Monday 11 November 2019

The best and worst of the summer boys

EAMON DUNPHY: Back on air to mark his 70th birthday
EAMON DUNPHY: Back on air to mark his 70th birthday

Ellis O'Hanlon

Summer is the time of year when radio presenters play musical chairs.

Newstalk reporter Richard Chambers was doing a solid job standing in for Jonathan Healy on Lunchtime. Kieran Cuddihy was equally impressive on Moncrieff. In fact, his solid, unfussy approach made a welcome change from Sean's usual smart-alecky style.

Shane Coleman was also sitting in for Ivan Yates on Monday's Newstalk Breakfast, and enjoyed good rapport with Chris Donoghue, not least when discussing the trials of parenthood. "Are they that hard?" asked Chris.

"Not really," Shane replied loyally, before joking: "Are they up yet? Yeah, they are actually." Tired parents the nation over nodded agreement.

All this switching does make one wonder, though, how important a star presenter is to a show's success. Only 14,000 more people now tune in to the new Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio 1 than listened to Derek Mooney previously, which isn't that spectacular a return for Ray's reputed €500,000 salary.

On Monday, D'Arcy showed both his best and worst sides. His best - an interview with Eamon Dunphy to mark the sports pundit's 70th birthday, was good fun, especially as they recalled their days together at Today FM in its early, wilder years, and Dunphy teased D'Arcy about taking over from Ryan Tubridy as Late Late Show host.

"That's the trajectory, isn't it?" he asked, but Ray insisted: "I've no aspirations in that department." Dunphy was unconvinced. "All your team are laughing," he pointed out.

D'Arcy's less appealing side as a broadcaster came out in a phone interview with Noel Edmonds, who was invited on to explain his theory that "electrosmog" - the magnetism that permanently surrounds us from electronic wi-fi-enabled devices - is a bigger health problem than cancer.

Edmonds is a bit of a woolly New Ager, but he was affable and charming and he deserved better than to be brought on air merely as comic filler.

Of course, nothing was said openly, which was almost worse. Broadcasters should challenge guests directly if they have a problem with what they're saying. That's fairer both to them and listeners.

Wednesday's Necessary To My Happiness on BBC Radio 4 was a documentary about Allegra, the illegitimate child of poet Lord Byron and the teenage stepsister of his wife Mary Shelley. Her mother entrusted the child to Byron's care in the hope that she'd have a better life; but finding her "wilful and obstinate ... the servants couldn't manage her", the poet placed Allegra in a convent in Italy soon after his arrival, where she died of a fever at the age of five.

The tragedy, as presenter Michael Symmons Robert told us, was that Byron's friend Shelley really loved the girl and wanted to adopt her, but Byron wouldn't let him, even though he himself never visited her or answered her letters.

Later, when she was safely dead and making no demands on his time, Byron eulogised her in verse. Some might call that adding insult to injury.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss