Wednesday 21 March 2018

Gaybo's back and all is right with the world

Steve Coogan: Ubiquitous on Irish airwaves last week
Steve Coogan: Ubiquitous on Irish airwaves last week

Ellis O'Hanlon

Former newspaper editor Piers Morgan holding forth about the tragedy of US gun laws on RTE Radio 1's Ryan Tubridy Show isn't a debate. It's a monologue.

The only time Ryan challenged his guest in Wednesday's entire interview was when Morgan criticised President Obama's inaction in the wake of a series of school shootings, the latest in Oregon a week ago. If the RTE presenter doesn't know any of the arguments for the right to bear arms, or doesn't feel comfortable playing devil's advocate on this issue, then he should have invited on a second guest to do it for him.

That doesn't mean someone as fiery as US shock jock Michael Graham, who presents his own views on such matters vociferously on Newstalk's Right Hook; but leaving out anyone who might explain the political, historical and cultural context of this issue means that tens of millions of Americans who believe in the case for gun ownership were portrayed as little more than bloodthirsty nutters.

George Hook bows to no one in his dismay at Americans' widespread love of firearms, but even he wasn't letting Obama off the hook for acting like a "university debating champion" rather than taking hard decisions to back up his fine words.

Piers Morgan got an equally easy time on BBC Radio Four's Today programme, confirming his status as the media's "go-to guy" after each mass shooting. It's another sign of the shrinking gene pool of guests upon which radio and TV shows tend to draw.

This week, comedian Steve Coogan was hawking his new autobiography from one microphone to another, popping up on Newstalk's Moncrieff, Today FM's Last Word, Radio 1's Ray D'Arcy Show, as well as making numerous appearances across the BBC network.

Ventriloquist Nina Conti, for her part, was on 2FM's Nicky Byrne Show, and, again, The Ray D'Arcy Show; whilst musician Judy Collins was on Sunday with Miriam and also spoke midweek to Pat Kenny.

There is no such thing as exclusivity any more. Guests are drawn from the ranks of those available, those with something to sell and those who just like being on air.

Long gone are the days of an artist such as Brian Friel, who eschewed that media merry-go-round. Bowman: Sunday 8.30 struggled to find clips of Friel in the RTE archive to include in its celebration of his life and work because "He liked to write rather than talk about writing."

There was an equally touching tribute to Friel on Sunday With Gay Byrne, back for a new season after a too-long absence. The last time Gaybo was on Lyric FM was in March, but he settled in as if he'd never been away, determined to do his best for "my 733 faithful listeners". There are deserts which are nowhere near as dry as Byrne's humour.

Before long, he was musing on "my darling Meryl (Streep)" and about "poor old Bill Clinton having it off with that young one in the Oval Office… remember all that fuss and nonsense?" Gay's back. All's right with the world.

Sunday Independent

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