All of RTÉ Radio flagship shows have taken a battering in the last 12 months according to the latest listenership figures, along with sister station of 2fm.
Morning Ireland (sometimes dubbed Mourning Ireland for the relentless gloom) is down 41,000 to 450,000, while Claire Byrne is down 29,000 listeners to 340,000,
Joe Duffy’s Liveline has lost almost 60,000 listeners down to 346,000 from last year’s high of 404,000.
Then there’s the Ray D’Arcy’s slot – trailing at 210,000 after a drop of 32,000. That means almost 140,000 listeners tune out at 3pm when the D’Arcy show begins, despite the presenter earning a whopping €450,000.
Personally, I have not voluntarily tuned into Ray since he was the warmup act for the talented extra-terrestrials Zig and Zag back in the day, but I was led to believe that lots of people do, and that justified his enormous salary. That seems to be less and less the case.
The main reason being proposed for the fall in listeners – which ranged from around 10% for Morning Ireland to 15% in D’Arcy’s case – is that listenership was unusually high in 2020 due to the “Nation” (we had one once apparently) being glued to the set to be told whether it was safe to put the bin out or walk the bowler.
There is some substance to that if you look at the 2019 average figures, although poor old Ray’s slide down the firmament seems to be long-term rather than connected to the pandemic.
I do not know whether that is the case, as I would prefer to watch a recording of the Dublin Kerry semi-final from 2009 in preference, and I left Croke Park before the second half of that humiliating event.
It is of course entirely possible that more people reverted to the radio during the height of the panic. Or rather what we naively believed was the height of the panic which has now become a bit like Orwell’s wars between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Just when it seems that peace has been declared with Delta, along comes the Omi lad – conveniently skipping over the Xi one because let’s face it, no one wants to drag the Chinese Communist Party nomenklatura into the whole Covid alphabet nomenclature thing. No one minds othering the poor Greeks of course.
There is some suggestion that listeners are not actually giving up on the wireless for good, but that they are moving the dial, as young people say, to some FM things, many of them pitching their appeal on a more local basis. I am not going to test that one, but if its true of national newspapers, it is possibly also true of radio stations.
Of course, the one reason for the fall off in punters that is generally unacknowledged may be that many people are just fed up of the constant hectoring from RTÉ in particular, (although Newstalk and TV Three have their shoulders to the mast as well), on a whole range of stuff from promoting the lockdown, successfully lobbying for the vaccination of young children, climate change, how great Joe Biden is, why white people and especially Irish people are devils, and so on and so forth.
Perhaps a discerning minority of those who were devotees of the talking heads – although perhaps that is not the correct term, disembodied voices perhaps? – have just had enough. You just want to pass your time in the kitchen making your dinner or drinking gin in the morning in bed or driving, while listening to the Beatles or Frankie Vaughan and not be bothered by someone who thinks that having a communications degree and a nice voice and a not repulsive physiognomy means that they are Laois’s or Kildare’s or Gonzaga’s version of Marcus Aurelius.
Enough already they may be thinking. My own brief return to the airwaves ended sometime late in 2020 when relaxing evenings with the earphones listening to Lyric or Radio na Gaeltachta or some of the excellent music programmes RTÉ had were not even safe from the party line. I think the final straw was when someone introduced a Billy Holiday recording from the 1930s with an incoherent ramble on why Donald Trump was, like, worse than fookin’ Herman Goering.