Friday 18 August 2017

Radio review: A Trump win is not the end of the world

US President-elect Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
US President-elect Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Eilis O'Hanlon

Radio has always been TV's poor relation when it comes to elections. That was confirmed again on Tuesday when RTE Radio One didn't bother with live coverage of the US Presidential race at all, handing the entire night over instead to National Public Radio's broadcast from Washington DC.

It was solid, reliable, old-fashioned, and scrupulously non-partisan to the point of dullness; but it was probably a wise decision on RTE's part. Six hours of live radio is expensive, and there were plenty of alternative sources, not least America Decides, which was streaming simultaneously on BBC Radio Four, Radio Five Live and the World Service.

Liveliest and most absorbing coverage could be found on London-based LBC radio, whose show, also called America Decides, was fronted by Iain Dale in the studio and Shelagh Fogarty at the US Embassy.

There were some surreal moments. Fogarty asked one American man for his thoughts and was told: "I am a figment, none of this is actually happening."

The man then claimed to have voted for Trump's wife, Melania, before finishing with the cryptic comment: "We are not paying for the sins of entertainment."

"I don't understand what you mean," replied the presenter, speaking for us all.

Dale was one of the few people to admit about the result: "As a broadcaster, as a commentator, I find it a very exciting thing." Satirists and impressionists must surely feel the same way. Callan's Kicks is set to be much more entertaining with President Trump in the regular cast.

Morning Ireland next day felt like a wake. Woman's Hour on Radio Four was dominated by angry women expressing their anger at angry white men who, in their view, were the only ones to back Trump. All pretence at media impartiality went completely out of the window.

The Ray D'Arcy Show did chat briefly to former Irish Apprentice star Bill Cullen about his belief that a businessman in the White House might not be a bad thing; but dismissive sneering dominated, including from Irish-American comedian Des Bishop, who declared: "I'm dropping the American, I'm just Irish now."

Clearly the message that ordinary voters are tired of being told what to think by luvvies hasn't quite sunk in yet.

The Ryan Tubridy Show, notably, did not indulge in the hysterical, apocalyptic silliness which was taking over elsewhere.

The Late Late Show presenter is arguably the broadcaster with most genuine affection for, and understanding of, America, and he recalled driving through the States in the summer and seeing a succession of "dead towns, (and) veterans begging on the side of the street".

These are the people, he said, who feel "patronised, forgotten, left out", and whose problems are ignored by a "self-satisfied media". Tubridy's talents really should be let loose on more news analysis, rather than being wasted on the fluffier stuff which often fills his early morning show.

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