Sunday 25 February 2018

Garth fans 
are keeping it country on air

Country and western superstar Garth Brooks
Country and western superstar Garth Brooks

Eilis O’Hanlon

Radio Four's Analysis marked the 25th anniversary of the creation of the world wide web by asking: Is it time for the internet to grow up? It began by identifying two forces which have made the internet so powerful, namely that it's entirely open ("anyone can contribute") and entirely equal ("every contribution has the same weight as every other").

It then tried to find the negative side, but didn't quite succeed. While there are obvious problems around the rise of porn, online bullying and copyright theft, it remains an inherently democratic medium whose libertarian spirit risks being ruined by ham-fisted regulation.  

This probably wasn't the best week for extolling the virtues of old media against the new anyway, as the airwaves seemingly went mad over the cancellation of a few concerts by a country-and -western singer. It began on Tuesday's Mooney, as normal proceedings were interrupted by an announcement from Derek himself, who told the nation, in the manner of Neville Chamberlain declaring war: "I've just been handed a note and apparently it's true".

Next day, Liveline devoted the whole show to the issue - and to be fair, there were genuine victims, such as Mohammad, who'd just taken a delivery of €4,000 of stock that he now wouldn't be able to sell at his shop near Croke Park. Serious debate was stymied, however, by other callers who said they felt "like someone had died". Lest we forget: no one had.

"A lot of really, really angry people" were also calling the FM104 Phoneshow, but that's nothing new. As darkness falls on the city, talk-radio listeners seem to get irate about, well, everything. "The residents are a disgrace," one was fuming. "They have nothing better 
to f****** do - excuse my language - than get involved". 
No need to apologise, sir, swearing is practically compulsory on air these days.

There were some noble attempts to find a different slant on the story. The John Murray Show had the bright idea of tracking down Irish country-and-western star Nathan Carter, who was booked to play support on two of the dates. He was diplomatic, merely hoping that "people can learn from this". Yeah, good luck with that.

Newstalk's Lunchtime also had an intelligent interview with the chairperson of the Croke Park Streets Committee, though the hyperbole was still flying as he declared that people in the area are "basically imprisoned." Sigh.

The madness was probably best summed up on Wednesday's Morning Ireland, where there were four separate reports on Garth Brooks, one of which was almost as long in itself as the two reports on the situation in the Middle East.

Relief came in the form of They Write The Songs on BBC Radio 2, first of a new series profiling composers who wrote the Great American Songbook. First up, Jerome Kern. Presenter, Barry Manilow told how Kern first played his classic song I Won't Dance to a producer, who remarked sceptically: "Isn't it a bit short?" Kern replied: "That's all I had to say." You can't say fairer than that.

Sunday Independent

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