Sunday, 24 September 2017

Irish radio: a whole lotta men going on... and on... and on...

 Some of the men on Irish radio

The only surprising part of the George Hook scandal was that it took so long to happen. Hook is a man who would say these things, along with all the other bigoted older men who you’d just about tolerate for the length of a drink at the bar.

You’d nod every now and then, to be polite, make no eye contact and slip away quietly as soon as he was distracted.

These are the men who you’d like to forgive, because you know they belong to an Ireland that is late in its evening.

They are the men who’ve done it all, so they tell you, yet they seem to have learned so little from their experiences. It was inevitable that Hook would say something like that, because he revels in a Daily Mail nostalgic malaise of anachronistic attitudes, presenting himself as smug and knowing.

Deluded souls claim he is some kind of controversialist. Being controversial for a living is a tricky business, requiring great knowledge and insight of both sides of the argument, and a deftness and subtlety of touch that are rare and joyous to behold.

an irksome man...

George is not that man; never was and never will be. Barely worthy of anger, Hook can’t be blamed for being himself, but his employers are guilty of the crime of imposing upon Ireland radio domination by irksome older men you’d never voluntarily listen to.

Radio stations survive by doing demographic research to identify their target audience, so they can sell advertising space and make money.

You’d imagine Communicorp employ a talented marketing department, so how can they get it so wrong? Do they really believe today’s Ireland wants nowt but tiresome earache from middle and older aged men?

Our modern bouncy republic is young and more diverse than ever, yet the nation’s broadcasters still believe we’re living in a country that disappeared with Se├ín Lemass.

It’s crass in the extreme of these marketing types to believe that as a 57 year-old white male, I’m so shallow that I desire only to listen to a dreary procession of other old white males.

A member of the last generation to have a life-long relationship with radio, I represent their listenership, but that doesn’t mean I’m so utterly vacuous that all I need to keep me stimulated is the babble of less well-informed contemporaries.

From the boy under bedsheets listening to Radio Luxembourg’s Top 20, on a not-very-hygienic-at-all metal earplug plugged into a tiny yellow transistor (well it was considered tiny then, but at the depth of three smartphones, it’d now be seen as cumbersome) to today’s remote control button on the steering wheel of my car, I have always loved radio. 

Mind you, I suffered major radio culture shock when I arrived in Ireland. After a couple of years in the city, I moved alone out to the country, where of course the radio went on and oh, it was painful.

 some more men....

Gay Byrne I found unbearably condescending, my immigrant mouth falling open as once again he patronised a female guest with his ‘good girl, good girl’ verbal pat on the head.

After his show I had a choice of two more men, either Pat Kenny or Gerry Ryan, but my real education came in the afternoon, in the shape of Marian Finucane’s ‘Afternoon Call.’

Long before Joe Duffy’s melancholic minor key mutterings, it was Marian’s onerous task to remind the sinful people of Ireland to give thanks each day. How lucky we all are, compared to the apparently endless torrent of anguish and misery Joe and Marian’s callers have delivered, daily, for decades.

I’ll never forget how disturbed I was by one of the first callers I heard, back in those early 1990s. An outraged mother was in tears on air, because her seven year-old son had been told to take a shower with the other boys after football.

This woman was screaming down the phone line:

“I do not send my child to school so that he can have other children looking at his penis. His penis, Marian. His PENIS.”

‘Is this what they’re really like?’ I wondered, but thankfully it was my greenhorn ignorance of the Irish that was the problem.

There are still some people in this country who think like that, and if they are men they might well get their own radio show, but fortunately there are so many more who are wonderful, wise and wickedly dark in the humour.

George Hook is not the problem. Of course he’s going to put his foot in it: he knows no better. 

Of course Pat Kenny would come out and defend his stablemate, describing him as "a decent man with children…” who was merely  “…musing over a topic.”

Oh okay. That’s alright then.

What was never alright was that if you’re not perpetually connected to the internet, between midday and 1 o’clock, George Hook was the only voice Irish talk radio had to offer.

 Chris and Sarah - hope for the future...

What’s not acceptable is that in Ivan Yates yet another older man has replaced the vibrant partnership of Chris Donoghue and Sarah McInerney - yes, briefly, a female was allowed onto Newstalk’s testosterone-packed airwaves!

Wouldn’t it be great if Ray Darcy said something outrageous about black people; if Joe Duffy finally retired to a tropical paradise; if Ryan Tubridy was suddenly bombarded by glitter, subtly and painlessly eviscerating his body until he resembles the sugar sifter he presents to us?

At last we might hear some voices that better reflect today’s young Ireland; some diverse opinions that educate, rather than offensive and incorrect old rubbish.

©Charlie Adley

No comments: