Saturday 22 October 2016

Pat Kenny: 'TV return is not about the money'

As Pat Kenny returns to TV, he tells Niamh Horan that TV stars live and die by their scheduling but he's not under pressure

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Pat Kenny at the launch of his new TV3 current affairs show Photo: David Conachy
Pat Kenny at the launch of his new TV3 current affairs show Photo: David Conachy

TV3's newest star, Pat Kenny, says his return to television is not motivated by money.

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As reports circulate that he has signed a €500,000 deal, Mr Kenny told the Sunday Independent that keeping his skill-set sharp was the real motivating factor behind his handshake with TV3.

The former Late Late Show host was speaking as it was announced he will present a new current affairs series, co-hosted by Colette Fitzpatrick.

Mr Kenny said: "It's certainly not money. It's basically keeping my skill-set sharp." The current affairs heavyweight also said that he feels no pressure undertaking his new role - because of his achievements in a career that has spanned over four decades.

"I have nothing to prove. That's why it's great," he said. "I don't have anything left to prove. I have been there and done that."

He continued: "I hosted the Late Late Show for 10 years, number one every week for most of that, had Kenny Live for 11 years, The Frontline came along and that was really popular as well, so, you know, I don't have to show anybody that I can do it."

Explaining what went wrong at UTV, where his programme In the Round was axed after it failed to set ratings alight, he said: "UTV was obviously in transition. I think they set out with all the best of intentions. Obviously it didn't quite work out on the financial front because making television and setting up a news-gathering operation, particularly, is very, very expensive."

Speaking about his own programme, he said: "I wasn't upset by anything that we put out there. The programmes that we did - each and every one of them - whether it was Mickey Harte or Lulu, I stand over. I would say if I was to pick out a body of work of mine that I really, really liked over all the things I have done - certainly some of those shows would have been in that archive."

Mr Kenny pinned the poor ratings on poor scheduling. "You can live and die by ratings but you can live or die by the scheduler. If the scheduler puts you on opposite Eastenders, like, 'goodbyeee'," he said.

"I think if it went wrong from a scheduling point of view. it may have been opposite the nine o'clock news. That is a difficult slot you know? There is some appointments to view and appointments to listen and they are very difficult to battle against. I mean you would be a mad eejit to schedule anything expensive that you paid a lot of money for against the toy show: forget it. so you have to cut your cloth wisely."

This autumn, Mr Kenny's new current affairs programme will air on Wednesday nights at 9.30pm - going head to head with Brendan O Connor's Cutting Edge on RTE 1.

Following the launch, an RTE executive told the Sunday Independent: "There's a huge momentum around Cutting Edge and around Brendan as a presenter. It kind of caught a lot of people by surprise but it became real water cooler tv really quickly."

He added: "Brendan built a huge audience on Saturday nights, eventually even beating the Late Late in the ratings. And that was against a background of falling ratings across the board. To grow in that slot, against huge Saturday night competition like X Factor and all those things, was unusual. Cutting Edge has an air of unpredictability and a real energy to it. They are taking a big risk putting Pat into that slot. Remember too that though Pat is a legend, UTV put him up against Claire Byrne on Mondays and that was a disaster."

Speaking at the TV3 launch last Wednesday, Mr Kenny said he does not miss RTE but that he will "never say never" to returning to Montrose.

"RTE is a company in major transition. You have these executives in certain positions leaving… I think we are at a point where any kind of recriminations that used to exist in the old days, those people have gone, and producers, researchers, presenters, the whole body can move back and forth."

Asked if he was disappointed with the way he was treated at the end of his time at the national broadcaster he said: "At the end of the day, it was my decision. I wasn't forced out of RTE. I want to make that clear. I would have preferred to do things slightly differently on the television side. I really wasn't happy doing potentially three nights a week and getting up early and doing [radio].

He said the workload was wearing him down: "I would have just liked to have been committed to The Frontline one day a week and work hard at doing it well. Because after a weekend of r 'n' r you can get through Monday night and then you are a bit knackered on Tuesday but then the rest of the week is fine. When I was working sometimes on a Monday, sometimes Tuesday, sometimes two of those nights or even three, it was wearing and I wanted that to change.

"You have to do justice to the people who are employing you and if you find you are too tired to do a job well, that's not fair. So I didn't feel I could go through another year of never knowing whether I was on one night or two nights or three nights of prime time and getting up every morning for the radio show."

Speaking about his new programme with co-host Colette, Mr Kenny said he was very happy with the collaboration.

"I don't think I am invincible and if Colette and I are working together it means that if one of us is missing the other one can take over.

Mr. Kenny added that he embraced the proposal of a co-host, saying: "Colette is coming on strong."

He joked: "She's on Newstalk now on breakfast three mornings a week so we will be sick of each other."

Sunday Independent

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