Nobody's watching Ireland's parliamentarians

Members of the Irish parliament (the Dáil & Seanad) were given some very bad news yesterday: the folks who run the national television service, RTE, are not going to move the proceedings of the two houses of the Irish parliament to prime-time. In fact, RTE's Cillian de Paor gently broke their hearts when he told them that "Desperate Housewives has a bigger audience I'm afraid."

Now the truth is, I'd rather watch "Oireachtas Report" than "Desperate Housewives", which I hate. However, I am not in doubt that de Paor is correct that the audience for "Oireachtas Report" is smaller than that for Desperate Housewives, probably by about 535,000. {Desperate Housewives draws an average audience of 538,000.} "Oireachtas Report" is destined to remain where it is at the moment: on late at night (generally after midnight) at an hour when the audience is primarily "drunks and insomniacs," as was once famously uttered by the leader of the Labour Party.

We don't have a C-SPAN here, which is probably just as well. Even political junkies would balk at seeing any more of our elected officials droning on in tones and language that really would help any insomniac, often to a mostly empty chamber.

At yesterday's committee meeting one Senator even asked if there was nothing de Paor could do to make our elected representatives look better. "Could you change the angles of the shots... to make it look more vibrant?" Sad, isn't it?

Dáil member David Stanton asked "if there was anything TDs and Senators could do to make proceedings in the Oireachtas (both houses) more interesting for viewers." De Paor didn't respond with the obvious, however.

He should have said that a few brawls as happens regularly in Taiwan and recently in Korea too or even a food fight, Taiwan again, would go a long way. The public would definitely tune in for some of that kind of action. I don't think they need to go as far as a fracas resulting in death, as happened in Turkey late last year.

Even the occasional lapse in parliamentary language can spur interest as Green Party member Paul Gogarty demonstrated in December. His use of the "F word" generated a lot of interest here and outside Ireland via YouTube. (Warning: language is R rated.) Adds a bit of spice, anyway.

So there's plenty the elected representatives could do to make their program more widely watched, but either they're reluctant or they lack the imagination. I can't understand why de Paor didn't ask them how far would they be willing to go to get a ratings boost and better time-slot.

The occasional hard man act from a government minister or a leading opposition figure is just not going to cut it. Fighting, biting, scratching and clawing amongst the elected representatives would definitely be a winner.

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