Replacing the Ryan Line
Today is JNLR Day when radio stations up and down the land get their quarterly bill of health. These raw statistics, outling which shows and stations are up and which are down, will be scrutinised closely and then spun to …
Today is JNLR Day when radio stations up and down the land get their quarterly bill of health. These raw statistics, outling which shows and stations are up and which are down, will be scrutinised closely and then spun to death in press releases which breathlessly claim that the station in question is top of the pops when it comes to 40-plus males in the south county Dublin area with a keen interest in military history, dubstep, crystal meth and extreme gardening.
Out in Montrose, the 2fm chiefs will look at the figures with a huge degree of sadness. The JNLR book was due out a week ago, but was postponed as a mark of respect to Gerry Ryan. Seeing as the late broadcaster was the man with the biggest audience on the station – almost twice as many as those who tune into the station’s breakfast show – and the show with the biggest slice of the advertising pie, today’s JNLR book will be a reminder of the monumental task ahead.
Replacing the Ryan Line is going to be a headache which new boss John McMahon never expected to have to face six months into the gig. But he got the job because he the one RTE radio chief Clare Duignan believed could make the hard, tough decisions on the future of the station so this is the first chance for him to show his mettle.
So who will McMahon select to fill that 9am to midday slot on a more permanent basis than Colm Hayes and Lucy Kennedy? There are a huge number of options open to him, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at these things. First of all, he had to decide if he’s really after another Gerry Ryan. Is that huge Ryan audience – 307,000, per the last JNLR book – going to stick around with a new presenter? Are the bulk of that audience, the middle-aged housewives, the core 2fm audience to begin with or are they people who simply tuned in to listen to Ryan and then tuned out when Rick O’Shea came on air? Sure, the ad revenue is handy, but is it possible to replace Ryan with a Ryan-a-like?
If McMahon is going to go after a high-profile personality who can drive the show and at least attempt to keep that audience rather than scrap the show and build a new programme from scratch, he has two options: he can stay in-house or go into the transfer market.
In-house means choosing from the RTE pool. This could be someone like Dave Fanning, who has stood in several times for Ryan in years gone by. It could be Ryan Tubridy. While it’s unlikely that he will move from his RTE Radio One perch, remember his best radio show and 2fm’s best breakfast show was The Full Irish, where Tubridy was produced by McMahon. After that. it’s the field and that could be Miriam O’Callaghan, Lucy Kennedy, Craig Doyle, Colm Hayes or anyone else who has bad cofffee in the Montrose canteen on a regular basis.
Then, there’s the transfer market. A few weeks ago, I interviewed McMahon and this is what he had to say about that route. “I’m interested in finding the next Ryan Tubridy and the next Gerry Ryan rather than going out and looking for big name people and spending a couple of hundred thousand euro on some presenter from another station. We’re not in the 2005 to 2007 period anymore when radio stations were doing the Ronaldo and galactico thing and throwing mad money at presenters. I’m not interested in that.”
That, though, was before Ryan’s sudden death and the now urgent need to replace him. If McMahon does go into the transfer market with a fat chequebook, he had many, many options. The question then becomes what is he looking for. Is he looking for a like-for-like replacement who can do the job straight out of the box or is he looking for a proven radio talent who is young enough and eager enough to stick around with 2fm for a good few years and become the lynchpin of a new long-term schedule? Right now, it’s more likely to be the former rather than the latter and that prospective list is as long as your arm, with the likes of Cork 96FM’s Neil Prendeville, Today FM’s Ian Dempsey and Ray D’Arcy and Newstalk’s Tom Dunne figuring on it. Interesting times ahead, then, at 90 to 92 FM.