Wednesday 23 October 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'RTÉ must not rip out its core to save few bob'


Dee Forbes, RTE director general
Dee Forbes, RTE director general
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

George Hamilton has been in my ear for most of my adult life. Whenever he tempts us with words of optimism and calm during football internationals, I hide behind the couch until the ball goes out of play.

I always assume the worst when he tells us things are under control. It's as if he is summoning the Gods who, in fairness, have smitten us more than a few times down the years.

Glass half empty and leaking should always be our default position in sport, but especially in international soccer.

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George doesn't get that because, well, he's a bloody optimist. Good people generally are.

But for all the stress he has caused me by anticipating the best at the expense of bitter experience, this consummate broadcaster has dissipated it by other means. 'Hamilton Scores', which goes out every Saturday and Sunday, was the programme that first got me tuning into Lyric FM.

The self-same George hosts this classical show. As a practised low brow in all things, especially music, I find his knowledge and erudition, both of which he wears lightly, endlessly impressive. It's exactly the right way to deliver serious music to those of us who never got beyond the air guitar in our formative years.

Since then I've dabbled and browsed across most, if not all, of Lyric's menu and regard it as an essential part of my day.

The dystopian nature of current affairs has encouraged me to turn the dial further in that direction too, if only to avoid the depressing news cycle of dumb Trump and dumber Brexit.

'Marty in the Morning' or some Etonian Tory halfwit being quizzed by furrow-browed Gavin Jennings on 'Misery Ireland'? Easy.

'Classic Drive' or the 'Hard Shoulder' downloading wisdoms from an academic about Donald's latest tweet pinged out of a White House toilet? Even easier.

Sound-waves emanating from RTÉ these weeks grimly suggest that cash-strapped Montrose might be planning one the most outrageous acts of cultural vandalism seen in this country since Big Jack substituted Liam Brady at the old Lansdowne Road.

The national broadcaster, it seems, is thinking of taking a sharp axe to the 20-year-old station, presumably because it doesn't put enough bums on seats, or cause the cash register to ching often or loudly enough.

All this because RTÉ is, as we know, short of a few bob, so needs must and all that. Well, perhaps the needs should be musted from somewhere else.

Everybody will have an opinion on how this should be done. My humble one would be to unplug 2fm, a station that specialises in pop pap and inane chatter. Who'd miss it?

Nothing against inanity or anything but there are plenty of commercial stations, both FM and digital, that do the same thing. Some much better.

Lyric FM goes to the very core of what RTÉ's public broadcasting remit is all about. Donnybrook accountants should tread carefully before they silence Bach or shush Mozart.

As George might say, danger here.

Irish Independent

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