I would be hard pressed to find a topic that I am less interested in than the current debate over “Tweetgate” on The Frontline, Ireland’s premier current affairs discussion programme. There seems to be a lot of people quite upset at the idea that some people working for the public service broadcaster might have political opinions, and some of those might be, by Irish standards, left wing. Big deal. In a country as inter-related and small as this, everyone is connected by two or three degrees to everyone else.
No, what bothers me about The Frontline is that I, as someone with a passing interest in politics, do not actually watch it. Why not? Because it is the same format every time. Pat Kenny gives a summary of an issue (and is quite well briefed on it, to his credit), the panel throws in a few trite remarks, especially if it is made up of the standard Irish autopilot politicians, and then the bit that makes my teeth hurt: the audience, who basically air their personal grievances and demand that the policy of 4.2 million people be changed to suit their personal situation. The whole thing is pointless, and never comes to any conclusion other than “other people should pay for the stuff my group/family/parish want”.
But let it not be said that I do not offer a solution. To me, the biggest cause of where Ireland is today is that the Irish voter is constantly pandered to, and told that they are never wrong, like one of those little spoilt bastards on “Supernanny” before that English woman comes in and gives out to the child’s parents for letting the little brats go wild in the first place. Want to make The Frontline a better programme? Appoint an awkward squad, a panel of (say) ex-college debaters, who can study a subject and debate well, and let them attack and criticise the audience. Don’t bother inviting politicians on, they’re useless anyway and they will rarely disagree with the audience. But a show where people demanding more money or higher taxes on other people get openly challenged? Overnight, it turns from being a programme about political personalities in government and opposition, and into debates about ideas. I’d watch that.