Ivan Yates to replace Vincent Browne on TV3
Station bosses want a man as grumpy and ballsy as veteran journalist to host politics show
TV3 is seeking a replacement to take over from Vincent Browne when the current affairs presenter makes the decision to step down from his show.
Sources close to the Tonight with Vincent Browne team have said it made “good business sense” to look at life after Vincent, and a number of names are being considered. Ivan Yates has been tipped as the big name to take over the nightly current affairs slot.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, the source said: “Vincent reached his 70th birthday last year [he is 71]. It would be remiss of the station if it wasn’t looking ahead now and planning for what comes next. It’s not personal, it’s just good business.”
“A couple of big names have been lined up but if I was a betting man, I’d say Ivan has it sewn up,” said the team source.
“He has proven to be really popular on his Newstalk slot. He is controversial but very likeable, a straight talker that takes no prisoners and he has the potential to fill the gaping hole that will be left after Vincent to take RTE on in current affairs.” The move would take some working out with his schedule at Newstalk — as the station is determined to hang on to its star presenter.
It recently made Yates one of the top earning broadcasters in the country — joining the ranks of Ryan Tubridy and Ray D’Arcy.
The Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) 2015 figures reported that his Newstalk Breakfast show, presented with Chris Donoghue, now has an audience of 173,000 listeners, up 26,000 on last year.
Other presenters for consideration include George Hook and Tom McGurk.
Meanwhile, TV3 has already shown keen interest in the former minister, having recruited him to host their new-look weekend show, Sunday AM.
A TV3 spokesperson has said, “Vincent has more energy, intellect and encyclopaedic knowledge than most presenters half his age.”
Top television advertising executive Stuart Fogarty told the Sunday Independent this weekend that TV3 are up against it when replacing the ‘Vincent’ brand: “Grumpy and all as he is, he has proven to be television Heaven over the years. They need someone with the same gruffness, irritability and willingness to stick it to guests as Vincent has.”
Eoghan Harris also spoke of the mammoth task in replacing the veteran star: “He is the last of the 1960s generation that believed journalism could make a difference.
“We shared these beliefs, and (briefly) a house with other political animals like ourselves, off Leeson Street for a few weeks in 1967, but we seldom spoke because we were on different drinking and women shifts. But even the few grunts gave us a mutual loathing and liking.”
Given Browne’s age and health over the past few months, observers say it’s only a matter of time until he bows out.
Last year, the veteran presenter, who is on just under €400,000 a year, spoke about his ailing health and said he still needs the Ballymount station to pay the bills.
“I’ve had bronchitis for years. I was told I had to do things about it and I didn’t do it. Eventually I had a bronchoscopy. I was warned in advance it could go wrong and cause trouble and it did.
“I still didn’t pay any attention. I got an infection and I got pneumonia as a consequence of this, and I didn’t realise I had pneumonia”.
Asked if he needed to work, Browne replied: “I do absolutely. I’d be in serious financial trouble, were it not for the fact that I’ve got this contract with TV3.”
Showdowns, Sexism and Walk-offs
In 2011, two minutes of Conor Lenihan erupting while the other panellists shuffled their papers embarrassedly, marked another moment of TV gold in Browne’s career. After Browne accused the then Minister for Science and Technology of practising “self-interest”, he said: “It’s easy for you to be cynical and sceptical about the motivation of people who go into public life . . . I really do resent the kind of sneering insinuation that you’re trying to put to me here tonight.”
In the same year, the then Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton branded Browne a sexist bully after he interrupted her 52 times on his show.
In 2013, Browne told the Irish Independent editor Fionnan Sheahan he was no longer welcome on the show after Sheahan challenged him live on air. The ban came after Sheahan took on the fiery host at the start of the show on the Anglo Tapes controversy.
He pointed out that Mr Browne had shown bias against Independent Newspapers after the presenter persisted in querying how long the Irish Independent had the tapes before deciding to publish them.
In March of this year, Browne told New Land League boss Jerry Beades to “shut up” after he called the embattled O’Donnell family’s mansion a “bog standard” home.
In April, Siptu general president Jack O’Connor tore off his microphone and walked off the show. During the commotion, Browne was heard saying: “You now see an opportunity for a stunt. Pick up the microphone there. Put that back on your lapel.” Mr O’Connor responded: “I’m making a statement.”
This weekend one minister told the Sunday Independent: “We grew fed up of being lined up as cannon fodder to be destroyed by Browne. Often times it was four against one and it stopped being worth it. Many people felt the treatment of Government ministers and TDs was very unfair.”