The mystery of just what our licence fee is funding
JOHN Kelly is one of the best broadcasters in Ireland, and Mystery Train is arguably the finest music programme on Irish radio. Its axing from Radio One more than a decade ago remains one of RTE’S more questionable decisions. That doesn’t mean its current revival on a different station is the right call either.
Lyric FM may be trying to rebrand itself as “a music station with a classical bias whilst also offering the listener a vast and eclectic array of music from all periods, continents, genres, styles” — but its original remit was much clearer. It was “Ireland’s national classical music and arts station”, and, as such, listeners knew exactly what to expect.
These days, as well as lots of Kelly’s beloved free jazz, anyone tuning in of an evening is more likely to hear Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Bjork, Radiohead; even, recently, God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols, and the theme music from ’70s’ police show, The Streets Of San Francisco.
There’s a serious question here, which is: why is licence fee money funding this?
People might be willing to pay for a public service that makes room for less popular cultural activities, funding performers and composers of new music... but the Sex Pistols? Seriously?
The same goes for 2FM. There’s no discernible difference between its output and that on commercial pop music stations — so why should it be publicly funded by a single cent? What’s crazier is that this shift in Lyric policy is not even bringing in larger audiences, so cannot be justified on crowd-pleasing grounds.
Marty In The Morning is flying in the ratings with its blend of cheery banter, light classical and easy listening, but the station overall lost 12pc of its audience in the third quarter of 2018 alone, and has a national share of just 1.7pc, down from 4pc a few short years ago. Mystery Train now has 8,000 fewer listeners than the presenter’s former afternoon show, The John Kelly Ensemble. Not only that, but its current audience of 22,0000 is lower than the 28,000 who in 2017 were tuning in nightly to The Lyric Concert which it replaced.
It’s also produced the bizarre situation where the second hour of Mystery Train now competes directly with The John Creedon Show on RTE Radio One, thereby squeezing the potential audience of musos further.
Lyric is chronically underfunded, receiving a mere 2pc of RTE’S overall budget, and hasn’t received an increase since 2013; but expanded funding wouldn’t solve this stagnation. Instead it’s about RTE’S failure to define what Lyric stands for, or understand what its listeners want.
Newstalk’s Moncrieff does seem to know what his audience wants, which is quirkiness leavened with a dash of popular science. On Tuesday, Sean asked whether animals can know right from wrong.
The answer? It’s complicated... but perhaps. It depends what you mean by morality. Rats, for one, stop eating if the result of taking food is that other rats are given electric shocks. There was one notable exception, though: “Kangaroos seem to be pretty stupid.”
So much for Skippy’s reputation. Is nothing sacred?