR fm Social Justice Media Conference that he wished them “more luck with questioning the media than I had last week”.
“Without state intervention there would be a massive gulf between two different worlds of the haves and the have-nots. A small number of enormous commercial media conglomerates that are operated solely for profit by the privileged and the powerful.”
New legislation governing media ownership is a “concern that Government must be prepared to engage with”, according to the minister.
He reaffirmed his commitment to new rules on media mergers but refrained from saying when they would be published, despite first being announced in 2011.
“Like most EU member states we have a system for evaluating media mergers and acquisitions. But it is one that is past due an overhaul,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte attacked concentrated media ownership, saying: “It may not be in the interest of the public regardless of however benevolently some of cheerleaders for the moguls have always portrayed them.”
Acknowledging that the Government must be challenged by the media, the minister said State intervention remained necessary to widen accessibility.
“It is, of course, difficult in principle and in practice to marry intervention with freedom, but governments must continue to ensure a diverse, plural, and independent media and must remain open to new measure to that end.”
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