Tuesday 21 November 2017

2016 Ones to watch: From 'Miley's girl' to a radio star

Blathnaid Treacy, broadcaster

Blaithnaid Treacy
Blaithnaid Treacy
John Meagher

John Meagher

Some people start young in the entertainment business, but careers rarely begin as early as Blathnaid Treacy's did. She joined the cast of the country's most watched TV drama, Glenroe, in 1988, and was a regular on the soap for 13 years.

Not that she had much say in the matter at the start: Blathnaid was just three months old when she made her debut as Denise, the infant daughter of Miley and Biddy Byrne, the first couple of Irish television. She eventually left the long-running RTÉ series in order to focus on the business of being a secondary school student.

This year, the Bray, Co Wicklow, native takes on a challenge that's about as far removed from the shenanigans of rural soaps as you can get, now that she has joined the ranks of the freshly resurgent 2fm. Last night, Treacy made her debut as host of The National Chart Show, replacing the DJ Mark McCabe who left to pursue other interests, and many feel that it's an ideal stepping stone for her to carve out a high-profile career with the national broadcaster.

Treacy is no stranger to the corridors of RTÉ, having been a presenter on the youth TV programme Two Tube for the past four years. She has also been one of the faces of the station's Electric Picnic coverage and hosted the Choice Music Prize live event last year.

With 2fm successfully remodelling itself as a youth station under the direction of Dan Healy, the 27-year-old is seen as the perfect fit to woo teens and 20-somethings from rivals like Spin and to increase the number of urban listeners.

After being perceived to have hit rock bottom in the ratings two years ago, 2fm has been steadily increasing its listenership - and at the expense of rival stations like Today FM.

Treacy will be no stranger to the rigour of making radio that connects to a young audience, having been a presenter of a Friday night show on Spin for a number of years. The Dublin-based station has been seen as the leading light in youth broadcasting since its inception and its popularity was seen by many as a key reason why 2fm's audience had dipped so dramatically in the wake of Gerry Ryan's death.

"2fm has been upping its game for a while now," says an RTÉ staffer, "and while there are some who have been put out by the way it's actively going after a youth audience at the expense of everyone else, there is a view that it at least knows what sort of station it wants to be now.

"I've dealt with Blathnaid in the past and have been impressed with the way she conducts herself. She's a good broadcaster and a fast learner, and if she plays her cards right she really could be a star in the making."

A lover of Irish, she pursued a degree in Irish and archaeology from UCD before doing a course in film and TV production. She got her broadcasting break by appearing on TG4's fly-on-the-wall travel show, O Tholg go Tolg, and her natural style of presentation didn't just work in the context of the series: it also demonstrated to TV executives that she could deliver engaging content capable of connecting with a young, tech-savvy and travel-obsessed audience.

She landed the Two Tube show shortly afterwards and has been seen as a catalyst in making the RTÉ2 programme a hit with younger audiences, who can be hard for traditional broadcasters to reach.

Meanwhile, Treacy intends to use a cúpla focail on her now 2fm show: "With any language, if you're not speaking it, you fall out of practice," she said last month. "But when you surround yourself with it again, it comes flooding back."

"Let's be honest," says the RTÉ figure quoted above, "it's never harmed anyone's career to be fluent in Irish and if you look at the young broadcasters who've come of age in the past 10 years or so, it's uncanny how many of them cut their teeth on Irish-language broadcasting."

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