We had a chat with the creator of New Ireland TV, the new Irish channel that is making original Irish content available worldwide on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. James McAnespy told us all about what inspired him to create the platform and his plans for the future.
James, what inspired you to create New Ireland TV?
I was inspired to create New Ireland TV because I think that this decade we are heading into is going to be pivotal for the future of Ireland. Brexit – and it’s subsequent mishandling by successive UK governments – has pushed Ireland into facing up to partition, and really considering reunification; a referendum is inevitable now. Having observed how the London media handled the Scottish Independence referendum in 2014, and then the Brexit referendum in 2016, I felt it was imperative that we establish another voice in this discussion, one that is built from the ground up, not taking instruction from London, as the BBC and UTV will unavoidably be tasked with.
A lot of people have been feeling disconnected with mainstream media recently — the east coast outlets appearing too academic and, paradoxically, false. I think that’s because conversation – normal everyday conversation – has becoming too difficult on these platforms. After decades of adversarial panel discussions, where two opposing opinions are deliberately clashed in order to heighten division, people have got fed up and have largely deserted TV (and rightly so). Even on chat shows, guests who have rehearsed their answers to the pre-arranged questions aren’t very interesting, but when people are having a good conversation it can be riveting. I think we can bring that element of entertainment back, and just show people as they are, and in doing so bring new ideas and viewpoints to the discussion.
What were the challenges in setting up New Ireland TV?
I started this on my own while working full time (to NYC hours, meaning I was existing five hours off my own sunrise!), and I’m having to self-teach myself the technology, which includes some very involved computer coding. Because of the way things are set up, I can’t see if something is wrong on the user’s end for maybe 36 hours, which feels interminably long in a Lockdown! A larger issue however is the fact that I’m effectively duplicating all regulatory documentation – once for Ireland, and again for the UK. To serve customers all across this island (or even customers in Donegal and Fermanagh) I have to double my outlay before I’ve even started – what effect do you think this has on ground level enterprise in places like Tyrone? I drive through Monaghan and see the miles of industrial businesses lining the roads, and feel a pang of jealousy, which is jarring for an environmental socialist! Also, given that I am publishing worldwide, copyright and intellectual property are a real pain. For our new series Favourite Irish Songs, people just talk openly about their favourite Irish songs. However, I can’t play a clip of it, because I would need to pay license fees for each territory. I guess it just means we’ll have to create all of our own stuff!
What goals are you hoping to achieve with the channel?
I’m hoping the TV station will bridge the divide between the north and south, because we seem to be existing in a separate but equal parallel dimension at the moment. I didn’t notice it so much growing up because I lived near the border and got RTÉ TV and radio, but those in Belfast, who would consider themselves Irish, wouldn’t have heard of Ray Darcy until recently for example. And it appears it goes both ways, given how little the Taoiseach seems to understand about his neighbours in the north. So, I’ll be trying to engage in the exchange of ideas across the whole island, as we try to present what an aspirational 32 county, new Ireland can achieve. I’ll also be showing that we don’t just have to copy the US and Britain for the blueprint to operate a government – for example Taiwan has a minister whose job it is to make sure that the general public can access all governmental information immediately – no Freedom of Information requests, or judicial inquiries – as soon as the information is ready, it is available to the public. This means that the public just get the information, rather than the information being filtered through the agenda of PR departments or ratings-chasing editors. That would change the public discourse dramatically, and for the better in my opinion.
What type of content can we find on New Ireland TV?
We are very early into the lifespan of the TV station, but we already have over forty content items available to view for free worldwide. There’s factual content, where we explore the history of Tyrone, including visiting the home place of Irish independence pioneer Alice Milligan; an amateur motorsport rally that took place in the Fivemiletown mountains in the 1960s and 1970s. There’s also some content that has been licensed from excellent creatives around the country, including music performances filmed by Roadie TV, scripted drama from Frontier Pictures, and comedy from actors like Marina Hampton, Aidan O’Sullivan and a certain Aline Panini! We will be opening up the selection process to more creatives in the future, but in the immediate term the focus is to establish the platform.
What are the expectations or future plans for New Ireland TV?
Within the next eighteen months I’m planning to engineer an around the clock schedule, which will give creatives a great outlet for their work, while allowing me to schedule in a news gathering wing and also present sport. I’ll be looking to establish an in-house production format as well, where original fiction can be produced at lower cost and with quicker turnaround. I’m also hoping to use the advantages of technology to reach the wider Irish community around the globe.
New Ireland TV is available for FREE worldwide now. No additional sign up is required, just search and install the app on the Roku and Amazon Fire TV stick channel store.