Entertainment Radio

Saturday 20 October 2018

Yates keeps his head as frazzled experts get in a tizz

Broadcaster Ivan Yates. Photo: Mark Condren
Broadcaster Ivan Yates. Photo: Mark Condren

Damian Corless

Channel hoppers alighting on Monday's Today With Sean O'Rourke (Radio 1) may have experienced déjà vu as Alan Joyce detailed his ascent from a Tallaght childhood to piloting Australia's flagship airline, Qantas, in an almost exact rerun of his interview on Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show an hour earlier.

As Joyce dashed off, Kenny's stand-in Jonathan Healy chided one texter: "Are you, as they'd say in Australia, a flaming galah?" The listener was irked that Healy kept referring to the sexual orientation of his guest, who is gay. Healy retorted that the main reason Joyce came in was to discuss his support for Australia's recent vote for gay marriage. The complaint echoed one to RTÉ during a general election when a woman objected that the previous item was outrageously biased in favour of Fine Gael. The object of her ire was a FG party political broadcast.

By Tuesday lunchtime our commentariat were out on their feet, frazzled after days working themselves into a tizzy over a Christmas general election narrowly averted when FG gave up trying to shunt matters off to the Charleton Tribunal in January. On Radio 1's lunchtime news, seasoned pros were finding it hard to string together a coherent sentence between them without mangling the language in ways not heard since another Charlton, Jack, was an airtime fixture. ("Liam O'Brady", "David Irwin", "John McGrath", etc). One analyst earlier told Sean O'Rourke that those in the eye of the political storm couldn't be expected to have "364-degree vision".

One broadcaster keeping his head when all around were losing theirs was Ivan Yates on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk). Election averted, Yates opened Tuesday's show with words to the effect of "told you so". And he did. With the doomsayers in full flow on Monday, he calmly insisted that there was more to emerge from the Justice Department and that Frances Fitzgerald's hours were numbered. Fifteen years after quitting the Dáil, the man once touted as FG's leader-in-waiting is Ireland's go-to broadcaster for inside track insights.

Yates' detractors cast him as a Hook The Younger figure, and while most of the opinions he expresses are undoubtedly unfeigned, he plays the churlish panto villain with boundless delight, winding up those who are only too ready and willing to be wound up. Meanwhile, in their efforts to plug the gap left by George Hook's enforced exit, Newstalk have gone from one extreme to the other, from Marmite to semolina. Ciara Kelly's Lunchtime Live still sounds like a stopgap. Packed with workaday items on sleep, inactive kids, healthy eating and suchlike, it is desperately short on distinguishing features. Told that the Chinese have the same word for 'crisis' and 'opportunity', Homer Simpson whoops: "Yes, crisatunity!" Newstalk's lunchtime producers haven't yet made the most of their crisatunity.

Playback (Radio 1, Saturday) has never been broken, but new arrival producer/presenter Sinéad Mooney has somehow managed to fix it up even better. While Mooney's more intrusive style of linking the soundbites has taken some getting used to, she brings a fresh zest to a tried-and-tested format.

Ronan Collins is another who's a dab hand at zesting up the tried and tested (Radio 1, weekdays). Like his colleague John Creedon, Collins understands that - just as there was football before the Premier League - there was great pop music before, and in parallel to, Elvis and The Beatles. Politely declining requests, Ronan told listeners that it was his tradition not to play any Christmas song before December 8.

To borrow a favourite phrase of his: Ronan Collins - an oldie but a goodie.

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