The first thing I thought when I heard of Pat Kenny’s move to Newstalk was that I hope they have somewhere for him to park his motorbike with a roof. I then hoped that the arrival of such a radio superstar might nudge the station into providing decent coffee.
It is going to be a huge change for the veteran broadcaster, leaving the leafy campus and free parking in Montrose for the altogether more utilitarian surrounds of the third floor of Marconi House.
But that aside, Kenny’s departure from RTE is wildly exciting for media nerds (of which I am one) as it opens up a range of possibilities and conundrums for broadcasting generally and for three stations in particular… namely RTE, Newstalk and TV3. But it seems to me that the biggest challenge may in fact be for RTE 2FM.
Clearly RTE Radio One has the most pressing problem as it now has quite a large hole in its weekday schedule. ‘Today with PK’ sat squarely and very comfortably in the mid morning slot; a slot in which Gay Byrne and more recently Gerry Ryan worked their radio magic for decades.
The untimely death of Gerry Ryan proved how unprepared our state broadcaster was for the sudden departure of one of their major stars and revenue earners. With no obvious successor poor Tubridy was moved from his comfortable slot on Radio One and was shoe horned into 2FM where it was hoped he would hold onto that precious ‘Ryanline’ audience. It was an impossible task for Tubridy and the station still seems to be in a quandary as what to do in with this previously lucrative morning talk slot.
Many believe that 2FM should revert to being a music station and go back to trying to serve a younger audience. Personally I think the station has missed that boat. The teenagers I know wouldn’t listen to 2FM in a fit, stations such as Spin 103 (Dublin) in particular have that market sewn up.
The problem for 2FM it seems to me is that a lot of their presenters and indeed their audience have stayed with them. Gerry Ryan would be mid 50s now as is Dave Fanning and Larry Gogan is well beyond that and is (rightly) still broadcasting on the station.
RTE Radio 2 was launched in 1979 which was the year I left school. I have listened fairly frequently ever since and I was a huge fan of Gerry Ryan, who brilliance at broadcasting and whose people skills were only fully recognised when he was gone.
Unlike when Gerry died, there is a list of possible and seemingly very capable presenters who could deliver the goods and retain the audience (read advertising revenue) in the wake of Pat’s departure; namely Miriam O Callaghan, Claire Byrne, Aine Lawlor and Audrey Carville. And yes… they are all women…. as good ole Bob Dylan predicted all those year ago… “the times they are a changing.”
It is interesting that Newstalk are scheduling Pat Kenny immediately after their Breakfast Show. RTE have traditionally given listeners a bit of respite after Morning Ireland in a slot that went from Ryan Tubridy to John Murray and is currently being caretaken by the very capable Miriam O Callaghan.
So I wonder would all this upheaval will signal a return to Radio One for Tubridy where he could once again provide the light relief after Morning Ireland before handing over to one of the female current affairs heavy weights I listed above.
So the problem RTE still has really is what to do with 2FM. Personally I think there is still a space for ‘talk radio light’ in the morning. It needs the right presenter. It may well be a woman… (there are no women presenters on 2FM weekday prime time) and like a lot of the pillars of 2FM, she may not be that young! I’m thinking a Fiona Looney or Jennifer Maguire kind of woman. Wouldn’t that be something….
Then Newstalk and the other independent radio stations might realise that women can do radio too… and can do it very well!