Thursday 1 September 2016

There's blood on the studio floor

Published 30/12/2006 | 00:11

The year began with howls of pain emanating from the normally hushed corridors of the RTE Radio Centre. Ana Leddy, poached from BBC Radio Foyle, arrived as the new head of RTE Radio 1, carrying big plans to shake up the station and an even bigger stick with which to implement them.

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But more of that presently. But there were howls of joy over at the Mount Street headquarters of Newstalk, which went national in the last quarter of the year.

Sean Moncrieff's afternoon show, simply titled Moncrieff, was named Best Light Entertainment Programme in the PPI Awards - and with good reason, because it's a consistent delight. Moncrieff has turned out to be the surprise star of the radio year.

But back to the blood-stained carpets of Montrose. If the anonymous sources inside RTE are to be believed, the one howling the loudest was Ryan Tubridy, who was stripped of most of his back-up team.

Joe Duffy's Liveline was granted extra researchers as well as an extra 15 minutes a day on air. Myles Dungan's afternoon arts show, Rattlebag, was axed and Derek Mooney was given a 3-5pm show. John Creedon was relegated to late nights and his place taken by Ronan Collins.

John Kelly's eclectic nightly music show Night Train was cancelled and its host shunted sideways to Lyric FM, a post he first declined and then decided to accept.

Predictably, RTE's top-earners were left untroubled by this new regime. Ultimately, little had changed: same ship, slightly re-arranged deckchairs.

Leddy's most radical move was to revamp 5-7 Live into the unimaginatively titled Drivetime, featuring an hour of straight news and analysis from Mary Wilson, and a half-hour each for Des Cahill (sport) and Dave Fanning (arts, culture and entertainment).

The jury is still out on Drivetime, which is facing stiff competition from Today FM's The Last Word and Newstalk's The Right Hook, both of which brought their start-times forward to 4.30, giving them a half-hour's head start on RTE.

Newstalk's move to the national airwaves was, of course, the biggest radio story of 2006. It will be this time next year, at least, before we know if the station has made a significant impact beyond the environs of Dublin.

While never likely to match or surpass RTE's monolithic Morning Ireland in terms of listenership figures, The Breakfast Show, with its punchier, less patrician style and willingness to stray into quirkier items, could well find a strong following among listeners still the right side of middle age.

So, too, could the station's Orla Barry ( Life) and Brenda Power ( Your Call), currently the only regular female voices in the crowded post-breakfast, mid-morning market.

As ever, the year brought a number of excellent documentaries. The Rocker, the Poet (RTE Radio 1) was an affectionate but never lachrymose tribute to Phil Lynott that rarely went for the obvious angles, while the splendidly titled Confessions of a Crap Artist (BBC Radio 4) ventured imaginatively into the weird and not always wonderful mind of sci-fi writer Philip K Dick.

The Orphans That Never Were (RTE Radio 1), about a 1943 fire at an industrial school in Cavan that caused the deaths, many of them preventable, of 35 children in the 'care' of nuns, was shocking and heartbreaking.

On the other hand, the beautifully simple There's Only One George Best (RTE Radio 1) took what should have been a grim topic and turned it into something uplifting.

Two RTE series stood out from the pack: the best episode of Diarmaid Ferriter's What If? imagined a world without the incorrigible Michael O'Leary and Ryanair.

And Speaking Ill of the Dead hit a high point with Senator David Norris's scabrous but scrupulously well-informed deconstruction of Sean MacBride's reputation.

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