Revealed: RTE received “training” on gender issues from LGBT NGOs

All credit to lecturer and academic Colette Colfer for this story. Here it is, in her own words:

Here are a couple of questions:

First, would RTE, or any media outlet, consider it appropriate to invite the Irish Farmers Association in to give them “training” on how to cover agricultural issues and be sensitive to farmers, in the context of the ongoing national debate about the size of the national herd?

Would they consider it appropriate to invite the pro-life campaign in to give them training on how to be sensitive towards people who consider abortion to be a deep and abiding moral wrong?

You already know the answer to both those questions, of course, and all the other versions of it that I could ask.

RTE might argue, of course, that this “training” was not really about influencing their public output but was instead about giving staff lessons on how to make RTE a more accommodating work environment for their trans and LGBT employees. It’s not about what you see on the television, they might say, but about how to equip the cameramen to talk to and relate to their trans colleague.

But that is, unfortunately, a key element in the process of institutional capture. After all, how do you host a training session about sensitivity to the needs and rights of trans people one week, and then run a TV or radio broadcast the following week which questions the impact of pro-Trans legislation on other members of society? Wouldn’t the journalists and editors who put such a piece together de facto be guilty of ignoring the training they’d just received, and committing deep offence against their LGBT colleagues?

That is the whole point of these sessions, at the end of the day: They are intended to train you how to think, and how to behave. A person properly trained in the correct attitudes to this issue would simply never dream of putting together, or broadcasting, a piece that might offend their Trans and LGBT colleagues. To do so would be to spit in the face of the training, in spirit if not in explicit practice.

Second: How much did RTE pay for these sessions? Colfer’s FOI doesn’t reveal the answer to that – we’ll follow up and find out, here at Gript – but it will be stunning if money wasn’t exchanged. That is a key plank of Ireland’s NGO economy. State funded organisation trains other state funded organisation on “awareness” of their particular issue. The organisation receiving the training pays for it with taxpayer money, and the organisation giving the training then asks for a grant from the taxpayer to make their training more effective. Everybody wins, except the poor taxpayer.

RTE, obviously, is entitled to some kind of budget for staff welfare. But one might expect that budget to be spent on things that are directly about the welfare of its staff – counselling, psychological care, bereavement support, and so on. It’s not “staff welfare” to train your staff how to think.

Third: If RTE is going to spend money on training its staff how to think, then how much did the broadcaster spend, for example, last year on training its staff on the promotion, defence, and tolerance for free speech?

Colfer’s final question above is the most important one, though: This is a live public issue, and one where there is a substantial and ongoing debate. When it comes to us asking for our money, RTE does so on the basis of the claim that it is a public service broadcaster which provides dispassionate and impartial coverage on the main issues of the day. In light of this revelation, though, how can people who share Colfer’s views on this issue ever have any confidence that RTE will cover their views impartially, when staff are potentially being trained that those very views might be bigoted or harmful to RTE staff?

If RTE feels that way, and its staff feel that way, then it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it will be hostile to one side of the debate, and friendly to the other. RTE’s state funding is supposed to be the biggest guarantee of their independence. And yet, once again, here we have RTE using that funding to cosy up to the progressive side of an argument.

It would be better for everyone if that funding was just removed.

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