Real debate needs a wide range of voices
FOLLOWING the downfall of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, RTE Radio One’s This Week asked whether sexual harassment is as great a problem in Ireland too. Unfortunately, a promising premise amounted to nothing more than a prerecorded vox pop with midnight revellers in Dublin; an interview by the same reporter, John Burke, with a professor of women’s studies; followed by a studio discussion with the head of the Rape Crisis Centre, and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. An opportunity for a serious debate on an important issue was reduced instead to a series of well-intentioned gestures.
The only way to explore these issues is through more robust debate, but broadcasters are understandably terrified of the consequences of allowing a range of views, so retreat into timidity instead.
One starts to feel huge appreciation for even the slightest difference from the stream of uniform opinion. Take Monday’s edition of BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour, during which one US journalist explained that, for supporters of Donald Trump, the president is “their middle finger to the establishment”. This oughtn’t to be such a hard concept to grasp, but even that sounded radical in the otherwise deafening chorus of cartoonish anti-trump posturing that passes for analysis on the airwaves.
The fallout from the sentencing of former sportswriter Tom Humphries on charges of grooming and abusing a 14-year-old girl offered some other examples. Outrage at Humphries, and the friends who provided him with character references, was both justifiable and necessary in the immediate aftermath; Matt Cooper on Today FM’S Last Word led the charge, and his anger was heartfelt, genuine.
But Liveline went a bit deeper, with one caller on Tuesday trying to understand why Humphries’ friends might have been “duped”, pointing out that abusers can be extremely manipulative of those around them. That’s how they get away with it for so long. Joe Duffy followed up the next day with more harrowing stories of others who’d suffered, including Karen Leach, who was abused from the age of 10 by her swimming coach Derry O’rourke, who is now, she says, “living free in America”.
It made for hard listening, but was indispensable to understanding the impact of abuse, and no one handles these difficult themes as sensitively as Duffy.
By complete, and consolatory, contrast, Slow Radio on BBC Radio Three featured five Watch soundscapes IT NOW under the collective title Meditations Hardy Bucks From is on A the Monastery, RTE until recorded with monks from three abbeys in Britain.
Six The Nations first programme Rugby is on 3Player extolled until the virtues of December silence, quite 16; ironic on a medium such as Simply radio which Nigella pumps is on BBC out iplayer idiotic - currently chatter not 24 hours available a day. to “Imagine viewers in Ireland. a world without cars, without aeroplanes,” said one monk. “It’s heaven.” Next night, the subject was prayer, and that was a paean to silence too. “Take away the words, and take away everything else, and what’s left, we believe, that’s God, somewhere, somehow.” One doesn’t need to share the monks’ religious faith to appreciate such a beautiful programme.