RTE: The same tired old formats

The RTÉ formats remain the same, tired dreary, obsolete - The Late Late Show returns and the RTÉ One Radio schedule has not been livened up much. And a once bright talent, Ryan Tubridy has been encouraged to belittle his ability and his substance. By Maggie Kenneally


The autumn schedule is back on RTÉ, more of the same, and more of the same again. Will there ever come a time when the tired formats are retired and new formats explored?

The Late Late Show is so jaded now as to be sclerotic. Pat Kenny, who remains a superb radio broadcaster, is an embarrassment on television, the format of the programme is awful now because of its sameness. A new set won't make a difference. The show and the format should be closed down.

So too Questions and Answers. The same format for decades, the same elderly presenter. The same dreary panellists. The set up questions, the awkward interventions of audience members. Stilted, monotonous, repetitive.

Prime Time is also dreary to tedious most of the time. Yes a few times a year Prime Time Investigates creates a stir but the usual Tuesday/Thursday formats? Does nobody get a new idea on how to do these things?

The Rose of Tralee programmes got up to a million viewers. Does that mean RTÉ cannot change that format? Isn't there some way of making this programme a bit livelier, a bit more challenging, a bit more entertaining?

Same on radio. The Ryan Tubridy gab-fest at 9.00am, followed by Pat Kenny, who himself is superb but again the format and the content? Boring, boring. An attempt is being made to refresh the night schedule but putting an arts programme on at 10.00pm and then Tom McGurk on at 11.00pm. Refresh?

Is there intelligent life in RTÉ and if so where?

How did RTÉ miss out on the Rugby World Cup? How come TV3 snitched that along with Setanta? Is this the beginning of the end of RTE's dominance on radio and television, a dominance it has enjoyed not because of the excellence of the programmes or broadcasters but because of the legacy of a monopoly position for so long?

The arena is about to change dramatically, I suspect. The internet will intrude into television is a few short years in a way that will transform the medium.

The radio heads will be buoyed up by the recent listenership figures showing most programmes gained listeners since the last survey. A few comments on those. First the changes are so miniscule as to be of no significance at all. Secondly, these improved blips disguise a pattern of lost listeners going back over a decade. Of course this is inevitable in a changing market place but should it not prompt RTÉ chiefs into some innovative broadcasting that might help to buck that trend?

Think of what someone in the media world, akin to what Michael O'Leary is in the airline world, would do with the RTÉ schedules?

The best programme over the summer was Charity You're a Star. The programme was awful. The participants invariably awful – one especially. The panellists – or two of them – were terrible, the presenter frighteningly bad. But it was still the best programme RTÉ has done in an age.

 And let me acknowledge, there was one star, who might work in a different setting, Brendan O'Connor. I never thought I would write this, never since I came across him in UCC decades ago.

But he is clever, he is funny, and now he understands the medium and the audience. And the boorishness has been toned down.

Wouldn't it make sense to put him in the slot occupied by The Late Late Show now? Give him a new format and let him off. It might work. Couldn't be worse than the Late Late.

Matt Cooper, on Today FM's Last Word, continues to impress as among the most professional of the current affairs broadcasters. He is informed, clever, his voice has settled down, he can be even vaguely humurous at times (not that often, let me acknowledge). There is a substance to him which is lacking so much elsewhere.

Another who impressed over the summer was Anton Savage, first as a stand-in for Ryan Tubridy and then a stand-in for Matt Cooper. He knows his stuff too, very professional, doesn't gab on and on like you-know-who but, that said some of his programmes on RTÉ were truly awful. One morning he had to talk about the colour black for what seemed like hours.

It was awful. Who did that to him?

Isn't it a pity what is happening to Ryan Tubridy. An intelligent young man, who did some good current affairs broadcasting a few years ago. Great voice.

Now he has become a personality. He has cheapened his talent, maybe irretrievably. Bit by bit he is destroying his credibility and his substance. And nobody out there tells him stop.