25 years of Morning Ireland
RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland marked a quarter-century of broadcasts with their first show in front of a studio audience this morning. For listeners/watchers in the studio audience, it was a chance to see exactly what goes into the making …
For listeners/watchers in the studio audience, it was a chance to see exactly what goes into the making of the country’s most listened-to radio show aside from those pre-dawn starts for the presenters. For those at home, there was a couple of special guests (like President Mary McAleese, Brian Cowen, Des Bishop and Cathy Kelly) to go with the usual mix of news, sports, newspaper reviews, business reports (still the foreign language section of the show) and analysis.
Best of all, there were cameos from the two Davids – Hanly and Davin-Power – who presented the first shows back in November 1984. I wonder did they know that this pic would still be in use 25 years later….
…or that the show would still be top of the news agenda all those years on. As both mentioned as they remembered the ’84 debut, the idea of a news show at breakfast time met with resistance both within and without RTE at the time. Mike Murphy was doing the breakfast gig and it was felt that light music and chat was a better draw than heavyweight politics and current affairs. Even with BBC Radio Four’s Today programme setting a precedent across the Irish Sea, the notion of a heavy-hitting news programme in the morning was viewed as a radical move by the RTE powers-that-be.
But the show persevered. It survived such early opposition, consolidated its grip on the schedule and thrived in an era when media giants are supposed to be struggling. It’s fair to say that in an era of instant news updates via a myriad of different mediums that Morning Ireland more than holds its own. Even on a station wall to wall with other news and talk shows – from fellow agenda-setters like the News At One, especially when Sean O’Rourke is in the presenter’s chair (still the best news man RTE Radio One have), to the horrendous headbangers hour that is Liveline – Morning Ireland is still the one which gets the audience and, by extension, the attention from anyone who wants to get their message to those 460,000 people.
It helps that the show really has no viable competition in the morning news stakes. Despite several attempts by Newstalk to grab the headlines with presenters like Eamon Dunphy and David McWillians (and Claire Byrne and Ivan Yates at present) doing chat alongside cornflakes down through the years, Morning Ireland is still the one which gets the huge numbers. What’s interesting is that their pre-eminient position has not induced complacency. Sure, the formula – news+sports+traffic+interviews+papers+analysis+occasional light fluffy stuff+business – does not really change, but that’s the meat and two veg of a show like this.
The real selling point is the bond between presenters and audience and how they reel in their prey, sorry, guest politicians, spinners, spoofers, chancers and journalists who got an unexpected wake-up call from a producer at 7am. Whereas you all too often get grandstanding and showboating elsewhere with presenters over-keen to be the centre of attention, there’s an honesty to Morning Ireland’s style which strikes a chord with the listener. We know from experience that there have been many, many times down through the years when a Morning Ireland presenter has harrassed and hounded a guest who has been trying to hide behind bluff and blather. That’s what we tune in and that’s what we expect. Here’s hoping that they’ll continue to do just that for years to come – with panache and politeness at all times, of course.