Radio’s brand new dawn? Not quite
The Great Radio War between Pat Kenny and Sean O’Rourke has begun. At times, the listeners became collateral damage
By contrast, O’Rourke is going to need a little softening yet. Interviewing Irish rugby coach Joe Schmidt, he still had the formal patter of a current affairs broadcaster. Every question felt like a question, even when he was clearly attempting a conversation.
Back to Kenny, and his new employers were transitioning him out of the self-promotional world of RTÉ by giving him a big interview with a Newstalk employee. Ivan Yates has returned from his bankruptcy break to present Breakfast (whose running time of 6.30-10am are breakfast hours if you happen to live in a B&B).
Yet, the interview was an engaging one, in which Yates railed against the unfairness of the insolvency process and admitted that he “wanted to die” at least twice, while Kenny pushed him on his questions of his credibility as a broadcaster while reading out blunt and unsympathetic texts from listeners.
It was spoiled somewhat, not by Kenny but by his new colleagues. Newstalk instantly made the item its lead on the news bulletin, so gaining a little traction in the self-promotional tug-of-war.
After that first hour, a strange thing happened. Radio programmes broke out. Kenny’s items included interviews with Brendan Howlin and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin which, while hardly groundbreaking, were solid all the same. There was also an item on Murphy Village, “unofficial Traveller capital of America” which related to Paul Connolly’s two-part series for TV3 (the unofficial Traveller documentary capital of Ireland).
O’Rourke interviewed Niall O’Dowd and John McColgan about a collaborative online venture, after which the rest of the show was given over to live coverage of the Heaney funeral – leading the show to run 50 minutes over time. O’Rourke ended with a personal tribute to the poet. Kenny did exactly the same.
If this is a prizefight, it was only round one. A winner is some time away from being declared. But at least this latest great new dawn for Irish radio had ended. These fresh blasts across the Irish airwaves had brought us an archbishop, a Government Minister defending policy, Bono talking just a little too long, half-baked comedy, self-promotion, in-house interviews and the national broadcaster rightly dropping everything to perform its public service duty. The more things change, the more they stay the same.