Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

The ugliness of “The Frontline”.

Posted by Jason O on Jul 13, 2010 in Irish Politics |

Igor, release the audience!

Igor, release the audience!

It’s amazing the number of people involved in politics who can’t stand “The Frontline.” Ha ha! You cry. They can’t stand the truth, being confronted with the genuine anger of  The People! (that’s the Irish people, by the way, not the Dublin regional newspaper)

The funny thing is, it’s not that. All of us who have been involved in politics have had to have the political row with someone, and to be honest, most of us have enjoyed it. But that’s not the problem wth “The Frontline”. These aren’t political rows. This is how it happens:

Pat introduces the issue, frames it, consults the panel, and gets what is a pretty high standard of debate going. He’s pretty forensic, and cuts through to key points. Last night, FF TD Darragh O’Brien, FG’s Leo! and Fintan O’Toole all gave a solid account of themselves, although Pat caught O’Brien out with the zinger that the banks could not actually be forced to lend. But it was good, informative stuff, and FOT was on particularly good form.

Then the bit that every political activist hates. “Let’s ask the audience.” The moment the show judders to a bitter, irrational halt. Don’t get me wrong: People’s individual stories are important, and can illuminate a wrong that needs to be righted, but this is more than that. The sheer cynicism of the audience, the “government are doing absolutely nothing to help me!” tone which is just not true. One gentlemen demanded that all TDs go without pay for a year? Imagine asking any other sector of society to do that, yet this gets applause?

“The Frontline” is an improvement on “Questions and Answers”, and Pat Kenny has finally found his footing, but the reality is that most political people watching it find themselves flicking over to “Two and a half men” when the audience starts up. They have to. Their blood pressure will have it no other way. 


Jul 13, 2010 at 11:22 am

Imagine after every weather report a random group of people were brought out to tell meteorologists that they’re always wrong, and demand that they predict correctly all the time or forfeit their pay and be denounced in the media…

Daniel Sullivan
Jul 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

In an odd way what the shows needs is someone to challenge the audience on their own biases the panel can’t do it cos in Irish politics anyone who points out that a member of the public doesn’t know what they’re talking about is viewed as a bully.

Jul 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm

@Daniel Sullivan

Good idea. The audience cannot have free licence to express their opinions to the nation unless someone questions them in some shape or form.

Jul 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Jason, you’ve articulated it exactly here. I love current affairs, it’s my job, my main hobby, and that of most of my friends. But nobody I know who is actually involved in, or genuinely interested, in current affairs, watches it. For precisely the reasons you’ve outlined. I follow it on Twitter and get most of the important bits there!

Daniel Sullivan
Jul 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm

One of the benefits of Q&A was that we were all clear in our heads that at least some of the audience were plants, even if that was sometimes self selected plants i.e. I was a member of FG and a local election candidate a few times when I was in the audience but I didn’t get selected on that basis. I rang up and asked for tickets like everyone else would. The audience at 100 was smaller than the Frontline’s but that did mean that the highly motivated individual stood some chance of getting in a contribution. And was that not the point of audience contributions that people who wanted and were strongly motivated to make a contribution could do so? I have to wonder why given the amount of broadcast air there is to fill that more effort isn’t put into more original formats that would go out late at night which people could record on their SKyplus, Tivo or whatever and which might find an smaller but more enthusiastic audience.

Daniel Sullivan
Jul 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I’ve noticed the % of filler students from UCD and elsewhere around Dublin has increased significantly since the show began. Despite what I hear back from the Frontline folks about interest in tickets the audience still suffers from the late night out in Dublin problem that hurt Q&A, what ordinary member of the public is going to travel up on their own steam on a Monday night from more than an hour or so outside Dublin just to sit in the audience without any sort of probability of getting their spake. Getting anyone from Mullingar or further afield into the audience means over 2 hours travel to Dublin on a Monday evening and then departing RTe at close to midnight for another 2 hours travelling back when you’ve got work in the morning, all just to be a face in the crowd. Let’s face it, the novelty of having your face half glanced in the telly is long gone.

Jason O
Jul 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

What annoys me about audiences in current affairs shows is the general consequences free recklessness they tend to display. They constantly scramble to the top of the moral superiority heap saying that society should fund this or that, but if you asked each one of them on the spot to put twenty euro into a box to go towards a good cause there’d be uproar. Do as I say, not as I do is one of the strongest motivating factors in Irish society.

Daniel Sullivan
Jul 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm

It is all part of the separation of the people and state. People appear to think the state has some income stream of its own outside of taxes and that all good causes should be funded from that. You would swear listening to some people that the government had a global paper round and that it should dip into this to pay for stuff.

Jason O
Jul 15, 2010 at 5:16 pm

You’ve hit the nail on the head there. And it is politicians’s fault, for basically peddling the line that you can have both low taxes and high spending, and for not dealing with the “if only we didn’t have a government jet we’d be OK” myth. The fact that half of workers pay no tax at all should be on billboards!

Daniel Sullivan
Jul 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I do think it is interesting that the line from VinB and others is that people were “too poor” to pay tax. It’s not much of an income true but it’s not like they’re forced into eating cat food on the minimum wage.

Jason O
Jul 16, 2010 at 6:46 am

The unspoken reality is that about a million PAYE workers are carrying 4.2 million citizens, something that the Other People’s Money left don’t should too loudly about.

Jul 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

When will you learn Jason, turn off RTÉ. Their constant doom and gloom followed by socialist ranting turned me off since the recession started.



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