A bad week for elves and trolls


RADIO REVIEW:THE RECESSION has decimated industries and professions that thrived during the boom, but, if the airwaves are anything to go by, one occupation has proved impervious to the fluctuations of the economy.

Personal-finance advisers have become a ubiquitous presence on radio, as essential as political pundits for current-affairs programmes, as de rigueur as product-plugging celebrities on daytime chatshows. Where once they offered guidance on how to invest excess funds – ah, those were the days, for some anyway – they have, if anything, become more omnipresent as demand for advice about money management grows among a cash-strapped public.

Still, it says something about our current plight when a financial consultant is counselling children to lower their expectations for Christmas. Yet that was the message given on Tubridy(2FM, weekdays) by Dave Kavanagh, who explained to young listeners that the impact of the forthcoming budget would be felt all the way up to the North Pole.

“Though Santa and the elves will be trying their very best, as they always do, they may have difficulty filling all the requests. So people shouldn’t be too disappointed if they don’t get exactly what they wanted.”

It was hard to argue with Kavanagh’s logic, though, given that Ryan Tubridy’s show was littered with plugs for yesterday’s Late Latetoy show, it had an inadvertent Grinch-like quality. Otherwise, Kavanagh offered solid tips about the tricks of the retail trade, as well as highlighting the irrational frenzy that grips consumers during the seasonal holidays. “People shop as though they are filling up a nuclear-war air-raid shelter,” he said.

Sandwiched between fluff about the charity auction of a painting made by Michael Flatley’s feet and an emotive interview with the comedian “Uncle” Bob Carley about the sudden death of his wife, Kavanagh’s slot was the most interesting part of Wednesday’s show. Which probably says something about Tubridy’s plight on 2FM.

Fiscal recommendations for the young also featured when the financial coach Sinéad Ryan appeared on Moncrieff(Newstalk, weekdays) on Wednesday. Ryan had published a guide aimed at teenagers, a group she said was feeling the pinch like everyone else, with pocket money and part-time jobs at a premium. “They are hearing ‘no’ for the first time,” said Sean Moncrieff’s guest. “But kids are very adaptable.”

Not only that but, as Ryan told it, teens were also capable of macro-economic insights that eluded older heads. When discussion turned to the euro-zone crisis, Ryan cited a solution suggested by her audience.

“Kids are fantastic at asking the exact right question,” she said. “They ask, Why don’t they just print more money?” The only impediment, Ryan ventured, was Angela Merkel and her fear of Weimar-style hyperinflation. The memory of inflation rates of 100,000 per cent would give most people pause for thought, but then again there weren’t many personal finance gurus to help out during the 1920s.

In such a crowded market, it is unsurprising that Ireland’s best-known money guru, Eddie Hobbs, has diversified his portfolio beyond dispensing pecuniary hints. On Tuesday he appeared on The Right Hook(Newstalk, weekdays) to discuss the phenomenon of online trolling, the practice where anonymous internet users post provocative statements on discussion boards or on Twitter, often aimed at individuals.

Hobbs characterised so-called trolls as “sad and lonely people” who not only targeted public figures such as himself for abuse – which he said was fair enough – but also spread inaccurate information, which, given that online forums are effectively publications, amounted to defamation. He said his fellow guest John Breslin, of Boards.ie, was a brave man for owning such a site, as he couldn’t see it “ending in anything but misery.” Hobbs had clearly been stung by malicious posts, but there was an unpleasant undertone in his backhanded compliment about Breslin’s courage.

George Hook affected a more robust attitude to online baiting, ignoring the more vicious posts directed his way without erecting online blocks against those who, for example, envisaged him lying face down in the Liffey. In this spirit, Hook teased his guest about whether he should block the tweeter who had described Hobbs as a mouthy Cork onanist, albeit in earthier vernacular terms. Hobbs took it on the chin, saying he didn’t have an issue with such barbs. “I get a lot of abuse about my accent,” he said, “usually coming from the West Brit mindset in Dublin.”

Hobbs may have been parading his rebel-county credentials, but such an anachronistic and loaded term – which even Martin McGuinness has learned to avoid – sounded a bit rich coming from a broadcaster and businessman who regularly expounds the wisdom of investing in gold: hardly the actions of a downtrodden outsider. He might be better sticking to financial advice.

Radio moment of the week

Not so much a memorable moment as the end of an era, Thursday saw Donal Dineen broadcast the final Small Hours(Today FM, weekdays), drawing the curtain on 15 years of surprising and revelatory music. There was poignancy – Dineen dedicated the night to the late broadcaster Uaneen Fitzsimons and the late musician Mic Christopher – but overall the show was celebratory, with music and shaggy- dog chat from Mike Scott, Jennifer Evans, Si Schroeder and Madu, among others. The past few years had been precarious, Dineen said, “but over the last few days there have been so many positive things that I feel so happy now about what’s happening. Is that really soppy?” Not a dry eye in the house: here’s hoping he finds a new home soon.