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10th May 2023

Caitriona Perry grills Declan McBennett over GAAGO deal on RTÉ news

Niall McIntyre

RTÉ group head of sport Declan McBennett was given a grilling by Caitriona Perry on Tuesday night’s RTÉ news.

The broadcasting of GAA games so far this championship has been a topic of huge controversy in recent days and RTÉ are right in the middle of it.

Between them, RTÉ and GAAGO are the only sports channels with rights to championship games and seeing as RTÉ are joint-owners of GAAGO, something of a conflict interests has been mooted.

The controversy was brewing last week over lost Munster championship games but it really hit the roof on Sunday, when Donal Óg Cusack went as far as criticising his own paymasters on The Sunday Game.

“You’d have to question,” said Donal Óg, “are RTE and the GAA exploiting hurling? It looks very like they’re using hurling to get this joint-venture (GAA GO) off the ground.”

On Tuesday night’s Six One news, Caitriona Perry also asked the hard questions of McBennett. You can follow the transcript, or watch the full clip below.

Caitriona Perry: You’re deciding on the RTÉ games by virtue of being the RTÉ head of sport, and you’re also deciding on what goes on RTÉ GAAGO by virtue of that being a joint-venture between RTÉ and the GAA. How can people trust that RTÉ is picking the most wanted games to put on free-to-air, and isn’t cherry-picking some juicy ventures to put on GAAGO to make people pay for them?

Declan McBennett: No, the most important games largely Caitriona, as you can well imagine, is defined by where you come from. This weekend, the most important game for many people, in Louth, is the Leinster final. Last weekend, it was Clare and Sligo, and Derry and Armagh…”

Caitriona Perry: I accept that Declan but there are neutral viewers as well, who want to watch the sport of hurling. You know, hurling isn’t played in many counties at a high level. But other neutrals will want to watch those games anyway, whether they’ve a horse in the race or not.”

Declan McBennett: Of course, and that’s why six of them are on RTÉ, together with some from the Leinster hurling championship, the provincial finals and All-Ireland championship games.

Caitriona Perry: Can RTÉ show matches of a Saturday, or are they exclusively for GAAGO?

Declan McBennett: No they’re not exclusively for GAAGO. RTÉ can show games of a Saturday.

Caitriona Perry: When there’s a clash of hurling and football championship games, could those football games be moved onto RTÉ or the RTÉ news channel instead of GAAGO?

Declan McBennett: I think both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have referenced that whereby, on a weekend where you have 15 major matches, not all of them can be covered, however there are more games being covered than ever before.

Caitriona Perry: But what is stopping RTÉ as joint-venture co-owners of GAAGO from saying, actually our viewers want to see these, so we’re going to put them on RTÉ Two or the news channel?

Declan McBennett: The allocation of rights is a matter of the GAA.

Caitriona Perry: But RTÉ – yourself and Dee Forbes are directors of GAAGO, you can see how people might feel a little aggrieved.

Perry went onto ask McBennett if RTÉ got exclusive access to the package of GAA fixtures that was previously held by Sky Sports.

“Did we get exclusive access? No,” replied McBennett. The allocation of rights is a matter for the GAA, as it is with UEFA, as it is with the IOC, as it is with the Six Nations, any organisation.

“With regard to what GAAGO paid,” he continued, “they did pay, and they paid a significant amount, however by the very nature of these things you would understand that’s a commercially sensitive arrangement.”

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