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July is upon us and it's almost time for the RTE News department to take its annual, summer-long siesta. The day's main news programme, Six-One, will shrink like a raisin in the sun from an hour to 30 minutes. The lunchtime bulletin will turn from a substantial meal into a light snack that takes 12 minutes to consume.

The tradition whereby the so-called big guns of RTE get to take a long summer break, returning from foreign climes in September looking as if they've been spray-tanned with creosote, is a cosy little arrangement for them.

Still, there could be a few unseasonable clouds on the holiday horizon for RTE's A-team now that the BBC News Channel is considering switching from two presenters to a solo anchor on weekdays, in order to cut costs.

The suggestion wasn't put forward by BBC management but by members of the news staff. RTE's head honchos are forever reminding us of how the organisation, just like every other state broadcaster in Europe, has been battered by the recession, with advertising revenue dropping like a stone in a swimming pool.

It might occur to them that if a 24-hour rolling operation the size of BBC News Channel feels it can get by with a single anchor, then the same should surely apply to a comparatively tiny outfit like RTE, which operates on a much smaller scale and serves a much smaller audience, yet still pays many of its leading lights disproportionately large salaries.

Few would argue that RTE's senior anchor, the immensely popular Bryan Dobson, is worth the no doubt generous salary he receives, because there's no one in the station better at his job. He's smart, he has the necessary gravitas and he can think on his feet.

And as he showed again for long stretches of RTE's marathon election coverage, as well as during the visits of President Obama and Queen Elizabeth, he's capable of marshalling the big, breaking story on his own.

So why does such a hugely experienced anchor as Dobson need a partner/sidekick in the shape of Sharon Ni Bheolain, or indeed in the shape of anybody, male or female, to ease the load?

The answer is, he doesn't, no more than either Jeremy Paxman on BBC2's Newsnight or Jon Snow on Channel 4 News do.


The whole idea that it requires twice as many people to present a one-hour news bulletin as it does to change a light bulb comes from the American TV news tradition, as does the nonsensical idea that anchors should be paired off on the basis of the chemistry between them.

Chemistry is important in a movie starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, or Johnny Depp and Scarlett Johansson, but I wouldn't want either pair giving me my news.