Radio Review: Gently does it as Myles Dungan blows away hot air on wind farms
Stand-in host handles RTE Radio 1’s coveted morning show with aplomb, while Ryan Tubridy unexpectedly shines on 2FM
History man: Myles Dungan. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
With a fortnight to go before battle commences, RTÉ Radio 1 has been quietly shoring up its previously unassailable mid-morning redoubt, before Pat Kenny, the Lundy of Montrose, commences his assault from Newstalk. The slot currently being kept warm by Today With Myles Dungan (weekdays) has been subtly rebranded, with the station’s promotional trailers last week emphasising that the programme is a “current affairs magazine”, a description that is a good fit for the host-in-waiting, Sean O’Rourke.
If the show’s remit has been realigned, nobody seems to have told Dungan. While the programme had, as always, a meaty news element, the range of subjects covered was clearly influenced by the stand-in’s interests. This was most obvious in this week’s series of interviews with academics visiting the Parnell Summer School in Wicklow: as the long-time host of The History Show on Radio 1, Dungan brought an informed and inquisitive touch to items on US presidents and US-Irish relations.
But the strengths of his deceptively inconspicuous style were also on show. Speaking to Rob Heffernan in the immediate aftermath of his World Championship gold medal in the 50km walk, Dungan hit the right note of casual engagement, avoiding the portentous stiffness that could overcome Kenny on such occasions.
Dungan was also comfortable with current affairs. On Tuesday Valerie Cox reported on a stormy meeting about a proposed wind farm in the midlands, during which one couple, Michael and Dorothy Keane, spoke of how the persistent noise from a nearby wind turbine was forcing them to move from their home. After the report, Dungan interviewed Kenneth Matthews of the Irish Wind Energy Association, who tut-tutted his “disappointment” at some of the “inaccuracy” in the item. Instead, he highlighted “the facts” of 17 reports that found noise from wind farms had no ill-effect on health.
When Dungan suggested the Keanes “would not be leaving unless there was some deleterious effect”, Matthews said he couldn’t comment on “people’s feelings”. “It’s not their feeling, it’s their hearing,” Dungan shot back. His guest kept digging a hole for himself, saying “peer-reviewed studies” showed background noise in rural areas – birds, cows – was louder than a wind turbine 700m away. “The facts suggest there isn’t an issue,” said Matthews.
“Again I come back to the point that nobody leaves a home that they have spent eight years creating for themselves unless they have pretty good grounds for doing so,” said Dungan. In his low-key way the presenter punctured the ill-judged corporate language as effectively as any fiery polemicist. He may only be warming the seat for O’Rourke, but Dungan gave an object lesson in helming the prized slot.
With the best will in the world, few would describe Kathryn Thomas as a broadcasting heavyweight. But on Wednesday, as guest host of The John Murray Show With Kathryn Thomas (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), the light entertainment and travel presenter seemed ill at ease with all but the most gossamer-light of topics. An amiable presence, she was happy talking to callers who loved entering competitions, but she sounded deeply uncomfortable when talking to Stephanie Murphy, an Australia-based Cork woman whose nine-year-old daughter, Aisling, had just won a high-profile child-beauty pageant in Sydney.