Radio has been a part of Irish life for nearly a century. In 1926 2RN, which later became known as RTÉ Radio One, was established. Raidió Na Gaeltachta and RTÉ Radio 2 (now 2FM) didn’t follow until the 1970s. It was only in the last two decades that we began to see the multitude of commercial radio stations now broadcasting all over Ireland. You only have to travel a couple of clicks on your radio dial before you find a new station, writes John Holden .
As old-fashioned a media source as it is, radio still captures the imagination of people, young and old. There are quite a few radio projects in transition years nationwide. The Sound School Project is a joint effort between the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Dublin City FM to give schools in the docklands area the chance to put together a 30-minute pre-recorded show which is then broadcast in Dublin.
The schools involved this year – Marian College, Ringsend Technical Institute, Marino College, Larkin CC and St Joseph’s CBS in Fairview – have all been visited by personnel from Dublin City FM who give advice and information on how best to put together any radio programme. Michael Glynn of Dublin City FM has over 25 years experience in radio and was in Larkin CC recently to speak with TY students about the role of the presenter.
“Interview skills are crucial,” says Glynn. “Presenters need to represent the common man and ask the kinds of questions the listener would ask.” In addition, he explained the difference between open-ended and closed questions and the importance being one step ahead at all times. “Be prepared to abandon your planned questions if something interesting arises out of the interview.”
Many of the students are already bidding for their place on the radio team. “I would like to be a presenter,” says 15-year-old Thomas Byrne of Larkin CC. “I’m a good talker, I have a clear voice and I’m confident. You need all those things. I listen to the radio a lot. Generally I like stuff that’s funny and controversial. If I was working on a radio programme though, I’d like to work on the music and fashion segments.”
Mark Keeley (15), on the other hand, has his sights set on research. “I love learning about new subjects,” says Mark. “I like to know what’s going on around the world. I spend a lot of my time at home on the computer researching different subjects. For the radio programme I will need to get information from a lot of other sources – the internet, advertisements, newspapers, the television and of course the radio.”
Mick Hanley of Dublin City FM has been working on this community programme for the last three years. It hasn’t run the exact same way each year but this time round he is excited about the level of enthusiasm.
“We introduced the project to the schools before Christmas and gave them ideas as to how best to go about putting together a good show,” says Hanley. “Now they’re going to start coming into the radio station itself to learn how to use the equipment. Usually you have a lot of enthusiasm from students beforehand and there’s always plenty of people who want to be a presenter. Stick a microphone in front of them and things change, though.
“So we get students to decide between themselves who should take each role. Each team needs a producer, presenter, researcher and someone to help on the sound desk. It’s really all up to them, as is the content. We give them an idea as to what they should have in it – a mix of news, sport, music and maybe bring something into it about their school. Aside from a celebrity guest which we organise for them, though, they have to come up with their own ideas for the various slots.”
Gerard Brennan (17), a fifth-year student at Marino College, took part in the project two years ago and is going to do it all over again this year.
‘I really enjoyed it before,” he says. “We were invited to the radio station to have a look around. I really wanted to be a presenter and I can talk. So I was picked. We interviewed the Dublin GAA football manager Paul Caffrey. I spoke to him for about an hour and then we edited it down. The editing process was all new to me and I found it very interesting. It’s good that if you make a mistake you can just edit it. So there’s no pressure. This time round I’m definitely aiming to be presenter again.”
Stephen Gallagher, head of the IT department at Marino College, Dublin, is a big fan of the radio programme.
“In our school we’ve got fantastic facilities – interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, DVD players and sound equipment. I always encourage our students to use as much technology as they can and the Sound School radio project helps with that.
“Many of these kids are from tough backgrounds and wouldn’t have the best communication skills. So to see the students making their own radio show is a great achievement.”
‘Thanks to my team . . .’ The roles that keep the radio station on track
The radio producer looks after the overall running of the show. Their duties include deciding on the show’s content, keeping the show flowing on schedule and within the agreed format, organising callers for talkback radio or tracking music. It may seem like the presenter is the person calling all the shots on a radio show, but the producer is really in charge. In essence, they are responsible for the creation, organisation and direction of any live radio programme.
The presenter of a show is the person who is actually on air. It is their duty to interview guests, introduce music and each new part of the programme. They need to be good at multi-tasking as they have to talk, listen and be conscious of the time limits of each segment. Some presenters do little more than present their show, preferring to allow the contents of the show to speak for itself. However, there are also a number of radio personalities who bring a lot of their own character to the show. Many listeners tune in to a show because they like the presenter first and the contents of the radio show second. A number of other segments on shows require presenters of their own – news, sport, traffic and weather information.
The researcher on a radio programme is responsible for organising and compiling each segment. If the producer says she wants to interview a government minister, it is the researcher who must contact the minister to see if they are available, while also coming up with relevant questions for the presenter to ask. In addition, researchers help compile information about a given subject so that the presenter is up to speed on whatever issues are being raised on the show. Researchers must have a curious nature and be able to locate information on a variety of subjects.
The sound technician is an essential part of any radio team. It is their job to control the broadcast volume and sound quality through a sound desk which is made up of a bank of controls with sliders and faders that control the output of sound. Through their desk they play songs and other segments at the appropriate times. Technicians also begin and end the commercial breaks, record the show and are the all-round “techies” – good to have around when something goes wrong.
© 2009 The Irish Times