Ciara Roche sits down with Rte Two’s Bill Malone to ask whether in an age of illegal downloading, see transatlantic television series and Netflix our national broadcaster can really speak for generation Y…
“If I am doing my job right then older people shouldn’t like the programming we are showing.” As Bill Malone reaches the one year anniversary of his appointment as Controller of Rte Two, sales the creation of a distinct, site youthful and daring identity for the channel is still his main priority. With claims such as “the actual identity of the channel is born through prime time content which is for 15-34 year olds,” programming such as Damo and Ivor, Republic of Telly and the pop documentary series Reality Bites are the channel’s greatest attempts at rivaling stations such as BBC Three and E4 for the lucrative young audience. Harbouring a background that includes a pivotal role in the writing and producing of David McSavage’s edgy satirical comedy ‘The Savage Eye, Malone has shown himself to be unafraid of pushing Rte Two away from the national broadcaster’s cosy and old-fashioned image.
The relative changing attitude of our generation towards television hasn’t gone unnoticed by Malone. Whilst he admits that Rte player isn’t a profitable endeavour, it is deemed necessary to keep up with audiences tastes; “I want as many people to watch as possible so I have to give them various different avenues on which to view this content.” The popularity of Rte Two shows on the player confirms to Malone that his programming is reaching the young online generation the channel craves. “TV in it’s current form won’t exist in twenty years time” states Malone With the likes of Netflix coming on board, TV is not just this box on the wall, TV is anything, it’s your HTC, it’s your iphone, it’s your ipad.” As the 15-34 demographic avails of the changes that digital recorders, internet players, and illegal torrenting offers, Rte Two has shown a willingness to attracting audiences the online way. Taking cues from their interest in viral heroes such as The Rubberbandits and Damo and Ivor, Rte has been producing online content to promote their shows in a way that speaks directly to the trend obsessed generation. ‘Every Irish Funeral Ever’ released just this week on youtube revels in it’s distinct Irish context and sharability, racking up over 50,000 views in just a few days.
Focusing on the key genres of comedy and pop documentaries, Rte Two hope to re-establish the channel as more than just Rte One’s younger, less serious brother. Yet Goliath public broadcaster BBC, the model on which Rte is built on, has just announced the imminent closure of their youth dedicated channel BBC Three. In a generation distracted by the internet and disillusioned with the idea of a television schedule, channels dedicated to youth television are deemed to face challenges of irrelevance. Malone argues for the necessity of securing a place in television for our graduate generation.
“Those who are within the 15-34 year old category have just as much right to be entertained, engaged, laugh, as older audiences” argues Malone. “I’m trying to create a channel that has exclusive traits. Older people shouldn’t get it,” he adds. Shows such as The Republic of Telly and Damo and Ivor have surely achieved this divided audience. Garnering dispiriting critical reviews, but cleaning up in the ratings amongst 15 – 34 year olds and hits on the Rte player, these shows are great examples of the future of television programming.
Described by Malone himself as “grabby content with grabby titles with public broadcasting at its heart”, Rte Two has achieved success in creating shows which snatch the fleeting attention span of young people and reward them with programming that they can claim as their own. “Shows such as Oi Ginger appear as pure entertainment” defends Malone ‘“but scratch the surface and it’s actually a show about bullying and overcoming adversity.” Whilst entertainment is the number one priority for Rte Two’s young people’s programming, Malone doesn’t believe that is where it should stop. “We want to make programming that offers a non-judgemental slice of Irish life” says Malone. “If you were asking for a slice of real life on television at the moment you would be hard put. That’s where I want to change things.” Engaging with internet superstars and creating reality documentaries is what Malone believes will engage the thoroughly modern youth audience and make Rte two not just an entertainment channel, but a relevant channel. “I know what Irish people are looking at” claims Malone – “everyday we are looking at trends and what people are looking at, and we would hope to be ahead and leading the curve.”
In conjunction with these aims to create contemporary programming, Malone believes in home-produced content as the pinnacle of what Rte Two should be striving for; “I make no apology for hand on heart being a supporter of Irish comedy, Irish drama, Irish writing and Irish creative people as much as I can. To be honest home produced content does far better then acquired content. I don’t want my kids growing up only engaged with American and UK television” exalts Malone. “Home-produced content is part of our identity and it is the future of Irish broadcasting,” he adds.
Malone puts forward iconic shows such as Father Ted and the success of Graham Norton as an example of the ease in which Irish Comedy travels. “We have a wealth of talent in this country.” As Ireland struggles to motivate a disillusioned young generation, Malone’s enthusiasm to support upcoming Irish talent and independent production companies, as well as represent them, is an accolade in itself. “We have a wealth of talent in this country” says Malone, “programs should show content that reflects what is going on in Irish life.” Whille Ireland is “towered over by broadcasters such as BBC and Channel 4.” Malone maintains that Irish productions can “compete with the big guys.”