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Dial M for Moncreiff

THE Irish media stopped in its tracks when broadcasting veteran Pat Kenny announced he was leaving RTE.

Sean Moncrieff was just as surprised as the rest of us - except his reaction went out on air.

The Newstalk anchor had a true Eamon Dunphy moment when the commercial station revealed radio stalwart Pat was to join their ranks: 'Holy s**t' was all he could say.

"I was told while we were at a news bulletin and, as I imagine how most people reacted, I thought it was a joke," the 52-year-old said.

"I came back on air and was in total shock. But it's been great. You can hear a difference in Pat now; he's sprightlier.

"I'm not saying he lost his mojo, but it's more forceful now."

There has been a lot of movement stirring within the walls of Marconi House over the past 12 months.

Not only has former Prime Time host Pat got on board, but rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll was recently unveiled as part of their Off the Ball sports team.

With such super signings, is there a sense of camaraderie on the newsroom floor between anchors?

Not particularly.

"There is always that tendency to feel that each show is its own republic, people do bump into each other a lot," he noted.

In fact, employees are more fussed about another addition, a fancy coffee machine that arrived around the same time Pat did.

"We congregate around that ogling," said the man from Ballinasloe.

While securing famous faces like Pat and Brian is an impressive step forward, as far as Sean's concerned, Newstalk has always been a beat ahead of the posse.

"There was always a sense that we're the new kids on the block - and that's kind of what I like about the place," he said.

"RTE is more bureaucratic, which can be frustrating, and we're a much smaller organisation so the resources are not there, meaning that we have to be more inventive.

"Occasionally, we listen to the amount of researchers an RTE show might have or hear of the amount of work they do and that can be irksome, but at the same time there's not a sense that they're doing significantly better than us."


The crux for Newstalk has been getting listeners to realise what was on offer if they would indeed Move The Dial.

"My show has been around for 10 years and a decade on it's still amazing how many people have never heard of us, or are dimly aware, but not quite sure what we're about," Sean added.

"For a lot of people around the country, radios were welded to RTE all their lives.

"That's fine, but the effect from the campaign has been great and the reaction has been very positive.

"It does seem to have made a dent."

At the helm of his weekday afternoon slot since the station's inception, Sean has just returned from the US where he scooped the Best Talk Show Host and Best Talk/Interview Special gongs at the New York International Radio Programme Awards for his on-air efforts.

He might be a bit Marmite - you either love or loathe him - but either way his quirky programme provides an interesting spin on things.

As he mentions himself, they think 

And that's exactly how the judging panel
 over in the Big Apple felt.

"We threw our names in the hat and entered on a punt, our first time, and we ended up winning our two categories, which is nice I must say.

"It was a notion as much as anything else, but we've won a fair amount of PPI Awards so I thought, out of interest, it would be good to put ourselves forward."

While he insists radio is where his home is and heart lies, for the foreseeable future 
anyway, Sean has had a fling or two with the small screen.

He dabbled in television over the years and helmed a string of shows for RTE from 1997 to 2001, among them the comedy panel game show Don't Feed the Gondolas.

Earlier this year we saw him make his long awaited return in front of the cameras, anchoring TV3's Crossfire quiz show. He says he enjoys television, but he's never really been able to move around. Long runners like The Late Late Show were never in his sights.

"I think TV is very contrived and you have to say and be a certain way," he said.


"You tend to get put into boxes and for me, I was only the 'smart-arsey' guy. That was probably largely created by myself, but I still felt that was all I could ever do. In radio I have much more range. That is my day job and it's by far the longest job I've ever had in this business - the rest all last three years or less."

So he does not miss TV at all?

"Not particularly," he said. "Every now and again I think I'd like to do some documentary, it might float by my consciousness, but you forget that radio can be instant and TV takes a year to get anything done."

Whether you listen to him or not, Sean Moncrieff's daily offering of edgy, almost random, items would be sorely missed should the tall, exceptionally thin host decide to pull a Pat and vacate his seat. Any ambitions to give up 

"No. I want to be dragged out of the studio. I like my slot and the freedom of what I can do."