Thursday 19 April 2018

It's all about standing out from a crowd

Ryan Tubridy
Ryan Tubridy

Elis O'Hanlon

One day you're fronting the biggest TV extravaganza of the year on The Late, Late Toy Show, with more than a million viewers.

The following Monday, you're bumped right back down to earth again on The Ryan Tubridy Show, talking to a "body-modification artist and piercer" with tattoos over 80pc of his body.

"Take us from head to toe, what you have on you that differentiates you from the other person, like me," Tubs gamely asked guest Baz Black - and Baz proceeded to do just that.

This ate up 20 minutes, leaving only another 280 minutes that week to fill - and the truth is that Tubridy's struggling to do so. His new show still feels inadvertent, rather than thought through.

He squeezed as much mileage as he could from the aftermath of the Toy Show last week, including an interview with the little girl mercilessly mocked on social media after her appearance, but even that felt like a wasted opportunity. It could have led into a wider discussion about online behaviour, but Tubridy was content to merely use it as another opportunity to recommend the "liberating" effect of staying away from the internet, which is all very well, but not everyone has the discipline or desire to do that. Exploring why trolls targeted Lara Reddy could have made for some fascinating radio.

By coincidence, BBC journalist Mark Tully was investigating social media on Radio Four's Something Understood on Sunday and began by revisiting French sociologist Gustave Le Bon's 1895 book The Crowd, which warned against the burgeoning power of mass opinion, which is "slow to reason" but "quick to act".

Le Bon's words have never sounded more prophetic: "The dogmas whose birth we are witnessing will soon have the force of the old dogmas, that is to say, the tyrannical force of being above discussion."

Tubridy is right in one sense at least - there is always an alternative to ugly voices. In a week dominated by unproductive chatter about bombing Syria, the IFA, same-sex marriage and assorted other political spats, BBC Radio 3's The Essay offered a rare oasis of calm with an aural soundscape by Danish radio producer Rikke Houd, featuring Pat Herbert of Howth's quirky Hurdy Gurdy Museum.

The crackling sound of old wireless sets; the fading whisper of old broadcasts; it was a wonderfully constructed piece, all centred on the theme of listening. "I'm just an old radio listener," was Herbert's way of putting it. There should be more investment in similarly innovative programming.

The History Show on RTE Radio 1 is also doing its best to avoid the cliches with a running series on "The Other 1916", reminding listeners there was more to that date than the Easter Rising.

This week focussed on an outbreak of typhoid in Connemara that year as the potato crop failed "yet again". Historian Fin Dwyer recalled the local man, Frank McDonagh, whose personal sacrifice saved many lives before he himself succumbed to the disease. Not all heroes need to carry guns.

Sunday Independent

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