Thursday 26 April 2018

Anna Nolan: Fresh faces are needed to brighten up the airwaves

The voice of the morning: Cathal MacCoille
The voice of the morning: Cathal MacCoille

Anna Nolan

Last week, two giants of Irish broadcasting retired. Cathal Mac Coille of RTE One's Morning Ireland radio show and Vincent Browne of TV3's Tonight with Vincent Browne both said goodbye to their audiences.

Both are accomplished journalists who made engaging and informative television. One occasionally entertained in a very unique manner.

Both were respected in their fields, with Browne perhaps being put on a pedestal that surprised even him.

Having started on Morning Ireland in 1986, Mac Coille would have been 34 years of age beginning this role. With some experience in broadcasting under his belt, the powers that be trusted a thirty-something to be part of the daily news show.

Browne was a little older when he began Tonight. At 63, he kicked off his nightly current affairs show and wrapped things up recently, 10 years later.

With the two journalists freeing up space on radio and television, wouldn't it be great to get some younger talent to step into their shoes?

There has been much talk about the gender pay gap, here and in the UK. However, one area that also needs some attention is fresh talent.

RTE has been reluctant to introduce new talent to our screens and radio in recent years. In fact, Ryan Tubridy is still seen as the young buck.

In current affairs we have the likes of Miriam O'Callaghan, David McCullagh, Keelin Shanley and Aine Lawlor at the forefront in RTE - all established broadcasters, all more than capable of doing their job.

The newbie is Claire Byrne - well, newbie in that she's been there for a mere seven years.

Over in TV3, we had Vincent and we still have Pat Kenny.

Surely for a broadcaster to be relevant it must introduce new faces?

Striking the balance between not being ageist and introducing fresh talent might be seen as tricky, but it shouldn't.

When Marty and Mary were ousted for myself, Blathnaid and Sheana in 2003, there was a certain transition period for the audience.

It was felt that Open House had become dated. It had. It was felt that we three could bring a new energy to daytime. We did. Some people liked it, others hated it, but RTE felt it was reflecting changing times.

Under-40s now look to social media, Netflix, catch-up and on-demand television for entertainment.

However, it is irresponsible for broadcasters to hold up their hands and give up.

I hear that Bryan Dobson is to replace Mac Coille. On the one hand, he'll do a great job. On the other, how exciting would it have been if someone the age Mac Coille was when he started had been chosen?

Vincent and Cathal should be handing over the reins to younger, energetic broadcasters who can speak to those who are feeling cut off from traditional television.

Otherwise, the ageing audience we now have will simply fade away.


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