Entertainment Radio

Saturday 20 July 2019

Simple soundbites need not be the last word in debate


Matt Cooper. Photo: Collins
Matt Cooper. Photo: Collins
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Radio debate is adversarial by nature - I guess it makes for better ratings, but it's too binary, reducing complex issues to mindless soundbites, and can get wearying pretty quickly.

An item on The Last Word (Today FM, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) proved that disagreement need not be simplistic or quarrelsome. Matt Cooper brought on Larissa Nolan and Sinead O'Carroll to offer differing viewpoints on news that Diageo had expressed "serious concerns" over the signing of Paddy Jackson by rugby club London Irish.

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Nolan, invariably a voice of reason and good sense, argued that Jackson had been found innocent by a jury, and queried whether he should be essentially blacklisted for life because of offensive text messages? O'Carroll countered that image is paramount to sporting bodies and companies in currying public favour, and Diageo had every right to withdraw sponsorship if they felt Jackson's signing reflected badly on theirs.

I didn't really agree with her, I agreed with Nolan - particularly her bemused question as to whether global corporations are now the arbiters of moral rightness. But both were reasonable and adult; it makes for better radio and might be copied by others, to everyone's advantage.

Another voice of reason in Irish media is Oliver Callan. It seems a strange thing to say about a man famous for outlandish (and very funny) caricatures of public figures, but the Monaghan man is resolutely un-ideological: he has his views but is willing and able to see the other side.

This open-mindedness was shown again in conversation with Ryan Tubridy Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 9am) stand-in host Maggie Doyle. Callan was discussing his TV documentary Divorcing God, which looks at Ireland's increasing secularisation.

Two key points I took from their chat. One, Catholicism may be on the wane, but many Irish people hold fast to old traditions, whether surprisingly high mass attendance figures, or Communion still being a special day for smallies. And two, this may not necessarily be a bad thing.

I'm like Callan: a non-believer who sees the value in belief. The Judaeo-Christian culture is important; even something as small as lighting a candle for someone, he said, is a beautiful gift to give. I'm not sure there really is a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts, and agree with Callan that you don't need religion to teach morals. But at this stage, it's hard to see too much harm in Catholicism.

Sin-é: Jeff Buckley's Irish Odyssey (Doc on One, Radio 1, Sun 7pm) told the well-known but worthwhile story of the late singer and his connections to this country. From getting his break at the titular New York venue to performances and friendships over here, it was engaging throughout.

And that voice, my God: talk about heavenly. Almost enough to make a non-believer see the face of God.

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