Sunday 25 August 2019

Radio review: Today FM delivers a savage blow to Anton

Broadcaster Anton Savage
Broadcaster Anton Savage

Eilis O'Hanlon

Whatever really happened, Anton Savage's departure deprives Today FM of one of its most talented and under-rated broadcasters, and one who, unusually, seemed to be free of ego or pomposity.

Following the hugely popular Ray D'Arcy was always going to be a tall order, but, given time and sufficient trust from above, in the programme, it could have thrived. Too much fiddling and micro management from executives is invariably the kiss of death to good radio.

Now Anton has been expunged from the Today FM website. His picture is still there, but all his previous interviews going back months are suddenly attributed to his show's replacement, Mid-Mornings.

It would be unfair to judge station regular Alison Curtis's first week in the hot seat; but unless Today FM plans something radically different for the slot, then it's unclear why they allowed the relationship with Savage to deteriorate to such an extent that they parted ways.

In Italy's referendum, the political establishment was taking another punishment beating, and the voting public was being blamed once again for falling for the charms of those mad "populists".

Douglas Murray, director of the free market think tank the Henry Jackson Society, suggested a different way of seeing the result. "I'm sceptical of the term populism," he told Monday's Today programme on BBC Radio Four, "which increasingly people are using for anything that's just popular or anything they don't like and want to put scare quotes around".

He continued: "Instead of saying their brains are being stolen by crazy politicians and lying media, we should consider that the public have a real concern."

With "crisis after crisis" hitting the eurozone, he might just have a point.

Start The Week, which followed on the same station, illustrated how these mass movements, driven by new media, are not even that unusual. The 17th century radicals the Levellers were fuelled by pamphleteers whose rhetoric would make current voters' hair stand on end. Nothing is ever new. Radio is the perfect medium for discussing such issues in depth, but too much of RTE last week from Morning Ireland through Today With Sean O'Rourke to Drivetime concentrated on whether there would now be an election in Italy rather than on the deeper context.

On RTE Radio One's Late Debate, finally, panellists were asked what they thought of Donald Trump being named "Man Of The Year" by Time magazine.

Presenter Cormac O hEadhra joshingly suggested to guest Micheal O'Regan that this wouldn't have happened at the Irish Times. "Certainly not," Regan agreed.

Talk about missing the point. Time's title is not meant as an endorsement; it simply goes to the person who had the biggest impact on the world in the year in question. That's why Hitler once won. To suggest this was in any way deplorable is very silly.

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