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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

RTÉ denies it misled on viewing figures for Charlie Bird's South Pole trek

The broadcaster has been accused of artificially inflating viewing figures for the much criticised programme in which its chief news correspondent sets out to retrace the footsteps of explorer Tom Crean.

Charlie Bird in the South Pole filming the documentary
Charlie Bird in the South Pole filming the documentary
Image: RTÉ Stills Library/RTÉ

RTÉ HAS THIS afternoon denied allegations that it set out to mislead the public about the number of viewers who tuned in to watch a much criticised two-part documentary featuring Charlie Bird tracing the steps of famous Antarctic explorer Tom Crean.

The broadcaster’s chief news correspondent spent three months filming the documentary, entitled Charlie Bird on the Trail of Tom Crean , but it was widely panned by critics.

Now, the Irish Mail on Sunday has accused RTÉ of using misleading figures to present it as having scored high ratings.

RTÉ said the programme reached 833,000 viewers however but this represented the number of people who tuned into the programme for more than 60 seconds at any point during its airing and may not have watched the whole programme or most of it.

Figures usually given out by RTÉ and other broadcasters are average audience ratings which for Bird’s programme were 422,000, according to the Mail on Sunday.

However in a statement to this afternoon the state broadcaster strongly refuted allegations as published in the newspaper:

At no time did RTÉ set out to mislead, rather RTÉ used a valid measure, ‘audience reach’ which was at its disposal and is being used by fellow broadcasters in this country.

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The programme, in which Bird claimed to be retracing the steps of Irish explorer Tom Crean through the South Pole, was shown in two parts on RTÉ One earlier this month.

It was widely criticised in reviews with Bernice Harrison writing in the Irish Times that the programme was:

A vanity project of such epic proportions that all you can do is secretly admire the neck of RTÉ’s chief news correspondent’s neck and hope that Tom Crean has stopped spinning in his grave.

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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