Thursday 20 October 2016

Irish radio swears by the silly season

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 26/07/2015 | 02:30

Marty whelan is on an Italian sojourn on lyric fm
Marty whelan is on an Italian sojourn on lyric fm

One of the biggest differences between Irish and British radio is the higher tolerance for swearing on air. The Brendan O'Connor Show diplomatically referred only to the "C-word" and "F-word" when reading out the expletive-filled death threat sent to Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins on Tuesday, but others are not so careful.

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Chris And Ciara on 2fm has an audio clip that actually goes: "What the f*** is this?" The show's on at night, but the bad language still feels gratuitous and unnecessary. The phone-in shows on 98FM and Dublin's FM104 are notorious for taking similar delight when the airwaves turn blue.

Even George Hook lightheartedly chided a guest for giving him a "bollocking" when the two men discussed global warming on Wednesday's Right Hook. Yet oddly, there's still a squeamishness when it comes to playing unexpurgated versions of songs.

The Anton Savage Show on Today FM recently played the "clean" version of Mark Ronson's Feel Right, where the word "motherf*****r" is replaced with something that sounds just enough like "motherf*****r" for listeners to do a double take when they hear it, while allowing the station to wriggle off the hook if there are complaints.

Some might call that having your cake and eating it. If presenters are allowed to swear in the name of free expression, why not artists?

The schedule is beginning to show signs of the summer silly season, and it's not just the psycho seagulls, though they were hard to escape. The Pat Kenny Show was struggling so much for topics to fill its allotted slot that there was even an item on Tuesday about the best TVs to buy, preceded by a clip from Peppa Pig.

"Surely a telly's just a telly?" asked Pat, probably revealing his own feelings on the matter.

Pat also made an appearance on RTE Radio 1's Bowman: Sunday: 8.30, where he featured prominently on archive clips from coverage of the Ballinspittle moving statues controversy, 30 years ago this summer. How broadcasters must long for similar stories to break every year at this time. Back then, as now, the clips showcased Pat's facility for probing without being scornful, which struck just the right balance. It's interesting to wonder whether today's broadcasters would want, or be able, to hide their contempt for those who don't share their smug atheism.

Lyric FM's Marty In The Morning was coming live all week from Italy, and very pleasant it was too, though is it just me or is the balance between classical and popular music on the show sliding a bit too heavily towards the latter?

As well as the usual jazz standards from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, which are always welcome, Monday's show alone featured songs from Art Garfunkel, the Mamas and Papas, Santana, Van Morrison, Christopher Cross, Kim Carnes of Bette Davis Eyes fame, even, troublingly, the theme from EastEnders.

If regular listeners wanted that much pop music first thing in the morning, we'd listen to Breakfast Republic.

Sunday Independent

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