Monday morning blues


THE good news is that, contrary to the silly Tv ad, RTE Radio One has not introduced an electronic pip marker at 7.30 a.m. The bad news, however, is that there were few other signals of changed times in yesterday's debut of the new 100 minute Morning Ireland - apart from the new theme music, which sounds as if it's being played through somebody's pillow.

The extra half hour from 7.30 to 8 a.m. contained its usual elements of news heads, business news and scaled down sports report, plus copious coverage of 10 minutes after 8.10 a.m., a rather unfocused environmental debate from Cork and a very dull interview with Washington correspondent Mark Little, rehashing what we've read in the papers about the faltering presidential campaign of Bob Dole. (This chat was the only foreign coverage in the whole programme, probably a harbinger of things to come.)

The new "informal style" didn't really emerge: Emer O'Kelly wasn't sure what to say after the 7.30 headlines, and David Hanly's casual flip through the newspapers a half hour in advance of What It Says in the Papers was just disorienting. All in all, not worth rising early for - though we'll give it a chance.

On this (so far skimpy) evidence, you could certainly argue that the new format was oversold by Michael Good, managing editor of RTE News, who was talking `bout a revolution when he joined Brian Farrell on Soundbyte (RTE Radio One, Saturday). Mind you, he also referred to presenter Aine Lawlor as "Anne", so it's just possible - however unlikely it might seem - that his knowledge of the day to day workings of Morning Ireland falls short of encyclopedic.

Farrell quizzed Good well (as it were), but apart from a sense that more of the new programme will be pre packaged, it seemed Good was more aware of the issues a longer programme would face than possessed of a clear vision of how it will deal with them.

Soundbyte itself ticks along nicely - interesting, if hardly compulsive, listening for media buffs. In these Mailbag free days, its listeners' phoneline (open all week) offers a rare opportunity to hear praise and complaints about, among other things, RTE's own output; I particularly liked the guy who gave out about TV's Beyond the Hall Door for presenting unreachable decorating fantasies, then called for a proper DIY programme, and finally offered his own services to anyone who needs fixing up around the house.

If you think it's funny that talk radio should be drawing on a given night's television output for conversational material, then you obviously haven't been listening to the Gerry Ryan Show (2FM, Monday to Friday).

Last Wednesday, a late Tv movie from the night before - Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter - sparked a series of reminiscences about life for Western women in Islamic countries; then Thursday heard callers getting grossed out about the Under the Sun documentary on American beauty pageants for kids.

And in fairness, that's what everyone who saw the latter programme was talking about on Thursday morning. Ryan's show often has more going for it than that, but even when it's just cruising along, it has a knack for presenting untaxing chat on the very subject that's been lurking around the corners of your consciousness.

BISHOP Thomas Flynn braved the flak on Liveline (RTE Radio One, Monday to Friday) to talk about the church's report on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by priests. He holds his own, mostly, as a media performer, but occasionally he comes out with something to confirm that, indeed, at the back of it all, they take us for eejits.

An example of this was his response to a caller's suggestion that the hierarchy make a donation to, say, the Rape Crisis Centre. According, to Flynn, the church's money is simply whatever the flock has scraped together to put in the collection plate or envelope, and the institution would be out of bounds to give this to a non church cause.

"I've been to Rome," Marian Finucane interrupted, "and seen the riches ..." and the conversation meandered until Flynn could squeeze in a one liner about not wanting to sell the Sistine Chapel.

Well, yes, we've all heard of the Sistine Chapel and, well, no, on balance most of us wouldn't rather it was moved into the foyer of some new Microsoft office block. But, Bishop, we've also heard a thing or two about Vatican bankers... and it wasn't all rhyming slang.