Wednesday 17 July 2019

Ivan Yates: easy like Sunday morning

To switch from Chris and Ivan to 'Morning Ireland' these days is like a journey back to a lost world

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

On his radio show last Monday morning, Ivan Yates mentioned that he had been watching Goals On Sunday on Sky Sports, which features highlights from the games of the previous day in the Barclay's Premier League, but which last week had an unexpected guest in Jose Mourinho.

From this sliver of information, we could make certain deductions which told us quite a lot about Ivan's way of life, his worldview. To be watching Goals On Sunday in the first place suggests a very serious level of commitment to the game - there are many aficionados who would have tuned in last Sunday because they had been alerted to Mourinho's presence, but for Ivan to be there already is quite impressive.

It might be explained by the fact he had probably missed his traditional Match of The Day, due to being on RTE1's Saturday Night Show - though he had definitely seen Manchester City's game earlier on the Saturday evening, live and in full.

But the most important thing to note here is that Goals on Sunday is on at the same time as the Marian Finucane radio show.

Now we are starting to see the full extent of Ivan's estrangement from the ancient customs of the Irish media. Attuned as he is to the more natural rhythms of life, he seems to prefer watching highlights of matches that in many cases he has seen already, rather than doing his solemn duty as a serious journalist and switching to Marian to hear some lawyer talking about Libya.

There is nothing for him it seems, at that particular dinner party. Probably it is a bit too slow for him, but still you would expect him to stick with it for about 20 minutes anyway, just in case.

Instead, when the people who matter in this country are calling for Dail reform, or teasing out the issue of "surrogacy", Ivan is shouting at the television, appalled that the fourth official has failed to spot an obvious foul throw at the KC Stadium.

Then again he had told Brendan O'Connor that his Newstalk show with Chris Donoghue is put together by a team of "serious journalists", but that he wouldn't count himself among their number - he being in the entertainment business.

It is even possible that he believes that line - though the thing to remember here, is that it doesn't matter. Whatever he calls it, it has created that rarest of things: a genuine choice for the listener.

So startling indeed is that choice, to switch from Chris and Ivan to RTE's Morning Ireland these days seems increasingly like a journey back into a lost world - at times you wouldn't be surprised if you heard the distinguished voices of Charles Mitchel or Maurice O'Doherty reading the RTE morning news, letting you know in their detached way that whatever business they're in, it is not the entertainment business.

Not for them, and not for you either.

Indeed it can sound so archaic, so impersonal after Chris and Ivan, there are many who just can't face it, and who find happiness instead with Marty Whelan on Lyric.

In Morning Ireland's favour, they have a whole culture of journalism that insists that the current affairs broadcaster must be objective, that the people are not interested in the presenter's opinions, they just want to be given both sides and then they can make up their own minds.

Indeed you could imagine a lot of the voices on the Marian Finucane show putting forward that point of view, endorsing that model of broadcasting, because it is very obvious, and it is fantastically dull, making it irresistible to anyone wanting to sound like a responsible person.

In fact the only defence that can be offered by Ivan, our man on the Sky Plus machine re-winding the build-up to a borderline offside decision at the Stadium of Light, is that they are wrong, and he is right.

In the first place he is right not to be listening to them, but he is also right on what they would call "the substantive issue".

There are times when Ivan has burned up more energy and rattled off more ideas in the first 10 minutes of his show, than will emerge all day in the "serious journalism" on other programmes. Yes, he is in the entertainment business but of course this is not incompatible with serious journalism, at least not if you're doing it properly.

The success of the show has demonstrated that these academic distinctions are of dubious value anyway, that there are certain sound principles in journalism such as the quest for accuracy, but that largely it is an intuitive game, one that can still accommodate a restless spirit such as Ivan's.

Too restless, perhaps, given his disturbing suggestion to Brendan O'Connor that he might like to go back into "business".

If he had started out in broadcasting, he might well have picked up a lot of bad habits, those everyday dishonesties which would have him pretending, for example, that the night's Champions League action was no more important to him than some under-21 handball match.

He escaped all that, yet now he talks of "business".

I fear the baleful gods would not be pleased that a man who had found such a gift for broadcasting - for serious journalism - should still have the urge for another punt.

Sunday Independent

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