Monday 19 February 2018

Every night's all right for fighting talk

CHRIS BARRY: Top dog of late-night Dublin radio
CHRIS BARRY: Top dog of late-night Dublin radio

Eilis O'Hanlon

What do presenters on Lyric FM actually do? The question is not meant pejoratively. From Marty In The Morning to The Blue Of The Night, RTE's classical and world music station is the perfect antidote to the longueurs of talk radio; but how, literally, do broadcasters pass the time in the studio during particularly long pieces of music?

Monday's John Kelly Ensemble featured the whole 20 minutes of Stravinsky's Violin Concerto; on Thursday, Max Richter's revised version of Vivaldi's Four Seasons was played in its entirety, all 45 minutes of it. What does Kelly do with himself whilst it's on? Does he even need to be in the studio the whole two hours?

The luxury of being able to pick and choose one's words carefully does invoke a certain sympathy for other broadcasters who have to think on their feet in order to fill those gaping hours of airtime, even if what they chose to fill it with can seem so inconsequential.

On Wednesday's Nicky Byrne Show on 2FM, they were even reduced for a time to discussing the best way to put on a duvet cover; whilst 98FM's nightly Dublin Talks invited callers on Tuesday to ring in and answer the question: What is it that 65pc of women do secretly without telling their partners?

Fake an orgasm, suggested Wayne. Use his credit card online, said Gary. Check his phone messages, Megan tried.

Amy got the right answer, which was to chuck out his old clothes without telling him. Adrian Kennedy then switched to the even more pointless subject of whether Curly Wurlys have got smaller. Day after day, desperate broadcasters scrape the barrel like this to fill the time, because radio, like nature, abhors a vacuum. They certainly earn their wages.

None more so than Chris Barry, whose FM104 Phoneshow resembles nothing so much as Liveline on acid as it manufactures nightly controversy out of nothing. Tuesday's programme featured a charmer called 'Paul', who claimed to kidnap people's dogs before demanding a ransom for their return. This in turn provoked the usual frenzy from callers wanting to "smash your dorky face in, you lowlife scumbag".

"How the f*** has he not been cut up yet?" one listener said. "He should be put in the ground, the scummy c***."

Provocative as 'Paul' was, it's still disturbing to see how quickly people can be roused to anger at that time of night. It makes Twitter look almost good-natured by comparison. Go to bed, people. Sleep it off.

It was a relief to get back to daytime radio, where Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show was beginning a new monthly Book Club, with a panel including former Fianna Fail minister Mary O'Rourke, a woman who has really come into her own as an entertaining guest since retiring from full time politics.

"I want the sun, sea and sex," she was soon declaring as they debated which of four possible books to pick. Pleasingly, she got her way.

Perhaps Chris Barry should consider starting a book club. Assuming, that is, any of his callers can read.

Sunday Independent

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