Radio: Can money map out a new dawn at Today FM?
Evergreen talents of Matt Cooper and Ian Dempsey take second place to cash prizes, but Dermot and Dave make light of matters
Matt Cooper dusts off his hitherto untapped skills as a game show host to gleefully interview competition winners
Follow the money. Throughout the week, large sums of cash are ostentatiously dangled to bolster the appeal of this high-profile enterprise, with fresh sums regularly appearing as sweeteners and incentives. With €10,000 to be won as a prize every weekday this month as part of a current on-air promotion, the O’Brien-owned station Today FM is flaunting its deep pockets to an almost unseemly degree.
A kind of virtual treasure hunt using online maps to find sundry numbers that add up to a winning total (hence its title, You Do The Maps), the lavishly endowed competition features clues scattered over the daytime schedule, starting with The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show (Today FM, weekdays). When they’re not giving out said clues, the presenters plug the contest or play jingles about it, before the winner is contacted by Matt Cooper on The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays).
The net effect is that the campaign is almost impossible to miss should your dial even stray in the direction of Today FM. But amid the ballyhoo, the implicit message is that the station places more faith in the lure of cash than the ability of its presenters when it comes to winning audiences.
Cooper, for examples, dusts off his hitherto untapped skills as a game show host to gleefully interview Tuesday’s winner, Seán, who tearfully says how he will pay off his father’s medical expenses.
Wednesday’s lucky contestant, Rachel, is so excited she accidentally hangs up, prompting momentary alarm from the rather self-consciously giddy Cooper. “Does she need resuscitation?” he chuckles, before Rachel returns on the line.
All this is as nothing compared to the fate that befalls Dempsey, who is tasked with hand-delivering a cheque to Seán the very evening he wins it. Consummate professional that he is, Dempsey is full of chirpy banter as he talks to Cooper and Seán about this. But it still seems slightly demeaning for an evergreen presenter whose morning show remains an oasis of dependable good cheer, as well as a winner when it comes to audiences in the cutthroat breakfast market.
Even the perennially capering partnership of Dermot And Dave (Today FM, weekdays) sound as if they feel cheerleading for the contest is beneath their dignity, a quality that hasn’t been conspicuously prized by the pair in the past. Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore give out the obligatory clues in relatively cursory fashion. Instead, they direct their energy towards their skits, which remain true to the subtle sensibilities of the schoolyard. These leanings are only emphasised on Wednesday, when Whelan repeatedly mocks his colleague’s revelation he was the head boy in his class. This is hardly cutting edge stuff, but nonetheless shows off the pair’s comic chemistry.
Moore’s schoolboy tales of drinking milk in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance are mercilessly seized upon by Whelan as proof of irredeemable conformity and old mods everywhere will doubtless welcome a running joke whose punchline is an airing of The Jam’s rousing cover of David Watts, The Kinks’ ambivalent teen paean to an idolised head boy. Whelan and Moore rarely waver from this one-note pitch, however. It all gives the impression of a flimsy daytime output, which may at least partly explain the station’s decision to bait its schedule with the lure of loadsa lovely lolly.
Coincidentally, the competition provides a distraction from all the hullaballoo about Denis O’Brien’s legal actions, which temporarily halted media outlets fully reporting on proceedings in the Dáil. But Cooper, to his credit, continues to cover the story in depth. On Tuesday, he shows his chutzpah by hosting an interview with independent TD Catherine Murphy, whose Dáil speech (by now cleared for reporting) contained the allegations about O’Brien’s banking arrangements with the IBRC which led to the brief “constitutional crisis”.
Murphy sounds determined but gracious, politely gliding over Cooper’s reference to charges made against her on a previous show by O’Brien’s pugnacious spokesman James Morrissey. “I believe that is not for today,” she says, adding the steely caveat she reserves the right to deal with the matter in the future.
That Cooper has to intersperse such discussions with reminders about impending cash bonanzas is an exercise in incongruity. But that the elements can co-exist is something to be grateful for. Money may talk on Today FM, but it hasn’t drowned out other voices. Not yet, anyway.
Moment of the week: Finger poked at Dyke
Following the resignation of Fifa’s Sepp Blatter, English FA chairman Greg Dyke is interviewed on Today With Seán O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays). Dyke bemoans the Fifa voting rights of tiny states, saying it’s ridiculous they have an equal vote, “the same as England’s got a vote, Ireland’s got a vote, Germany’s got a vote, the United States has got a vote, Kenya’s got a vote”. Sports journalist James Montague calls Dyke a “bozo” for understanding Fifa structures, targeting his “borderline racist, colonial attitude”. “Kenya shouldn’t have a vote?” wonders Montague. “Ireland shouldn’t have a vote because it has a smaller population than the US?” Dyke didn’t say that. When labelling someone a racist, it’s best to get the facts right.