21 January 2021 The Irish Film & Television Network
Commissioner Q&A with Eddie Doyle - RTɒs Head of Comedy, Talent Development & Music
21 Dec 2016 : Laura Brennan
Eddie Doyle - RTɒs Head of Comedy, Talent Development & Music
IFTN speaks to Eddie Doyle - RTɒs current Head of Comedy, Talent Development & Music. A position hes had for over three years now.

In this Commissioner Q&A we find out a little more about his job, his background to the industry, the TV favourites he had growing up, what he thinks are the challenges currently facing Irish Broadcasting and his many experiences within TV programming and commissioning over the years.

IFTN: What television programmes did you enjoy watching growing up, did they motivate you to work in the television sector?

"Growing up as part of a large family in Belfast in the late 70s and early 80s, I watched an unhealthy amount of television – alternating between the main living room TV, and an upstairs portable.

"With the family I’d watch a lot of the ‘event’ British shows that dominated this era – ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Morecambe & Wise’ and Citizen Smith’ – but on the portable I’d watch slightly edgier stuff -  ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’, ‘The Young Ones’, ‘Boys From The Blackstuff’ and The Tube’.

"I think this combination shaped some of my views about TV – I love unapologetically populist programmes, that bring people together, but at the same time, I’ve always been drawn to slightly subversive humour and storytelling. Looking back on 21 years in TV, I’m probably proudest of the programmes that touch on these different themes – ‘Prime Time Investigates’, ‘The Savage Eye’, and ‘Mrs Browns Boys’."

IFTN: What was your first job in the industry, how did that lead to your current position?

"After college, I got a job atThe Sunday Business Post’, and in 1995 I went to work as a researcher for the Mirror Group’s startup TV channel ‘L!ve TV’ in London. I thought it was going to be like Sky News, but it turned out to be a fairly tabloid entertainment channel – famous for the Newsy Bunny and Topless Darts.

"It was a crazy, chaotic workplace, but everyone was young and enthusiastic, and the overall experience was terrific. While there I was trained in self-shooting on one of the first mini-DV cameras and this helped me get into directing on documentary and features programmes for Channel Four and the BBC.

"In 1999 I started as a Producer/Director for RTÉ’s Current Affairs show Prime Time’, and moved on to set up and Executive Produce ‘Prime Time Investigates’. In 2006 I shifted into Commissioning and Genre Head positions in RTÉ."

IFTN: Did training/education play a role in your break into broadcasting?

"I did a Law Degree at Trinity College, and in my spare time edited TCD Students Union magazine - and this first experience of publishing sparked an interest in the media. After this I did a Journalism Masters at DCU - and this led to a work placement and ultimately a staff job at the ‘Sunday Business Post’. I was a terrible reporter myself, but this background gave me a real respect for the value of journalism and impactful storytelling, which has been useful throughout my career."

IFTN: Can you describe your typical working day?

"It’s rarely predictable. I currently look after a real ‘mixed bag’ of programmes – ranging from comedy and comedy drama (‘Can’t Cope Won’t Cope’, ‘Bridget & Eamon’, ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’) to documentaries and entertainment shows (‘The Notorious Conor McGregor’, ‘Kevin McGahern’s America’, ‘The Tommy Tiernan Show’, ‘Know the Score’, ‘The Nathan Carter Show’).

"Some days are dominated by legal or budgetary discussions, others are more about talent management, or future planning. The big daily challenge is really to power through the administrative housekeeping stuff, to find the space to make coherent decisions that result in impactful content. Between toilet breaks."

IFTN: Name the one thing you are always looking for that has to stand out in a new commission?

"You’re always looking for that ‘Jerry Maguire’ moment, where a proposal ‘has you at hello’. These days viewers have so many choices, but make decisions in an instant, so programme ideas really need to feel ‘sticky’ – they need to have something arrestingly novel or instantly alluring. And then once you’ve grabbed people’s attention, you need to deliver on it."

IFTN: Do you feel your station as a whole strikes the right balance between home-produced programming and international acquired shows?

"As a Genre Head, I think you are almost obliged to be ideologically pro-home production – so I would always feel that it’s part of our job to try to get as much quality home production into the schedule as possible."

IFTN: What kind of programmes would you like to see more of on your station?

"More successful Scripted Comedy. More impactful Documentary. More returnable Drama."

IFTN: What do you feel are the greatest difficulties facing Irish broadcasting and how do you see the industry here developing over the next few years?

"Our greatest challenges and biggest opportunities are both dictated by our relationship with the emerging global media marketplace. How do we make (and fund) successful, high quality, distinctive Irish content, in a world dominated by massive consolidated media players like Amazon, Google and Facebook.

"For RTÉ, the question is how can we help Irish creatives seize the opportunities presented by this new market, while at the same time, finding ways to protect what is important about Irish culture and democracy, in a sea of mono-culture and unreliable news sources."

IFTN: What advice would you give to anyone wishing to get into broadcasting?

"I think it’s helpful if you have a real love of mainstream audiences, combined with a desire to impact on their lives. Arrogance and snobbishness about the medium and viewers are the biggest sins, in my view."

IFTN: What is your favourite programme on Irish terrestrial television at the moment?

"RTÉ’s Investigations programmes are fantastic as was the recent Irish Navy documentary ‘The Crossing’. My kids are getting to an age where they are starting to watch big family entertainment shows – such as ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’, and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and we’re looking forward to the upcoming series of ‘Dancing With the Stars."

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