When doorstepping and surreptitious filming become the preferred ingredients for mass-appeal investigative programmes, the next logical step is to select people for investigation who, for whatever reason, would never agree to be interviewed and who, therefore, could “justifiably” be doorstepped and filmed secretly, because they wouldn’t submit to an interview. The whole process becomes little more than a self-fulfilling prophesy.
For Prime Time Investigates, the result was frequently riveting television, as in programmes on dodgy taxi drivers, social-welfare fraudsters, home helps who abuse their charges, sleazy pimps and so on. But should we not be concerned that so many of these “targets” were little more than small-time crooks, a concern underscored by the fact that a high percentage have also been black immigrants?
By comparison, the elite, who have so much to answer for in contemporary Ireland, do not lend themselves so easily to secret filming and doorstepping precisely because they are rich and powerful. Unlike those targeted by many recent Prime Time Investigates programmes, those who brought the country to its knees are well protected by lawyers and high walls. This is not to downplay superb exposés by Prime Time Investigates of bankers (Meet the Bankers) and developers (Carry on Regardless), but when it comes to holding individuals to account, smaller fry who are unable to evade unwanted journalistic attention clearly predominate.