Newstalk Radio – Presenters and Propositions

Frankly, I prefer Newstalk to RTE and have done so for years. So I slightly resent my €160 licence fee heading into RTE to distort the competition. The axing of Vincent Browne from Radio 1 was critical for me.

Privatising RTE by the government would be a cultural crime as it is likely that Murdoch or some other foreign media company or mogul or Arab Sovereign Investment Company or Chinese government company would buy the station. RTE TV should have more channels on a digital platform, not less. The way to do this is to require RTE to transmit community and small commercial channels on their broadcasting platforms. City Channel in Dublin is a ready made example and david Harvey has shown what is possible with limited resources in a dire market.

To-day, the Sunday Tribune reports “Newstalk must ‘pull it together’ ad agencies warn” talking about the exits of Eamon Keane from Lunchtime and Claire Byrne from the Breakfast Show. There is a potential threat to audience figures and advertising revenue to the station.

Newstalk must be costing Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp a lot of money.  O’Brien has made a big contribution to culture in this land over the past decade and I salute him for that. My quibbles with Denis are – wasting time and effort on Independent News and Media and losing a stack of money in so doing. The money could have been put to far better use by buying the Irish Press off the counter and getting it going again, only this time not run by de Valera and Jennings. He could have brought back Tim Pat Coogan, Colm Rapple and Con Houlihan and then used his own stars like Matt Cooper, George Hook, Brendan O’Brien, Orla Barry to be distinctive and original.

Denis never asked me for advice. Paddy Halpenny can tell him that if he likes.

A substantial quibble is his tax exile status. I believe that Irish citizens should be obliged to make tax returns and file taxes here to retain Irish citizenship along the US model. Irish income should be treated the same as for the rest of us and not allowed for overseas residency. That would not affect the income or tax status of foreigners.

Was Denis involved in Wanderers objections to relegation a few years ago? Was Denis involved in Wanderers’ intransigence over the Lansdowne Road redevelopment three years ago? As a Lansdowne member, I could be biased!!!

Otherwise, I think that the Moriarty Tribunal has an issue to answer over the treatment of Denis O’Brien. On May 29th, I agreed with Stephen Collins and called for the Moriarty Tribunal to be wound up.

Media ownership must be regulated and should be broad based. RTE should be under the control of an Oireachtas Communications Committee as the real Board of Directors. This would require a change in the law. Newstalk, as a serious rival, must not be handicapped by the financial clout consequent to the licence fee. The licence fee should be hypothecated to core activities of the broadcaster and should not give an overwhelming advantage to the state broadcaster.

My prescription for Newstalk is to bring forward a new kid on the block for the morning program with a decent clear speaking voice who has a good command of English grammar. This person should preferably be female with an honours degree level of knowledge in politics, arts and culture.

If it can be achieved, I would try to bring back Eamon Keane for Lunchtime or dive into the funds and make Sean O’Rourke and offer he cannot refuse for Lunchtime. Sean O’Rourke is THE best broadcast news journalist in the country. Ivan Yates should be put head to head with the Big Beast Pat Kenny in the morning. Keep Moncrieff, he is a treasure.

Keep Damien Kiberd for lunchtime if you can’t find someone immediately. Damo has the great advantage of a brain between his ears. George should remain as George. GEORGE is now a national brand so I would be very reluctant to mix him with younger immature chatterers or you might lose some of your more discerning audience. You have been warned. Between “the Right Hook” and “The Last Word” with Matt Cooper on Today FM, the combined audience is now greater than RTE’s Drivetime. David McWilliams might be an option for a slot. The Rock boy has shed loads of self confidence and has something to say. Narcissus will have a rival in Hades.

“Coleman at large” should run all 5 nights, Monday to Friday. Marc should do three. Get Damo for one night and a series of people for the other including John O’Donovan. I am available!

Best of luck to Newstalk!