Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Gaybo Revolution

It is no exaggeration to call Gay Byrne a colossus of the Irish broadcasting world. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, as host of both The Late Late Show and The Gay Byrne Show, he played a seminal role in the shift in Irish society and culture from the Church-dominated, fearful state of the early 1960s to the modern, multicultural Ireland of today.

Reviled and revered in equal measure, Byrne was ‘the great window-opener’ and a ‘media lay priest’ who shone a spotlight on some of the darkest and most taboo areas of Irish life. Using media articles, letters to Irish newspapers, recent studies of Irish culture, quotes from Byrne himself and a re-examination of his original broadcasts, The Gaybo Revolution explores how Byrne and his programmes provided a forum for popular debate and were catalysts for change in Irish life.

Examining controversies that shocked the nation, such as the Bishop and the Nightie affair, and the Ann Lovett letters, as well as seminal interviews with Annie Murphy, Pádraig Flynn, Gerry Adams and Terry Keane, Finola Doyle-O’Neill takes us on a journey through Ireland’s recent past. The Gaybo Revolution will appeal to anyone who is interested in the evolution of Irish society and culture in the late twentieth century. 

A fantastic read which lays bare much of the journey not just one TV show took but an entire nation on a Saturday night. This is one book that should be 'one for everyone in the audience'.

Author Dr Finola Doyle-O’Neill is a broadcast historian with the School of History at UCC where she lectures in Ireland’s Film and Media History. She has contributed widely to public debates and conferences on Ireland’s media history, and was convenor of TV50, a collaboration between UCC and RTÉ celebrating 50 years of television in Ireland. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015


I have recently listened to some of the great OTR (Old Time Radio) stations through the 'tunein' app and two thoughts occurred to me. Firstly having listened to so many great programmes from the golden era of US radio, I feel in Ireland we have lost so much great radio from RTE because of the lack of recordings which in turn was due to the lack of finances afforded to the state broadcaster.

The golden era of US radio is usually associated with the late thirties, forties and fifties up to the period when television began to replace radio drama as radio moved more to music and news delivery. On stations such as WNAR, Antioch 1710 or Rumsey Retro Radio you can hear some great dramas such as The Whistler, Suspense or The Lives of Harry Lime (from the Third Man starring Orson Wells), comedy programmes like You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx, The Jack Benny Show or Abbot & Costello.

Perhaps Irish programmes such as one off dramas or The Kennedy's of Castleross would be worth listening to again. Reviews for Radio Eireann programmes were often flowing with praise and how I would love to hear some of the great Irish actors who appeared on the radio.

Secondly stations in the US such as WNAR are available on line but also on medium wave (AM) as a microstation. A microstation broadcasts locally on very low wattage but they are able to broadcast to niche markets without much big brother controls from the FCC. Perhaps a similar system of low powered transmitters could be employed in Ireland on AM frequencies in around 1500 - 1600 Khz where no Irish stations exist and low power would cause little interference to UK stations.