A man and woman are sitting close to each other and talking on a stage with purple lighting behind them.
Dee Forbes and Mark Little at Inspirefest 2019. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Learn why RTÉ’s Dee Forbes feels her job ‘has never been more exciting’

30 Aug 2019

At Inspirefest 2019, Dee Forbes chatted to news veteran Mark Little about bringing an established media player into the digital age.

At this year’s Inspirefest, two well-known players on the Irish media scene took to the stage for an in-depth chat.

News veteran and co-founder of Kinzen, Mark Little, interviewed Dee Forbes, director general of RTÉ, about her steering of the national broadcaster through the digital age.

As the first woman appointed to the position, Forbes brought with her a colourful portfolio, bursting at the seams with broadcasting and media knowledge.

Though based in London for 27 years, where she originally began her career journey with advertising agency Young & Rubicam, Forbes returned home at what she described as the “right time”.

“I had an amazing 27 years in London. The opportunity came up and I thought, ‘This is a good time’. I’ve learned a lot and I hope that what I could do is bring some of what I’ve learned to my new role,” she said.

New audiences, same goals

In the digital age where media is constantly transforming, there are a few areas that Forbes deems most important for any media company.

Remembering your purpose is a good starting point, she said. Broadcasters such as RTÉ are there to serve the audience and although a lot of things have changed in recent years, that purpose has very much stayed the same.

Audiences themselves have been transforming, too. Viewers are now more diverse than ever before, with a multitude of ethnicities, genders, age groups and, naturally, interests.

What’s crucial here, according to Forbes, is combining impact across different delivery channels. It used to be that companies would have specific teams or individuals dedicated to one area, whether it be television or radio, among others.

But broadcasters can reach so much further now when they don’t discriminate,, Forbes said, but instead use all platforms for all media, generating a much larger, combined impact.

Balance and relevance

Balance is another vital ingredient in the face of diverse audiences. Understanding their needs and responding to them with a balanced approach is key. As Forbes put it, nobody wants “just broccoli” or “just cake”, but rather a little bit of both.

“We’re making great content to serve the Irish public and, for me, it has never been more challenging, but it has never been more exciting either.

“If we don’t understand what the Irish public expect from us and want from us, it doesn’t matter how we’re structured or how we operate technologically, it will go absolutely nowhere if we don’t understand the audience.”

Finally, Forbes talked about relevance, citing it as one of her biggest challenges at RTÉ.

“I think the challenge for us is relevance and ensuring that, in our quest for relevance with the younger generation and the new generation coming through, that we also deliver and nurture a great creative environment. That’s what it’s all about.

“Will it be easy?” she asked. “No, but hey, who wants an easy life?”

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2020 are available now.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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