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Magazine Radio Programmes in Ireland Essay

A magazine radio programme is one that presents a variety of topics, usually dealing with current affairs and often includes interviews and commentary, The first radio programme I chose to research was The Right Hook as I was already familiar to the character of George Hook and was curious to see how it would translate to a radio show with a listener ship of 130,000 people. Initially, as a 19 year old female living in urban Dublin, I found George Hook very hard to relate to as a 71 year old rugby pundit from Cork. In my opinion, his radio programme is geared towards an older and predominately male audience. As Newstalk is an independent broadcaster Hook is free to express his opinion on the topic of the day, which he certainty does. I found his presenting style to be very gruff and old fashion particularly on issues concerning money and women, for example when Ken Kercheval, an actor from the American soap Dallas, was interviewed on (27th Sept) I feel some of the comments made about female co-stars were quite crass and outdated. I also noticed this direction in the questioning been taken while Lee Child was a guest on The Right Hook (13th Sept).

Although at the start of the interview Child made the point that he didn’t care how much he earned from his books “as long as the rent was paid” to me, this showed that he would rather not discuss this and I thought it was unprofessional when Hook continued to probe. Although this does bring a very strong sense of personality to the show, as the presenter is determined to discus the topics he thinks are relevant. The pace of the show is quite slow and in my opinion, long winded at times with Hook delving into his archive of anecdotes regularly. I noticed this particularly in The Right Hook coverage of the US Presidential Election especially contrasting Hook’s broadcasting style with his co host for this segment Michael Graham who’s speaking manner is fast paced and quick to the point. I feel he is misinformed often on American politics and is corrected by Graham as shown on the show on the 5th of November.

Hook is dismissive of the welfare system in the US and seems very set in his opinion, when Graham presents to him and the viewers the facts about the situation he is dismissed as if Hook feels he is not informed enough to back up his own opinion and continue on the debate. I feel he is very stuck in his old fashioned opinions on politics among other issues and this is perhaps why he is alienating a younger audience. Another defining aspect of The Right Hook is Hook’s monologues. As a man that has no problem voicing his own opinion and personal experiences, the show was bound to harbour some interesting tales from the life and times of George Hook but perhaps the programme has become too centred around this and not enough about the researched content.

Listening to the show on the 23rd of October where John Waters appeared a guest discussing the 100 objects that define Ireland as a nation I thought Hook to be in very high spirits which made for easy listening as it was obviously a topic that he had a personal interest in. He regaled his listeners with stories of his childhood in Ireland and seemed to have a good rapport with Waters as they discussed this story in a light hearted way and Hook’s jovial tone caused me to laugh along with them. He interests his audience by presenting his opinion in a humorous or a provocative way.

The second radio programme I researched was Drivetime with Mary Wilson. RTE, as the national Public Service Broadcaster is compelled to give objective and balanced information on all shows, including Drivetime. This contrasts Wilson to the other two presenters as she is limited in expressing her own opinion on the matters at hand. This is an advantage in a way because if you want unbiased, straightforward information and unbiased questioning, this is a popular way to keep up to date on current affairs. As a former RTE legal affairs correspondent, Wilson gives a very balanced view on news topics as I noticed when I listened to the US election coverage on the 7th of November. Wilson is very softly spoken and gently presents the show acting as a mediator between guests such as Aine Kerr and Fergal Keane reporting from America more so that a presenter. This is effective as it give the maximum amount of information to the listener in a short period of time without getting personal.

Although some people may find this style of presenting quite dry and impersonal especially due to the fact that Wilson is hard to relate to as she does not let much of her personality show through. However, listening to the broadcast on the 1st of November in relation to unpaid student grant, I felt Wilson asked the questions that everyone was anxious to know the answers to and it showed clearly in her easy flow of questions that the matter had been very well researched beforehand which made for an enlightening interview. As Drivetime is broadcast by the PSB, Wilson is obliged to be the voice of the people and to gauge the answers from her interviewees that is pertinent for public knowledge.

I think she displayed her skill for this very well when Dr Ross Morgan was on the show discussing the increase in the tax on cigarettes. Wilson lets Morgan discuss the figures while directing the line of questioning towards how it will affect the public. She also gives both sides of the argument as any presenter should; giving the example that smokers will choose to buy cigarettes rather than necessities like food. Rather than condemn those who would make this choice Wilson presents it as a reality rather than putting her own opinion into the equation which I think makes her a fair and balanced presenter that has no qualms about getting the information the public should be educated on.

Finally, the programme I listened to was The Last Word presented by Matt Cooper. As, the former editor of the Sunday Tribune and who still writes as a columnist for print it’s clear from the beginning that Cooper has a very high level of interest in his work as a journalist. He came across as engrossed in the topics that his show was dealing with on any given day as well keeping it very viewer orientated by reading out comments sent in by listeners and responding with his thoughts on their opinions. Cooper speaks quickly which give his question style a sense of urgency and give his show a consistent flow, moving through the topics and interviews promptly and not dedicating time to anecdotes. For example when Professor Rodger McIntyre and Jeanne MacDonagh were on the programme (26th October) speaking about living with bipolar disorder, Cooper does not divulge sympathy on the guest instead is very matter of fact, asking her how it affects her daily life and is quite blunt in putting the questions dealing with her medication and person life but it generates a positive response and the interviewee speaks openly about the topic to Cooper.

His overall presenting manner is conversational which is pleasant to listen to on a magazine radio show. Cooper comes across as a personalable and a person that the guest really warm to and can talk openly to. During the difficult task of interviewing the tragic victim of cyber bullying Ciara Pugsley (30th October) the presenter adopts a suitable sombre manner and the case clearly has been carefully researched as he really seems to engage with the interviewee and put a positive spin on an upsetting topic by discussing in depth how this can be prevented as he also speaks with Ian Power of SpunOut about online censorship and safety. I think the type of audience The Last Word would appeal to would be predominately male because it covers a lot of sport related topics where the guests are mainly men discussing all male sport. Cooper is very knowledgeable about this topic an obviously have a keen interest in sport himself, this is evident in the interview with Donal O’Grady (26th September) about the GAA All Star’s selection where the presenter is able to give direct reference to games and players without missing a beat.

This knowledge and level of research is appealing to both listeners and guest because it contributes to how well the show flows and it doesn’t come across as Cooper is reading from a script. To conclude, these shows have some similarities but on a whole do of the job of presentencing a current affairs programme in a way that will appeal to their respective audiences. The Right Hook is more anecdotal and very much the news told from George Hook’s perspective which will appeal to you if you are of a similar mind, or perhaps even if you completely disagree! He has a unique style of interviewing and has a very big personality that sometimes over powers his guests. On the other side of the spectrum, Drivetime is focused on the facts and figures rather than Mary Wilson’s opinion on the topic of the day.

She acts as the mediator between her interviewees but is spot on in her questioning style as I feel it reflects what the public want to know which is her role as her programme is broadcast by the PSB. Some may find her over all personality a bit lacking as she does not deal with her opinions or thoughts on any matter dealt with but some may find this to be an advantage as it means the information is given without bias. Finally, The Last Word with Matt Cooper comes across as perhaps the best of both worlds. Cooper divulges his own opinion on certain matters but always in an educated and well informed manner. He comes across as an enthusiastic presenter and interviewer with a wide range of personal interests which keeps the show fresh and lively.


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