Friday 15 December 2017

Radio: It's a jungle out there and no one is safe

Author Niamh Greene was on The John Murray Show on RTE
Author Niamh Greene was on The John Murray Show on RTE

Eilis O'Hanlon

It started out as a good-natured rivalry, and it still seems to be so on Pat Kenny's part. But was there a slight edge to Sean O'Rourke's response to the latest JNLR figures last week? "When you take the biggest beast in the forest and you have a €1m campaign behind you, then you're obviously going to make inroads," was how the RTE star responded to the news that he was down 15,000 listeners in the last quarter.

Pat may have launched with a large advertising budget, but O'Rourke isn't seriously suggesting the national broadcaster, with its guaranteed licence fee income and lion's share of all advertising, is the underdog here? Sounds like RTE's getting worried. And so they should be, because Today With Sean O'Rourke remains a dull business; a habit more than a treat; box-ticking more than thought-provoking.

Sean's not the only one who should be worried either. In the internal battle at his new home, Kenny's now within a whisker of knocking George at the Right Hook off his perch as Newstalk's big beast. Not bad for a man who only joined the station last September.

Over on Women's Hour on BBC Radio Four, each day's edition was guest-edited by a different woman, starting with Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Her choice of topics was a bit dull too, if truth be told. Women's rugby? Meh. But of course, she's JK Rowling, so she can get away with anything.

Wednesday was more fun, if that's the right word, as young writer Naomi Alderman oversaw an edition dealing with, amongst other things, why she's so fond of Game of Thrones despite the fact there are so many rape scenes in it, and why some feminists have a problem with transgender women. Sadly, that discussion never got beyond politically correct cliches because there was no attempt to understand why many women feel their identity is not fully respected by the transgender lobby. Such concerns were merely dismissed as outdated and absurd, which is ironic really from a show which claims to speak for women. Only some of them, clearly.

Anyway, on to What's It All About?, RTE's new science show for Sunday evenings, which last week concentrated on the importance of maths, not simply to stressed-out students but in art and music and architecture too, starting with a good piece on Victorian boffin Sir William Rowan Hamilton, showing how the Irishman's discovery of complex number systems known as "quaternions" in the 1840s was essential to the safe landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2011. There was an awkward tone of talking down about parts of the show, but it was good to see RTE straying from its usual obsession with news and social affairs, not to mention the fact that it was co-presented by ... wait, can it be? A woman? So they do exist on Irish radio.

One woman getting less of a welcome on radio was author Niamh Greene, a guest on Monday's John Murray Show, who simply said that she didn't want her children using bad language and was met with an undeservedly frosty text from one male listener complaining that the discussion was "typical of those who are embarrassed by their Irishness". There's a word for men like that. Unfortunately, it's unprintable.

Sunday Independent

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