‘Debates Are Not Talent Shows’


Former presidential candidates Peter Casey, Liadh Ni Riada, Joan Freeman and Gavin Duffy on Claire Byrne Live for a debate during the presidential campaign


In The Sunday Independent.

Gene Kerrigan reflected on the advice Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, gave to the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald – about how she should wag her finger left to right while delivering a certain section of a speech she prepared for Ms Fitzgerald.

He also reflected on the comments made by Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton in his report on the Disclosures Tribunal in which he said that it’s a “hideous development in Irish public life” that public life is now so dominated by spin and meaningless public relations speak.

Mr Kerrigan also wrote:

Years ago on RTE, Pat Kenny pioneered the gimmick of rapid-fire “debate”, in which the guests made a few remarks, then Kenny moved from one member of the audience to another, lingering just long enough for the speaker to convey half a thought. Claire Byrne now has that franchise on RTE.

In the election and referendum debates, speakers score points and the specially selected audience applauds. It’s not only what you say that matters, it’s bringing in supporters with flinty palms that will make the most noise.

Even the title of Kenny’s original show, Frontline, suggested battle. And this is the dominant format.

Get rid of the audience. Debates are not talent shows.

Untruths and soft interviews abounded during the Presidential debates. You could say what you like, and the best the other side could do was deny, deny, deny – which in itself creates an image of having something to hide.

Live debates encourage lies.

Record the debates. Leave sufficient time between the debate and the broadcast for journalists to fact-check the claims of the speakers.

Then, at the end of the broadcast, spell out the programme’s researched conclusions about contentious assertions. That would stop the spoofing.

And it would relieve the programmes of the burden – which doesn’t seem to worry them – of being a transmission belt for lies.

Gene Kerrigan: ‘It’s time to fight this hideous development’ (The Sunday Independent)

3 thoughts on “‘Debates Are Not Talent Shows’

  1. Harry M

    He is 1000% correct

    What’s more, give panelists pre-prepared questions. Sure, it opens up the possibility of spin but that can be deconstructed with intelligent questioning. Running a country is a complex business and we aren’t going to get intelligent or insightful answers by peppering representatives with combative questions.

    I’d prefer to see meaningful questions with considered answers.

Comments are closed.