Wednesday 21 February 2018

Pat Kenny: "Wife Kathy and I agonised over Newstalk move"

* Kenny turned to wife Kathy about decision to quit RTE
* Kenny to host new mid-morning show from September 2nd
* New show will put him in direct competition with old slot
* Kenny said he wanted a new challenge
* RTE boss Noel Curran said they tried to retain Pat
* Colleagues surprised at Pat's departure
* Joe Duffy tells Liveline listeners he's "shocked" by the news
* Gay Byrne - "I think Pat going is a major loss for RTE"

Former RTE star Pat Kenny has told of how himself and wife Kathy "agonised for weeks" over his move from RTE to Newstalk.

Pat Kenny turned to his wife of 21 years, Kathy, when Newstalk approached him about a move to their station.

Speaking this evening, Kenny said the pair "agonised" over whether he should make the leap.

"This opportunity came completely out of the blue and it stopped me in my tracks," he told new colleague George Hook on his radio show this evening.

"I agonised with Kathy about it for weeks and I came to the conclusion that if I don't do it now, I'll never do it," he said.

The couple, who wed in June 1992 and live in Dalkey, are the parents to teenage daughters Kristina (19) and Nicole (17).

Earlier today, RTE Director General Noel Curran said the station tried to retain Kenny's services but couldn't stop him moving to Newstalk.

In what is being seen as a massive coup for the commercial radio station, Newstalk announced today that the renowned broadcaster is quitting Montrose for a new position at the station and will begin his new mid-morning show for them on September 2nd.

RTE boss Noel Curran said Pat Kenny's contract with them had expired sometime ago.

He said that RTE had been involved in "lengthy negotiations" to keep Pat at Montrose but ultimately they failed.

“Pat Kenny's contract with RTÉ expired earlier this year and we have been aware for some time that he had an offer from commercial radio," he said.

“Through lengthy negotiations, every effort was made to retain Pat’s services but unfortunately we could not come to an agreement. I would like to wish Pat the very best for the future and I would like to thank him, both personally and as Director General for his contribution to broadcasting on RTÉ.

“We must all now look ahead to refreshing our Radio 1 schedule, on the back of the very strong JNLR figures last week.”

News of Kenny’s move comes as a massive blow to RTE, as well as a shock to the broadcaster’s long-time colleagues.

Speaking today about his switch to Newstalk, Kenny said he was looking forward to a new challenge and hoped his former RTE colleagues would remain his friends.

"Having been an on-air presence on RTE Radio and television for all of my broadcasting life, I have decided to take on a new challenge.

"I have accepted an offer from Newstalk to host a mid-morning current affairs and features show, with the objective of building a major audience in that time slot," he said.

He paid tributes to his former RTE colleagues who, he said, have contributed so much over the years to their joint successes.

"They may no longer be my colleagues, but I hope they will always remain my friends," he said.

Pat Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Pat Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Pat Kenny. Photo: Tom Burke
Pat Kenny
Prime Time hosts Miriam O'Callaghan, Pat Kenny and Claire Byrne. Photo: RTE

Kenny explained that both he and RTE are open to his return to television. TV3 have also indicated they would be interested in working with Kenny in the future.

"At this time, I have no immediate plans for TV but I would hope to return to your screens in some capacity in the not too distant future."

His former RTE colleagues appeared to have been caught unawares by Kenny's impending move.

"I'm as shocked as everyone else that Pat Kenny is leaving RTE and I wish him well," Joe Duffy said on his 'Liveline' programme on RTE Radio One today.

Gay Byrne, Pat's predecessor on The Late Late Show, told the Irish Independent: "I think Pat going is a major loss for RTE, but a major coup for Newstalk.

"I haven't spoken to Pat about it yet, I'm just hearing the news this afternoon like everyone else, but he must have been unhappy or dissatisfied in order for him to leave."

The 65-year-old has been the face of the station’s current affairs coverage and has been for many years.

Up until today, he hosted a mid-morning programme on RTE Radio One –Today with Pat Kenny - and was an anchor for RTE One’s ‘Primetime’ alongside Miriam O’Callaghan and Claire Byrne.

Over the years, he has been at the helm of RTE’s coverage of elections, referenda and other notable events.

His move will most likely prompt a major reshuffle on RTE’s Radio One schedule.

A statement was issued by Newstalk earlier today, formally announcing Pat Kenny's move to their station.

The commercial station also confirmed that Kenny will host a new mid-morning programme. It will be broadcast between 10am to 12.30pm and will start airing on September 2nd.

His new show will put him in direct competition with his old RTE slot, and both stations will now be waging an all-out war in the battle for listeners.

The presenter is arguably RTE’s highest-profile name and enjoys immense popularity amongst his listeners which he has consistently held on to for many years.

Recent JNLR figures showed he gained an increase of 3,000 listeners, bringing his total to 328,000.

Newstalk will be confident that he will be able to transfer some of this listenership to their station.

Kenny’s decision to quit RTE will come as a major shock to fans and colleagues alike.

He has been working for the national broadcaster for more than 41 years.

Kenny hosted RTE’s flagship Late Late Show for ten years, taking over from Gay Byrne in 1999.

Although often derided for his presentation skills when it came to working the ‘lighter’ items, critics agreed he was the best man for the job when the Late Late Show turned to current affairs.

In 2009, he left the show with Ryan Tubridy taking over. Although Tubridy enjoyed bumper ratings at the start of his tenure, they have gone down since.

Next up for Kenny was current affairs programme ‘The Frontline’, the successor to the long-running ‘Questions & Answers’.

‘The Frontline’ finished up in December 2012, but enjoyed good ratings.

The programme was subsumed into the ‘Primetime’ brand and Kenny was unveiled as one of the three presenters to front the reinvigorated current affairs series alongside Miriam and Claire.

Critics and viewers alike welcomed the full-time return of the father-of-two to current affairs coverage both on TV and radio.

Earlier this summer, it was announced that ‘Primetime’ would be off air for the month of August, but would return if anything ‘significant’ occurred. RTE said it was going off-air due to resource management.

When quizzed recently about Primetime’s August break, Kenny said he hoped there would be further changes to the format while they were off-air.

Whether he had already known that he was making the switch to Newstalk remains to be seen.

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