Radio: Weasel words on terror were a holy show in 2015
Published 27/12/2015 | 02:30
The year on radio more-or-less started and ended with the same thing: terrorists killing people in France, and know-it-all idiots humming and hawing about it in Ireland. From Charlie Hebdo in January to last month's Paris-wide attacks, the radio punditocracy - in fairness, only some of them - again disgraced themselves. The weasel words, whataboutery, victim-blaming, moral relativism and self-righteous pontificating was truly nauseating.
The other big stories were moves: Ray D'Arcy came home to RTÉ Radio 1, Ryan Tubridy joined him there from 2FM. The latter has been a moderate success, in the sense that Radio 1 was always Tubridy's natural home anyway, and he's continued doing what he was doing.
The jury's still out on D'Arcy, though. His show has been pretty okay, so far, but it still feels… I'm not sure what. A bit flat. Lacking something. You don't get the sense that D'Arcy has fully got into his groove yet, which is surprising for such an experienced broadcaster.
Anton Savage replaced the Kildare man in Today FM's mid-morning slot, thus continuing their (to me) incomprehensible practise of featuring practically no women as presenters. So now all four main stations, at that time, are in the hands of men, from early middle-age to late middle-age.
In January, I suggested Today FM take a punt on the genial Alison Curtis for the D'Arcy slot. What am I saying, take a punt: she'd just increased her own Saturday show's audience by 40pc in the latest JNLR figures. Clearly, she was a good bet; listeners like this woman. But the key word there, I guess, is the last one, so back in your box, Alison.
To be fair, it's not just Today FM: most stations still woefully under-represent women, as revealed by Dr Jane Suiter, co-author of a report on gender balance. And not only as hosts: contributors, interviewees, so-called "experts" - all overwhelmingly male, with Radio 1 the honourable exception.
Newstalk is probably worst; from Monday morning to Friday night it's Man Central. Case in point: Off the Ball, the very good but overstretched sports show, which turns three hours each evening, and around 10 at weekends, into a virtually female-free zone.
Indeed, "too much sport" was another bugbear of 2015, as it is each year. Look, I get it: sport is handy for filling airtime, and lots of people like it. Hell, I like it. But it's not near as popular as presumed, and definitely doesn't warrant the giant chunks of the schedule set aside for it.
This year was worse than ever, with overkill-levels of coverage for the Rugby World Cup - the sport that everyone supposedly "loves" but nobody actually plays. Meanwhile, the Billy Walsh saga was one of those annoying moments when a silly sporting spat became, for some infantile reason, a hot topic on current affairs shows.
Other irritations this year: the ever-increasing proliferation of stupid, made-up accents; the preposterous lengths broadcasters were forced to go, during the Referendum, to serve spurious dictates about "balance"; and the way radio debate is generally constructed in an adversarial way. Someone once described this kind of media as a "shark tank feeding-frenzy": too much confrontation, not enough conversation.
But that's enough whining; it's Christmas, after all. So what rocked my socks during the last 12 months?
Talking History (Newstalk) was as eclectic and engaging as ever. The same station's Talking Books was great too, though sadly, Radio 1's equally good Book Show seems to have disappeared without trace.
Dave Fanning was a chatty, cheerful presence, and early in the year, delivered one of the best interviews I've ever heard with Bono, which refashioned the U2 motormouth as a thoughtful, likeable guy.
Tony Fenton did similar service for Bono on Today FM, a show aired after his tragically young death. (Our colleague George Byrne, movie reviewer on The Tom Dunne Show, was another radio voice sadly silenced this year.)
There were some good dramas - Matches on Newstalk, Curiosity on Sunshine. Dublin station Near Fm produced a series of excellent, very imaginative programmes - New Perspectives on Irish History, If Ever You Go: a Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song.
Larry Gogan remains a 2FM legend and national treasure. Friday Night Nineties (Today FM) may not be the objectively "best" music show of the year, but it's certainly my favourite.
Liveline is still the voice of the nation, and there were some real "stop everything" moments, for instance Leo Varadkar coming out as gay to Miriam O'Callaghan on Radio 1.
The Sunday Show's 'Cultural Toolbox' (Newstalk) was a lot of fun; meanwhile host Shane Coleman again proved himself the most versatile man on Irish radio, with good showings across a raft of programmes. Incidentally, George Hook will be retiring sooner rather than later; in Coleman, the station has a ready-made replacement. Unless they go for a woman, of course.
Ha! I had you fooled there for a second, didn't I?