Radio: Oh no, Steve – Liveline caller gets a lesson in social manners

Review: Irish radio this week shows the perils and the pearls to be found in social-media stories

A week of sports reporting takes place in the shadow of the greatest, after Muhammad Ali died last weekend. On a special Second Captains podcast paying tribute to Ali (The Greatest: Our Muhammad Ali Special,, they allow the space needed to tease out why Ali was so important, beyond the trite and rushed tributes that clutter other shows.

Andy Lee, whom you could listen to for hours, brings his insight as a former boxing world champion, as well as his naturally thoughtful nature. "How he fought, how beautiful he was . . . how poetic he was in the ring. He was an artist, an immense figure culturally in the world. I'm sure other people felt it about Bowie or Prince, but Ali is the greatest of all time for me."

Lee spoke about how he met Ali in 2011 the day the 5th Street Gym in Miami reopened. After the opening, he got a text saying to go to Ali’s hotel. “I walked into the suite in the hotel and he was just sitting on the couch. I didn’t really want to look. I was talking to his wife – he was in my periphery. I couldn’t actually bring myself to turn and look at him. I was so excited. They must have seen it before in other people and said, ‘come on over and meet him’. It was just a thrill . . . there was no one I wanted to meet more than Muhammad Ali.”

A beautifully produced package from Jerry Izenberg's house followed and later, Jesse Jackson joined the programme over the phone. Second Captains shows once again that it masters the intelligent deftness that makes good conversation and great broadcasting.


Give that it's summer, it's the time where fill-ins shine. Over on The Ryan Tubridy Show (RTÉ Radio 1, 9am), Dave Fanning is keeping Tubs's seat warm. These days, it's social media, not talk radio, that drives human-interest stories.

Irish radio frequently features items that belong on the internet and discuss topics that have already been exhausted on Facebook. Such is the case on Tuesday morning, when Fanning is trying to get to the bottom of a lost doll in the Phoenix Park.

Claire Gray and a Matilda doll of extreme sentimental importance were parted and half of the Irish internet was trying to reunite them.

Fanning’s rapid pace doesn’t lend itself to the pseudo-sympathy needed to make this type of radio sound genuine. Instead, he sounds irate. “Hang on a second, when was the last time you saw the doll?” Fanning asks, like a garda yet to have his coffee. “A couple of sightings? What does that actually mean?”

Fanning’s rattling tone is a natural style, but when you’re trying to extract information from a willing woman, it can sound impatient. He finally cuts off Gray as she speaks about how wonderful people have been in helping her try to find the doll. Someone finds the doll eventually and the show returns to the story on Wednesday, I’m sure much to the delight of Fanning.

On Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, 1.45pm) on Wednesday, another filler-inner, Philip (Fill-ip?) Boucher- Hayes is sitting in for Joe Duffy. Sheila is raging when she sees a picture of an obese child shared on Facebook by a health and fitness professional, Steve, with a caption saying, "Letting your kids become obese should be considered child abuse".

“Have they all lost the power of their own brains?” Sheila asks, presumably new enough to people being mean on the internet. “This little child is being abused by having her picture posted on Facebook.”

The story rumbles on, coaxed by PBH with some interventions as the brilliantly articulate Sheila makes her argument. Then, just when you think it’s another case of talk radio limping after a social media scandal, the thing springs to life.

Steve is on the line. “Would you share your own child’s picture?” Sheila asks. “I wouldn’t have an overweight child,” Steve counters. “You have disregarded this child’s privacy,” Steve is told. A nutrition expert is brought on as a diversion. “Does fat-shaming work?” PBH asks. Absolutely not. You can almost hear Steve simmering in the background.

Then the bomb is dropped: PBH has just heard that the child in the picture has Down syndrome. “That makes me feel really bad now,” Steve concedes. “What’s the lesson learned, Steve?” PBH asks, like a teacher who has just found a kid with its head stuck in the railings. Boucher-Hayes spells it out for him: “The point is, it’s obviously very dangerous to post [pictures online] when you do not know all the details.”

This time, the Aesop of Montrose wins and Liveline shows how a conversation that starts on social media doesn't just need a radio rehash, but a beginning, middle, and end – and most importantly, a moral. Moment of the Week: A tale of no tickets Before non-stop Euros coverage on Irish radio, Pat Kenny scores from a very tricky angle. Emily O'Sullivan from Cork speaks to The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, weekdays, 10am) detailing a rather heartbreaking tale of ordering tickets from a website only for them to never arrive – which should alert punters to a serious consumer issue. Her youngest son "completely fell apart" while an older son has tried to hold it together.

“I feel I’ve broken a promise to my kids,” O’Sullivan says. You have to really feel for her, having saved up and paid €415 to buy two tickets to see Ireland play Belgium in Bordeaux. Luckily, later in the week, she secures the tickets. Olé olé.

Mick Heaney is on leave