IRISH TV LICENCE ADVERTS RANKED by how funny they are now, you know, considering

The improper management at RTÉ remains the hottest ticket at the box-office this week, with executives of the national broadcaster continuing to be grilled at the Oireachtas today.

Public interest and upset remains high ever since the revelation that RTÉ failed to disclose €345,000 worth of payments made to former presenter Ryan Tubridy since 2017.

The misuse and mismanagement of funds, the claim (quickly clarified) that the Chief Financial Officer of RTÉ does not know his own salary, the over application of resources just to keep Tubridy, of all people, happy, it all rankles with the public. Those lower down the ladder at RTÉ and elsewhere have pointed out how often it is claimed by the top brass that there just isn’t the money to go around at Montrose. Not enough to fairly compensate their ‘freelancers’, and other staffers, to develop new talent and new programming, to make the RTÉ Player actually work. The idea that funds were redirected to the undeserving is particularly egregious given the often repeated criticism that this is all coming from the taxpayer’s money. And ads, unlike the BBC.

And that egregiousnous is in itself even more egregious, to the point of comedy, when you consider Ireland’s long history of self-righteous, self-serious adverts admonishing people for not paying their TV licence. Finely woven within the web of our nation’s long-running moral panic about cheats and scroungers, TV Licence ads often carry the same tone that Irish people receive from everyone in authority; a you stupid little shits are going to be punished, deserve to be punished, and ought to be grateful to be punished vibe that would be seen as excessive even in the den of the most damning dom.

The heckling has always been annoying, but also, the consistent messaging from RTÉ that you better give them money or you’re a shambolic loser who’s breaking the law and ruining Irish media is well, a little ironic, given recent events. It’s like a free ride when you’ve already paid, a situation we can’t imagine is very familiar to the members of RTÉ’s board.

In the same way that the raised voice of the strictest teacher in your school stays with you forever, TV licence ads throught the years have a way of sticking in the memory, or at least, their sneering condescension does. Here then is a schaudenfraudulant selection of classic TV licence ads that are funnier in hindsight.

The trouble is…I’m paying for him too

A popular line in an 80s series of adverts, all of which are some variation of some ordinary member of the public explaining to the camera how they’re only too delighted to pay their licence, even if they don’t watch that much TV. Not only because of the wide range of quality broadcasting that’s available, but also simply because it is the right thing to do. They (and by association, you) are quite happy to do their duty. The only problem is “him”, that ominous Other that lurks in the background, talentless, feckless, greedy and immoral, selfishly siphoning from the rest of us.

What did this video shop patron know?

You haven’t been listening Dave…

TV licence ads tend to come in the two favourite flavour’s of Ireland’s national psyche: Shame, per the previous example, and Fear, which this version from 1992 shows excellently. Referencing Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to eery effect, this ad is a chilling movie reference, which justifies this entire list as still qualifying as Film In Dublin content.

Here, a sentient television scolds its owner for failing to get a licence, as creepy music ramps up in the background. Its robotic monotone isn’t the scary part though, it’s the resigned TV set telling Dave that his fate is now out of its hands, that they will be coming for him, and they won’t be so polite. Soon they will be kicking in his door, to take him away. Look at the expression on the face of Dave’s dog. The dog knows it, the telly knows it and now, to his horror, Dave knows it too. He is already dead will have to pay a fine.

One can only assume Tubridy’s final hours before this story went public were full of a similar paranoia, like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, zooming around Dublin 4 in a Renault Clio, a soundtrack of sickeningly smooth jazz classics ramping up in volume, Tubs’ heavy eyes scanning RTÉ helicopters overhead, rushing home to make sure no one adds any seasoning to the bread sauce cooking away on the stove. And doing a load of cocaine.

What can you get for 29c a day?

Is this Joe Duffy asking non-talent staff at the station about their rates?

You joker

We’re getting into the Golden Age of TV Licence ads now. Late Stage Celtic Tiger flights of fancy that showed punters jetting off on holiday or blowing money on card games, but the big spending bastards just couldn’t cough up the money to fund Nationwide could they? That’s probably how this country got into the mess it’s in.

This is the creative brief that these ads carried for a long time, which suggested that cheating the broadcaster out of the correct amount that it was owed was just about the stupidest, most embarrasing, unsexy thing that you could possibly do. The common phrase many of these ads used, “we’ve heard all the excuses and none of them work”, perpetuate the notion that Irish media sees the public at large as ill-informed, incapable, unethical charlatans not to be taken seriously.

Which, again, the RTÉ CFO just said he didn’t know what his own salary was, today.

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A rare case of these ads going for the carrot rather than the stick, this ad sees a series of ordinary folks approvingly watching RTÉ programming on a variety of devices, extolling the virtues of their television and radio. It is a public service announcement to make the viewer aware of how their money goes towards producing high quality entertainment and information. Ryan would undoubtedly approve, not because he’s briefly featured, but because one of the pre-Gogglebox focus groupies describes a US President visiting as “such a proud moment for the whole country”, the kind of States-centric hagiography that the JFK enthusiast Ryan can get behind.

Other proud moments include the Queen visiting, a different US President visiting, and that fella slipping on the ice that time. Each one of the non-actor advocates agrees that the programmes and personalities are must-see, with one stating that “if you’re not watching it, you’re out of the loop almost”, which is a sentiment apparently not shared by anyone in RTÉ’s finance department.

it’s the law

Using the same faux-quirky corporate graphic design that’s everywhere over the last few years, we are once again given out to pre-emptively. Whatever you watch, wherever you watch it. If you watch it on a tv, you must have a tv licence. The title of the Youtube video even keeps a full stop at the end of that sentence, which anyone aged Millenial and under knows is an aggressive and authoritative way of communicating.

It’s interesting to watch the quality of these adverts decline over time. Original ideas, clear concepts and creative presentation gradually give way to a simpler, more straightforward, soulless product. There used to be funny puppets, now it’s just bland, bare bones broadcasting. Costs cut to go, God knows where. Creativity stifled, the viewer underestimated, at best.

It’s like some kind of metaphor.

About Luke Dunne

Luke is a writer, film addict and Dublin native who loves how much there is for film fans in his home county. A former writer for FilmFixx and the Freakin' Awesome Network, he founded Film In Dublin to pursue his dual dreams of writing about film and never sleeping ever again.

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