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'Broadcasting isn't as bad as politics': Life behind the scenes at RTÉ

Keelin Shanley talks gender quotas and panel balance.

ONE OF RTÉ’s preeminent female presenters, Keelin Shanley, believes that the upcoming general election will be fascinating to cover in terms of seeing how gender quotas in parties will work.

In a recent interview with TheJournal.ie, the Late Debate presenter questioned whether they will make a difference or whether they will just be extra names on tickets.

“It is an option that they will add random females, knowing full well that they will just transfer straight back to the male candidate,” she said.

“Or they could make the effort. I actually support [gender quotas] now but it’s not the full picture.

We need a fundamental change on how to structure and help the candidates.

“I have spoken to many politicians about this and they start out thinking that you achieve on your own merits but, then, the longer they are in it, they realise it’s not working. The more experienced politicians have come back to the idea of quotas. There is obviously something wrong with the structure.

I actually don’t think broadcasting is as bad as politics.

However, on her own show (she has just taken over Late Debate duties on RTÉ Radio One), she said there is a definite effort to get more female voices on air.

“It is important that broadcasting reflects back to what society is like.

“I think women giving their opinions is a key issue,” she says. “We have Miriam and Marian and Áine but other voices are important too. On Morning Edition, we were keen to get new faces and voices on air. With Late Debate, we’re trying to work hard on bringing those people out.”

And radio is a good place to start for those new voices. It is a more relaxed and intimate medium, she says.

“Not that we don’t like worrying about hair and makeup, but you don’t have to,” she adds, jokingly, pointing to the constant commentary on how women look on TV.

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As for her own future, for the moment, she’s happy to be double-jobbing and keeping fingers in both the broadcasting pies through the Late Debate and The Consumer Show.

“I am happy to be at RTÉ for the next while, doing the two shows. I also really enjoy covering for Seán O’Rourke. The thing about broadcasting is every programme is like starting a new job. It’s not like I’ve been at the same desk all these years. In a way, it’s not the same as having to move job in other industries. Here, you are going from team to team.

“But, still, never say never.”

More: RTE’s Morning Edition is axed due to “financial pressure”

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