News Opinion

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Radio review: Refusing to budge over Budget chat

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 17/10/2016 | 02:30

Matt Cooper. Photo: Collins
Matt Cooper. Photo: Collins

Matt Cooper was in bullish form on Twitter last Monday. There would be no talk about the Budget on Today FM's Last Word that day, he pledged, because "any prior coverage is bullsh**, irrelevant".

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Just in case his followers hadn't got the message, he then sent another: "I promise no Budget previews. Listen to other stations if you want that valueless c**p."

His hostility did not appear to have reached the Today FM newsroom, which was still leading that afternoon with rumours about an increase in the pension.

Nor, for that matter, has this high- minded determination not to anticipate events before they occur ever stopped Matt from discussing upcoming sporting fixtures, such as the previous week's rugby match between Connacht and Ulster. Why is previewing a sports game acceptable when previewing a political event isn't?

It's not even as if The Last Word replaced the Budget talk with anything that exciting. There was a discussion about Donald Trump's views on women, a subject on which both of his guests and Matt himself agreed, so that didn't make for very interesting radio. Then there was a piece about breastfeeding, which was no doubt riveting, but listeners had probably turned to Newstalk Drive by this point.

Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney were, thankfully, not too precious to discuss the next day's Budget on that show, especially as many details had already been leaked. The two presenters have quickly established an easy-going, engaging relationship in the new slot, playing off against each other nicely.

Shane Coleman and Colette Fitzpatrick on Newstalk Breakfast work well as a team too. On Tuesday's show, she pointed out that it was only three years since the Troika left Ireland, and he wondered how wise it was to be playing "yo-yo economics" when the potential impact of Brexit alone should give pause for thought. He regarded a more punitive Budget as "pretty much inevitable" a few years down the line. Whether Matt Cooper would consider this "valueless c**p", who knows?

Matt finally got his chance to tackle the Budget on Tuesday. After such a build-up, the least listeners could have expected was something much weightier than rivals such as RTE's Drivetime were offering. Instead it was exactly what one would expect from a post-Budget analysis show; if anything, it was a little on the dull side.

Though it was still better than Morning Ireland the next day, which sent a reporter to Athlone to talk to a farmer, a school principal and a pensioner, presumably in the belief that this would suffice to represent the variety of modern Irish life.

High Noon's George Hook, meanwhile, was gently teasing Sean Moncrieff for winning yet another gong as Speech Broadcaster of the Year at the PPI Radio Awards. I won't lie; I don't really get it. Moncrieff can be amusing and informative, but it's a bit smug too, and I can't say I've ever felt that sorry if I missed an episode.

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