Friday 14 December 2018

Radio: Low-drama Budget coverage turns into Groundhog Day


Hear, hear: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe takes calls from members of the public on the 2019 Budget on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’ on RTE Radio One. Picture: PA
Hear, hear: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe takes calls from members of the public on the 2019 Budget on ‘Today with Sean O’Rourke’ on RTE Radio One. Picture: PA
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

This year's Budget seems to have been without many surprises or talking-points, so this year's coverage on radio was rather flat. No major drama means, well, no major drama.

In fact the listener could be forgiven for getting a frisson of Groundhog Day, as coverage followed broadly the same pattern as last year. For several days ahead of Tuesday's delivery, current affairs shows were heavy on speculation and prediction.

Paschal Donohoe's speech itself was broadcast live on both Radio 1 - an extended News at One (Mon-Fri) - and Newstalk's Budget 2018 special (Tues 1pm). As with last year, indeed every year, there's something vaguely surreal about listening to someone droning on about economics, finances and programmes in that mixture of corporate-speak and mild self-aggrandisement which is a common feature of political speeches.

Not Paschal's fault, really; he's no more boring than any other politician. But more than an hour of jargon, policy and incomprehensibly large figures is hard enough going.

We then had the usual round of post-Budget analysis and interviews on radio. Again, nothing massively surprising, in that everyone said more-or-less what you'd expect.

Leo Varadkar and fellow Fine Gaelers defended the Budget. Opposition, especially socialists, criticised it heavily. Independent Alliance TDs and "confidence and supply" Fianna Fáilers tried to straddle the fence without falling off. You could have predicted, almost down to specific phrases, what anyone would say.

There were moments, that said, where we went off-script. Ivan Yates provided an enjoyably irate tirade on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 4pm), castigating Donohoe for basically spending too much money and not being prudent enough. This, of course, carries added weight as Yates, unique among broadcasters, has actually been there, as a government minister.

I also liked how Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) cleverly condensed the speech from 75 minutes to five - a sort of duet between the Minister and Philip Boucher-Hayes. Meanwhile, The Last Word (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) had a bit of craic discussing "the best money songs" in honour of the Budget.

We began with gangsta rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard - "a criminal, drug addict, schizophrenic" who sadly passed away in 2004 - and a charming ditty called 'Got Your Money'. It only got better from there.

Equally entertaining, a few days earlier, was the Dave Fanning Show (2FM, Sat-Sun 9am) slot on rowing political families. The Kennedys, Cheney's daughter, Ed and David Miliband, Hillary Clinton's brothers…no mention of a disaffected Donohoe or troublesome Boyd Barrett, though.

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