No topping the dead donkey story
RADIO REVIEW:AS HOT-BUTTON topics go, the publication of topless photographs of a woman married to the heir to a foreign throne might not seem to be a particularly pressing issue for a country racked with recession. But for much of last week the decision of the Irish Daily Star to publish the paparazzi pictures of Kate Middleton was a ubiquitous subject across the schedule.
Marian Finucane (RTÉ Radio 1, Saturday and Sunday) hosted a perfunctory joust between the former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond and the Star’s now-suspended editor, Michael O’Kane. There was a lengthy discussion about the matter on Monday’s Today with Pat Kenny (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). The next day George Hook spoke with the Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole on The Right Hook (Newstalk, weekdays). With varying degrees of clarity, all these items invoked the balance between press freedom and privacy rights, or the public’s right to know versus the commercial imperatives of tabloids.
It took Colm Hayes (2FM, weekdays) to distil all this commentary and extract a single lesson. “Breasts are all over the place,” he chirruped as he opened Wednesday’s show, citing the Middleton snaps, as well as the appearance of the former Miss World Rosanna Davison in Playboy magazine. Having established this fact, Hayes invited his audience to comment, only to discover that, despite their ostensible titillation value, breasts make for dull conversation.
The presenter wanted to hear from men whose daughters had posed topless – Davison’s father, Chris de Burgh, had stated his pride in her decision – but he had to settle for Kate, an earnest mother of three girls who spoke about the ephemeral nature of physical beauty and the importance of the mind. Hayes acknowledged all this but, perhaps conscious that it didn’t make for riveting radio, changed tack by focusing on the ubiquity of bikini-wearing models at product launches and photocalls.
With Hayes incessantly repeating the phrase “scantily clad females” – had it been the keyword in a drinking game, listeners would have been legless by lunchtime – the practice was derided by Mary, a marketing professional living in London, causing Derek Daniels, a model-agency boss, to step up to the plate in response.
“You used to look after [the Irish model] Georgia Salpa, so you’ve seen her scantily clad many times,” said Hayes. “As has the rest of the nation,” replied Daniels gallantly. He went on to defend such tactics with the lame old canard that “sex sells”.
As the programme sputtered to an end, it showed how a seemingly controversial topic can be a dud if people don’t take the bait. Still, it established one thing: if young women parading in swimwear is the Irish business world’s default marketing ploy, no wonder the economy is bust.
Moving swiftly along, Ryan Tubridy (2FM, weekdays) eschewed the subject of breasts in favour of talk about asses. In previous weeks the presenter had been following the progress of Agnieszka Jablonska as she travelled around Ireland on foot, accompanied only by her donkey, Mucci. Jablonska had undertaken her journey in memory of her late partner, Maurice Sullivan, who was mauled to death by dogs in Malaysia last year, and she regularly regaled listeners with heartwarming tales of people’s generosity on the road.