Oireachtas Committee calls GAA reps to address pay-per-view games controversy

Oireachtas Committee calls GAA reps to address pay-per-view games controversy

An Oireachtas committee plans to summon representatives from RTÉ and GAA to address the GAAGO controversy that has created a media firestorm this week. The service, which is a joint venture with RTE and the GAA, has come under fire for its pay-per-view model and for being the only place to see high-profile games.

The platform had the Cork and Tipperary Munster SHC game and the Clare and Limerick match on its platform for a subscription fee, but the games were not accessible by traditional terrestrial TV stations like RTE. Sky Sports had its own deal with the GAA, but that contract ended, which allowed GAAGO to take the bulk of the games from its English counterpart.

A number of high-profile people in Ireland have offered their take on the issue, including the likes of The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, and former Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack.

On Tuesday, rival broadcaster Virgin Media Television criticised the partnership between RTÉ and GAA over the streaming platform, stating that other broadcasters were not approached about the possibility of airing some GAA matches after the previous Sky deal ended.

According to a report by The Journal.ie, Niamh Smyth, chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee on sport, has claimed that she is writing to the clerk of the committee to invite the national broadcaster and GAA representatives to “clear up the matter”.

The full Virgin Media Television statement read: "On RTÉ One’s Upfront current affairs programme hosted by Katie Hannon last night (Monday 8th May 2023), former GAA president Liam O’Neill was addressing the issue of the paywalling of GAA sports onto the GAAGO platform, a joint venture between RTÉ and the GAA.

"During his comments, Mr. O’Neill said, 'We did it in the best interests of games because, at the time TV3 was going out, and it ultimately went out of business. We would only (have) had one station covering, we thought it was best to examine other options'.

"Virgin Media Television wishes it to be clarified that TV3 did not go out of business, as stated by Mr. O’Neill. Based on its continuous success and achievements as a leading Irish broadcaster, TV3 was purchased by Virgin Media in July 2015 and subsequently rebranded to Virgin Media Television in June 2018, where VMTV continues to be the leading independent, commercial public service broadcaster in Ireland.

"RTÉ is a 50% shareholder in GAAGO. This has never been clarified in any editorial discussion about GAAGO and the decision not to show key games on free-to-air television. When Sky Television decided not to renew its GAA rights, the GAA did not approach other broadcasters to ascertain whether they would be interested in broadcasting these games but arbitrarily decided to put them behind a paywall.

"The question must be asked, did RTE pay anything for these rights, or did they just agree to keep them behind a paywall to drive incremental revenues for both partners in GAAGO, i.e., RTÉ and the GAA?

"Given the multi-million increases in State funding to RTÉ over recent years, RTÉ now has more sports rights than it can show on its channels, with license payers now being forced to further subsidize RTÉ by paying for GAA sports content through its joint-venture with the GAA."