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Readers' blog: Newstalk is hardly diverse or innovative

Recent events on radio station Newstalk resulted in the dinosaur (aka George Hook) being fired for his insensitive remarks.

Subsequently, he has been given another slot on the radio station at weekends (to start in January). The ‘firing’ has turned into a ‘sabbatical’ — for three months; nice one.

We live in a democracy. Speech is free (thank goodness). Most businesses will target certain customers, and Newstalk is no different. It targets male listeners by employing mainly male presenters with, for the most part, a machismo style of presentation that typifies much of the entertainment industry. If they miss their mark, advertisers and sponsors will withdraw and the station will go out of business.

So far so good. But, the question is, would the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) — the regulatory body tasked with achieving “a responsible and accountable broadcasting sector” — have any concerns? It has a number of statutory responsibilities two of which are relevant here (taken from the website):

1. Ensuring that the number and categories of broadcasting services in the State best serve the needs of the people of the island of Ireland;

2. Stimulating the provision of high- quality, diverse, and innovative programming by commercial, community and public service broadcasters and independent producers.

A line-up of alpha male presenters talking endlessly about sports (25 hours a week!) and frequently about current affairs is hardly diverse and innovative. The female presenters have been siloed off to Saturday morning, 8am-9am and Saturday and Sunday evening, 8pm-10pm. This station serves mainly the needs of men rather than the ‘people of Ireland’, half of whom are women.

Imagine a station called Womenstalk with mainly female anchors — and men only being allowed to present for an hour at unpopular times during the weekend. Imagine knowing the discussion would always be led by a woman — women asking the questions, facilitating debates: On Irish politics, abortion, Brexit, Catalonia, Syria, the EU, Trump, paternity leave, and sports of course (an hour a day would be plenty for this listener.) No doubt some men would listen in too.

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire

Co Dublin

Ireland


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