|Gay Pride Dublin 2013|
The conservative Catholic cultural commentator and alliteratively described David Quinn had a problem recently. He took exception to 2FM, a constituent radio station of the national broadcaster RTE, being the official media sponsor for Dublin's Pride Festival. Quinn, a vocal opponent of French moves to legalize same sex marriage and, you get the impression, every liberal reform since Vatican II, asked if RTE would do that, why not the next big pro life event
? He expanded on this, wondering whether 2FM should also sponsor, say, Muslim and Catholic events.
It's just as well David Quinn is a writer, as with an apples and oranges argument his career as a greengrocer would surely be a disaster.
The notion that a pro-life rally and a gay pride event are remotely analogous is, to be generous, bizarre. A pro-life rally is a nakedly political issue. Gay rights and celebration, while certainly having a political element to it, ought not to be. Gay is also not a religion, and you can participate in a pride march without being gay, welcomed in fact. The same can hardly be said of a "pro-abort" (as some of the Youth Defence crew refer to pro-choicers as) showing up at the Vigil for Life.
Loathsome as it may be for some, Dublin Pride as an event has much more in common with St Patrick's Day or National Healthy Eating Week than, say, the Catholic World Youth Day. It's a community event in a way a life vigil never could be.
I don't doubt the sincerity of the views of Quinn and similar conservative commentators, but you get the opinion when you hear them railing against RTE bias, what they really mean is "Why aren't people listening to and agreeing with us?". In fairness, the same can be said for anyone who rails against bias, it's just they're the worst offenders. Besides, the conservative assessment of RTE as a liberal haven of anti-Catholic bias is pretty much struck dumb by the fact the bells of the Angelus are played on Radio 1. Every single day. Twice.
That's not to say the left-wing doesn't have it's problems with RTE either. A look on the likes of sites like Indymedia cast RTE as the stooge of a massive neo-liberal orthodox establishment. It even gets trouble from the centreground, as this damning video
comparing and contrasting the Late Late and Graham Norton shows.
But this is the challenge that public service broadcasting faces. It can't and shouldn't aim to appeal to just a certain section of society, it has to at various points cover everybody. Public service broadcasting has to be as broad as possible, and yet instructively niche at the same time. You may not always like it, but it would do us all a disservice if a public channel played to the gallery of our preconceptions all the time.
A lot of media commentators often claim that certain opinions or voices shouldn't be heard on the public broadcaster. These same commentators are invariably employed by privately owned media, who seem to think that the airing of views is their gift to dispense. It's not. Public broadcasting is here to serve everyone, either through the proliferation of different voices, wide coverage and, yes, endorsing the odd event, and to do so free of a money-making agenda.
The same day as Dublin's Pride march, across the water at Glastonbury another group concerned with liberation of another kind, Public Enemy, were playing. At one point during the set, Chuck D "I ain't here to sell shit, I am at your service". Assuming you could get that past the censors, it wouldn't be a bad new slogan for RTE.