Tuesday 24 April 2018

Radio: Pat's move was big but more women on air -- now that would be real change

New era: Pat Kenny, who moved to Newstalk from RTE this year. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
New era: Pat Kenny, who moved to Newstalk from RTE this year. Photo: Jason Clarke Photography
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'Move the dial": it doesn't exactly make grammatical sense, but was the defining catchphrase of the year. Newstalk's campaign to draw listeners from its main rival, Radio 1, went nuclear in August when they poached the biggest name in Irish broadcasting.

Pat Kenny's 'transfer' shook everything up, his mid-morning show marking Newstalk as serious players. Radio 1 responded by replacing Kenny with Sean O'Rourke -- cue their September 2 'Radio War', an enjoyable morning of live-blogs, furious tweeting and old-hands going mano-a-mano.

Kenny's show has certainly provided more choice, although you could argue that it's limited: two middle-aged men, same as almost every other prime-time presenter.

This brings us to 2013's second main theme: the continuing lack of female voices.

Radio 1 improved slightly with Claire Byrne getting a show, and Aine Lawlor and Rachel English among Morning Ireland's permanent presenters. Newstalk remains a virtual dead-zone for women, though, and as for the rest, forget about it. Inexplicable and detrimental.

What else did 2013 deliver? Funny Friday was still mostly unfunny but somehow charming too. The infatuation with US politics continued unabated; you do realise there are other countries on the planet, right? As did the annoying, cod-friendly 'banter' -- oh hateful word -- between presenters.

There was far too much sport -- and sports banter -- though it provided us with the controversy of the year, when 'The Off the Ball Five' abruptly quit. The show sailed on regardless.

Bostonian Kevin Cullen's interview on Newstalk Lunchtime about the bombing was moving and, importantly, informed. On the flipside were even more clueless mouthpieces 'debating' with proper experts, for the sake of so-called balance.

BBC Radio 4's audio archive of the late Mrs Thatcher was fascinating. Threesomes sparked moral outrage. A new Pope sparked moral reflections.

Most female contributors now talk in that irritating quasi-American accent: bidda-bidda-bidda-bidda.

There's still only one dedicated film show, which is bizarre considering virtually everyone watches films. And still not enough comedy, although Oliver Callan's show is fairly reliable for a laugh.

Best things of the year? The Panopticon, Paul Thornton's essay on a hellish prison in revolutionary France, and Dangerous Visions, a series of dramas inspired by the themes of JG Ballard. Not everyone will agree, but I thought they were superb.

Irish Independent

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