Saturday 27 May 2017

Out with the old year and in with the new

Joe Duffy: Remembering famous lives lost during 2015
Joe Duffy: Remembering famous lives lost during 2015

Eilis O'Hanlon

Karl Pilkington, grumpy sidekick to comic Ricky Gervais, put it best: "We've had the stone age, we've had the iron age, now we've got the p***ing-about age."

His explanation was that modern man now has far too much free time to fill, a theory which seemed to be confirmed by Newstalk's Moncrieff last Tuesday, where social media expert Darragh Doyle, summing up the alleged highlights of the internet in 2015, could be found explaining the rules of a computer game called 'Find The Invisible Cow'. This is the sort of decadent idiocy that did for the Romans.

The item was an example of that familiar New Year tradition on radio of inviting guests to summarise the 12 months gone by and to anticipate the next dozen to come, which is a handy way of filling up empty air space while regular presenters are away from the microphone.

Today With Sean O'Rourke managed to eat up almost the whole of Wednesday's edition this way, though it was hardly a slow news day as Storm Frank battered the country. Would a mere 12 minutes of airtime have been devoted to that story had the water been wreaking havoc in Dublin?

RTE Radio One idled away Monday morning pleasantly enough with Legacies, presented by Joe Duffy, which remembered some of the famous names to pass away last year, including presenters Bill O'Herlihy and Derek Davis, playwright Brian Friel and horror actor Christopher Lee.

Here, the old adage about not speaking ill of the dead certainly didn't hold true as Irish language professor Alan Titley tore into popular novelist Jackie Collins, who died in September at the age of 77, and who, he declared, had "no style whatsoever" - a bold assertion, considering his admission that: "I haven't read her, apart from picking the books up and flicking through them here and there."

It doesn't matter much in the great scheme of things, but felt needlessly ungenerous.

Predictions are the other staple of radio at this time of year, as pundits forget that the reason why bookies are generally richer than journalists is because it's hard to make precise forecasts about unpredictable events, such as the forthcoming election.

Looking back at the edition of Morning Ireland broadcast on New Year's Eve 2014, which is still available on the website, one finds all panellists agreed that there is "no other way than a coalition" for the UK parliament after their own election last year. It didn't turn out that way at all. Likewise, they were able to make the easy prediction that Islamic State would continue to dominate the news, but clearly had no inkling about how events in Greece would unfold, or the rise of Donald Trump, or the implosion of the British Labour Party into the Trotskyite mess it is today.

Finally, some forgiveable repeats on RTE Radio One, as Drivetime played again Philip Boucher Hayes's enthralling reports from Greece on the Syrian refugee crisis, which confirmed his status as easily one of the best and most trustworthy broadcasters around.

Sunday Independent

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