Monday 19 August 2019

Radio: Anton's gone, but Leo's set for a Late Date

Broadcaster Anton Savage
Broadcaster Anton Savage
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

When Anton Savage (Today FM, Mon-Fri 9am) was announced as Ray D'Arcy's mid-morning replacement, almost two years ago now, I wasn't in favour. This hadn't really anything to do with Savage, mind you.

I just felt (still do) that Today FM has an awful - not to mention bizarre - aversion to female presenters, and the slot should have been given to a woman. In fact, they even had the perfect candidate already in situ for a breezy magazine show: the smart, funny and very likeable Alison Curtis, who has doubled and trebled listenership on every show she's presented, for Today FM and elsewhere.

Anyway: didn't happen. Savage got the gig, which was a bit disappointing - that slot, across the bandwidth, was now the preserve of men, from early-to-late middle-age. Like I don't want to come across as a whining "identity politics" numpty here, but a bit of variety is good and normal, no?

Anyway (again): his gender aside, Savage did a pretty decent job. I saw him described somewhere, once, as a "smooth professional who'll never let you down" - sounds like a kind of watery or backhanded compliment, but I don't think it was meant to be.

There's actually a lot to be said for professionalism and reliability. You may not be getting someone who's exciting or dangerous, someone who'll "shatter the dominant paradigm" or whatever - but you'll get a job well done. Again, a lot to be said for that, in a world full of chancers, eejits and egomaniacs.

Also, Savage was (is) clever, polished, articulate. He seems curious, well-read, open-minded. He has a pleasant speaking voice and pleasantly neutral accent. He's affable enough. He has a lot of good qualities as a broadcaster, and brought them to bear in Today FM. And now he's gone.

Within hours of both Savage and the station's (conflicting) online announcements, his name had already been taken down off the Today FM website's 'Shows' page. Of course, presenters and stations often fall out and/or part ways. But rarely does it happen so publicly, swiftly and discordantly.

It'll be interesting to see who his permanent replacement will be. Going on past form, Today FM will probably give the slot to another guy of similar age. Although they could take the road less-travelled and go for that woman who's doubled and trebled listenership on every show she's presented… oh, what's her name again… Alison something?

An even stranger personnel development is the announcement that Leo Varadkar will be presenting Late Date (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 11pm) over Christmas. I'm all for the concept of the Renaissance Man, but doesn't it seem slightly odd that a serving Government minister is going to be spinning disks and reading out listener texts and request in the wee small hours?

In fairness, Leo is but one of a number of guest presenters over the festive period - Joe Brolly and Deirdre O'Kane are also lined up. But neither of them are serving Government ministers.

Still, what do I know? This may turn out to be a roaring success, and besides, Varadkar isn't the worst of them. Who knows, he may yet make an entire career swerve and end up replacing Anton Savage on Today FM.

Finally, quick shout-out to an excellent piece on Fionn Davenport's Inside Culture (Radio 1, Mon 10pm), which reported on that complex and fascinating city, Amsterdam. Particularly interesting to me was the bit about different types of drugs, and why people are attracted to them: from the "freedom" of ecstasy to the "petit bourgeois businessmen" smoking their cigars in celebration of business success.

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