Saturday 21 October 2017

Radio: Filling the God-shaped hole on air

Frank: Newstalk's Pat Kenny takes on nanny-staters
Frank: Newstalk's Pat Kenny takes on nanny-staters

Eilis O'Hanlon

Jonathan Healy always pops up on The Pat Kenny Show shortly after midday to preview his upcoming Lunchtime programme.

"What do you think of the plan to introduce calorie counts on menus at restaurants and takeaways," he wondered on Thursday.

"I don't like it," said Pat.

You don't get much more of a straight answer than that. Pat saw the scheme as further "nanny State" interfering, and it's good to hear a presenter take such a line, because generally they either approve of such meddling, or at least don't challenge guests who do. Moving to Newstalk seems to have freed Kenny to be much more confident about expressing himself in this way.

For the same reason, it was good to hear Wednesday's Liveline giving space to voices sceptical of similar new government plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol, which will simply punish poor drinkers while making little difference to the cost of those expensive bottles of wine that middle class do-gooders will be cracking open to celebrate another victory over peasants who won't do as they're told.

The previous two days were less commendable. Joe Duffy was fielding calls from supporters of a Dublin woman called Maria Divine Mercy, who claims to be in communication with God. The whole slot ended up epitomising the Irish media's shortcomings when it comes to discussing religion - namely, a tendency to only become interested when there's a sensationalist angle. Preferably one which opens believers to mockery.

Duffy wasn't mocking his callers, but he was too quick to dismiss their own sense that their views are regarded as a joke. "Who is mocking?" he asked innocently. As his caller replied: "The media has done it for years", Joe didn't seem to get what she was saying at all.

He even mentioned Spirit Radio, as if one small Christian station can correct the imbalance of an entire culture which sees theism as absurd.

If Liveline wants to take on a genuinely disturbing belief system, try Scientology. Author John Sweeney was on Today FM's Last Word on Tuesday to talk about the cult, which actually charges its followers before revealing its innermost secrets, including the belief that suffering is caused by fragments of evil space aliens which attached to human souls after they were blown up in a volcano 75 million years ago. Or something.

Matt Cooper wondered why, after years being hounded by adherents for publicising their activities, Sweeney kept at it. He replied that, just as other men like golf, his hobby was annoying Scientologists.

On to this week's quiz question. If you had to pick the music to accompany a report on The John Murray Show about Ireland's only five-star cat hotel, but you couldn't be bothered putting in any effort, what would you plump for?

If you said What's New Pussycat? by Tom Jones; The Cure's Love Cats, Everybody Wants to be a Cat from The Aristocats, and Cool for Cats by Squeeze, then congratulations, you win the star prize. Though not for originality.

Sunday Independent

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