Tuesday 19 March 2019

Eilis O'Hanlon: Why does anyone listen to inane DJs?

illustration of on air realistic sign eps 10
illustration of on air realistic sign eps 10

Eilis O'Hanlon

According to the latest JNLR figures, more than 200,000 people listen to The Ronan Collins Show on RTE Radio One each day. That's more than the audience for Sunday Sport.

The Nicky Byrne Show on 2FM, for its part, draws in 151,000 listeners, whilst over half of adults in Dublin over the age of 15 listen every single day to either FM104, 98FM, Q102, Sunshine 106.8 or Spin 1038… allegedly. (Personally I find it hard to believe). But why does anybody listen to pop music on radio at all when they could hear songs of their own choice 24 hours a day on streaming services such as Spotify?

The answer must be that they like the company which the various presenters offer, and that's the most inexplicable thing of all, because the company is generally so invasive and irritating that, were you to meet most DJs in real life, you'd quickly make your excuses and leave, to escape the giddy slew of chirpy inanity. That was certainly my dominant thought recently on catching by chance a snatch of Steve Wright In The Afternoon on BBC Radio 2.

That particular broadcaster has been on the UK national airwaves since 1981, and it doesn't seem that the format he pioneered has changed much. There's no arguing with longevity; Wright must be doing something right to survive 40 years at the top of a highly competitive pyramid. It's just hard to understand how anyone can bear to listen to it day in, day out. Banter has taken over the world, eating away at our brain cells.

Let's take refuge from it in RTE Radio 1's Arena, where, last Tuesday, writer/farmer John Connell reflected on the influence of Brian Friel on his own work. It was Friel who connected him to "the unseeable world of home" when he was 10,000 miles away in Australia. He'd done what Gar, Friel's protagonist in Philadelphia, Here I Come, hadn't managed. He'd left Ireland. But then Connell also came back, where he found that "home was a story worth telling" too. Not that all stories are equally welcomed. Like livestock, "some thrive and others fail… before they are brought to the mart to be poked, prodded and cast judgement upon". His essay for Arena passed that test at least. It was a lovely, lyrical, heartfelt piece, delivered plainly, without fuss.

Over on Liveline, referendum-related squabbles continued, with one caller declaring herself horrified that her two-year-old child saw an ad about the Eighth Amendment whilst watching a cartoon on YouTube on her mother's smartphone.

"The response to that," suggested Joe Duffy, "could be… I'm not saying it is, but it could be… you shouldn't give your two-year-old child your smartphone". Good grief, is he really suggesting that his listeners stop getting their undergarments in a twist over every trifling offence? Liveline wouldn't last a week if outrage went out of fashion. The moral panic over online ads for the referendum also led to a delicious row on last Wednesday's Last Word on Today FM between presenter Matt Cooper and No vote campaigner John McGuirk.

The exchanges generated more heat than light, but there's no doubt it made great radio.

Sunday Independent

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