Tuesday 30 May 2017

Radio: Driven crazy by obsession with America

ACCOUNT: Reporter Shona Murray with Sanaa, a Yazidi woman who had to flee from Isil
ACCOUNT: Reporter Shona Murray with Sanaa, a Yazidi woman who had to flee from Isil
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

As my many devoted readers (okay, three, and one of them is me) will know, I have a rather large stone in my shoe about radio's obsession with America, particularly American politics.

Take, for instance, Newstalk's World in Motion (Sat 9pm). This has, in the last few weeks, covered Islamist terrorism in the States, CIA torture of suspected jihadists and the rise of Donald Trump.

Shona Murray's show advertises itself as "news, analysis, details and opinions on...international affairs". And while it does deliver on that - indeed it's very good, in some ways - roughly one-in-three stories being about the US does not constitute "international".

The world is a massive place, with some 200 separate nations. And many of those are massive themselves, and fascinating and influential and important. America - while one of the largest and most interesting, and definitely the most powerful - is still just one.

But it's unfair to single out World in Motion, or Newstalk; this is Irish radio overall. Radio 1's World Report (Sunday 8am) takes a genuinely global view, but the station in general is every bit as America-obsessed.

Morning Ireland (Mon-Fri 7am) alone carried several stories this week on the Presidential election. Even Dave Fanning, deputising for Ryan Tubridy (Mon-Fri 9am), was there discussing the debate on Tuesday.

The election hasn't even happened yet, and I feel as if I've been listening to this Trump-Clinton stuff for years. But of course - I actually have been.

I get it: what happens in America matters to us, too, and it matters more than, say, what happens in Laos or Easter Island. But China (just to take one example) is a global player too, and it's essentially disregarded by radio. Or India, Brazil, Russia, you name it.

I mean, off the top of my head, I don't know the Chinese leader's name; I don't even know if their job-title is president or prime minister or supreme overlord or what. But I know how many wives The Donald has had and what they're called. I even, God help me, know how he gets that crazy bouffant-quiff-comb-over combo hairstyle.

I don't want to know any of that. But radio insists on me knowing it.

Are they like this elsewhere, say outside the Anglophone world? Do Finnish and Malaysian radio have the same fixation with America? Blithering about this election literally for more than two years: caucuses, primaries, conventions, super-delegates… what are you people going on about?

Eight thousand journalists will no doubt be sent Stateside to cover the election, while major events are often more-or-less ignored in neighbouring countries. (I'll never forget the reasonably news-savvy guy who once told me he didn't realise there was a general election in Britain until a few weeks beforehand, because there'd been so little coverage here.)

Uncountable hours of discussion on Hillary's speech and Donald's latest gaffe and race relations and gun control and no healthcare and Mexican immigration and blah blah blah… It's a great place and all, but not everyone shares this nerdish infatuation with America. Most of us don't, probably.

I wonder what Americans themselves think of all this? We've almost passed into "creepy" with this behaviour: a weird little stalker, over here, thousands of miles away, watching, watching. "I know every move you make, America. You are always on my mind. I watch you, even as you sleep…"

Anyway, rant over. But if you're like me, brace yourselves: it's only going to get worse between now and November 8. See? I don't even want to know when the bloody thing takes place, but I do anyway. Damn you, radio.

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