News Comment

Tuesday 16 September 2014

John Byrne: 2fm must change, but it doesn't know what it should change into

Published 18/02/2014 | 08:31

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Repro Free: 2fm and Berocca Performance announce a 12 month, six figure deal of 2fm’s brand new breakfast show, Breakfast Republic.
Breakfast Republic on 2fm will be presented by Jennifer Maguire, Bernard O'Shea and Keith Walsh, weekday mornings 7am – 9am.  Mornings are about to get a whole lot more interesting as the 2fm trio promise to deliver a whole new breakfast experience. Picture Andres Poveda
Breakfast Republic on 2fm presented by Jennifer Maguire, Bernard O'Shea and Keith Walsh

Question: What is 2fm? "It's a radio station," you chirp, in reply, looking all pleased with yourself and (probably) expecting a prize.

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Well, yes, ahem, I realise that. But beyond that simple reality, what is it?

Is it a station that can (with a straight face) make any serious claims to be providing a public service? Is it, instead, a populist dinosaur jiving about in its stone-washed 501s waving frantically at the mortified cool kids, like a dinosaur dad at a disco?

Is it all about the music? Is it all about interminable chummy banter? What is 2fm?

The simple answer is: I don't know and neither, it seems, does anyone else.

Noel Curran, director-general of RTE, recently suggested that the station (which has seen its share of the national radio-listening market drop to about 7pc) has approximately two years to turn its fortunes around and prove itself viable and relevant.

Discussions about the future sustainability of the station have tended to focus on the need for 2fm to reconnect with its 'key demographic' -- a demographic that has, it would seem, largely deserted it for 'commercial independent' upstarts (like Spin etc).

What this 'key demographic' now is, however, is by no means clear. Is it the 20-44 demographic? Or the 25-44? Or the 15-35? Or, even, the 15-25? I've seen all these demographic ranges touted -- in both social and print media -- as the target audiences which the #New2FM, as it has optimistically hash-tagged itself on Twitter, most urgently needs to rebond with.

So, what we seem to be left with is a station neck-deep in an identity crisis -- unsure of what it is, who it's for and (crucially) how it might make itself meaningful to those it thinks it's for.

IRREVERENCE

Now, while it would be a stretch to describe Nicky Byrne's move into the mid-morning slot as a radical shake-up of the established order, it's clear that Dan Healy (right), 2fm's new station head, is keen to sell 2fm as a place of spicy irreverence.

There's the new Breakfast Republic, of course, which launched yesterday promising to be wacky and 'in yer face' (whether you want it to or not). And then there is the revamped night-time schedule -- with Louise McSharry in at 8pm and Chris Greene and Ciara King on from 10 -- which Healy has described as "a real articulation" of how the station is now "driving content right to the edge".

These shows will, Healy promises, be "fast paced" and "high octane". With "content that pushes the boundaries" and "captures the buzz of now".

So in the midst of all this promotional ballyhooing -- stuffed full of 'yoof'-centric buzzwords -- can we detect sounds of real change? Or are we merely witnessing a station reversing its baseball cap and loudly insisting that it is now down with the kids?

Time will tell. But time may be a luxury that 2fm no longer has much of left.

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