Monday 5 December 2016

Radio: In a galaxy far, far away, they don't have pay scandals

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

Irish Farmers' Association former General Secretary Pat Smith
Irish Farmers' Association former General Secretary Pat Smith

Another week, another scandal about stupidly large payments at the top-end of Irish professional life dominating the airwaves. In this case, it's the Irish Farmer's Association, whose former General Secretary Pat Smith took home close to a million quid over two years.

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Meanwhile some fellow IFA executives have been earning much less than that, but still far too much, from their jobs.

I'd be the first to castigate my countrymen and women as moaning malcontents who are always looking for something to get enraged by, but in all fairness - this sort of stuff makes it almost impossible to have anything but contempt for the self-styled great and good of our society.

A million quid! This is from an annual budget of about €13m, so a quick bit of maths shows us that Smith carved off around 4pc of the total funds. And for what?

We've had people on the radio all week debating whether or not these guys, and guys like them (it usually is men) in other organisations, are worth this Monopoly-type money. Eh, what? Of course they're not.

Essentially, they're doing an administrative job. There are literally tens of thousands of people who could, in theory, do this work.

I have a rule of thumb that says: the only jobs which should be massively well-paid are those which very few people can do. Be this a transplant surgeon or Man United striker: hardly anyone else can do the job, therefore they can make a valid claim for high remuneration.

Chief exec of IFA, ESB, Rehab or whoever? Nah, not so much.

On Tuesday, News at One (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 1pm) spoke to Mayo IFA chairman Padraig Joyce, who called for the resignation of the organisation's president, deputy president and national treasurer. He made a good point - but ultimately, what's the point?

In the bigger picture, it won't stop this nonsense happening again, and again, and again. It just seems to be something we can't help doing, and it's all very depressing. Does that make us apathetic and fatalistic? I say realistic. (Okay, a little apathetic - blame my Generation X mores.)

Speaking of Generation X - yes, seamless segues are a speciality - us forty and fiftysomethings will be aware that a new Star Wars movie is opening in a few weeks.

The first in a decade, it's being hyped as potentially the biggest smash-hit in film history, and for once the hype will probably prove true. I never really "got" George Lucas' space-opera, but it's undeniably a pop culture phenomenon, as explored in For the Love of Star Wars (Radio 1, Sat 2pm). Emer Horgan's documentary opened with that annoying, and horribly overused, modern catchphrase, "here's the thing" - but once this speedbump was cleared, it was fresh, charming and at times funny.

It centred on Matthew O'Brien, a Star Wars super-fan who's been counting down to December 17 for more than a year. Having got into the series after watching the first film on video, he's now seen the original trilogy, he reckons, thousands of times.

Matthew can recite entire scenes verbatim. His understanding girlfriend even puts up with him sequestering a whole room for memorabilia (no greater love hath a woman, etc etc). On the flipside, he got hassled a bit in school for his obsession, which seems awfully mean-spirited - yes, it's just a series of silly sci-fi movies, but so what? There's worse things a young man could be doing with his life.

By the way, here's a weird fact: we're now as far from the first Star Wars movie, as that one was from the beginning of World War II. Sorry, where did the last four decades go?

Inside Science (BBC Radio 4, Thur 4.30pm) looked at the question of accents. It's somehow comforting to me - while at the same time very dispiriting - that Ireland isn't the only country where people are losing their original accents, mostly to replace them with a silly transatlantic twang.

This lamentable phenomenon is taking place in the UK too, except for one place: Glasgow. Dr Adam Rutherford investigated why the Glaswegian accent is hardly changing at all, and apparently it's down to something called "accommodation".

This is when, for various social reasons, we modify how we talk to better suit the person we're talking to. So I guess, on a macro level, Irish and British people are taking on the inflections of Americans, presumably because theirs is the dominant culture. In Glasgow, however, they don't go in for accommodation very much. These famously hardy folks stick to what they know, linguistically speaking, with the result that they continue to sound like, well, they're from Glasgow.

Good for them. If only all our wannabe-Americans did likewise, Irish life would sound much better, and Irish radio would be improved immeasurably. It used to be that people laughed at those "Smashey and Nicey" type DJs with their daft put-on transatlantic accents. Nowadays everyone's doing it, even the "cool" broadcasters. Wadda piddee.

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