Pat Kenny still hits after all these years

Pat Kenny‘s Newstalk show topped the list of complaints filed with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) last year. How did the experienced sender take the news?

I was excited,” he says. “That means we hit the spot.”

since i left RTÉ In 2013, Kenny has permission to be more headstrong — which could at least explain some of the 44 BAI complaints, none of which have been upheld. Kenny considers the conviction a badge of honour.

“Gaybo once told me, ‘If they don’t complain about you, then you’re not doing your job right.'”

Gay Byrne retired from full-time broadcasting at age 65. Last year Kenny signed a contract that will keep him with Newstalk until 2023 when he turns 75. He sees no reason to stop – and as Newstalk celebrates 20 years on television, Kenny’s show has the channel’s best numbers at 184,000 listeners.

Consistency is the key to longevity in broadcasting, he says — that and the ability to handle criticism. Though he says he felt hurt by bad reviews in the early days.

“At first you are very upset and hurt. But even if you deliver a good audience and program overall, you’re always going to have bad days. I’m sure I’ve had interviews that make me squirm when I look back. But now, when a critic picks it up, you just examine it and move on.

“You can’t do business with thin skin. It’s a bit like having calluses on your hands when you’re working in the fields – they’re there to protect your hands.”


Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny at an RTÉ party in 1998

Kenny took an often harsh line during the worst of the Covid crisis and his home in Dalkey, Co Dublin, was attacked by anti-vaccination protesters in recent months – a fact that went unreported at the time.

“There was a picket line at the end of the street where I live. I was on the air when they assembled and the Gardai were there. They paced her and then they broke up.”

In a widely publicized incident, he was confronted by a vaccination opponent who filmed him walking his dog at a local park. “You should be able to walk in the park without getting angry,” he says today.

Has it changed his routine? He says he hasn’t taken the same walk for a few days, but “when you start wrapping yourself up and isolating yourself, pretty soon you’re not going to understand what’s going on.”

A video was posted last week showing Leo Varadkar being verbally abused while running.

“Leo says it’s part of the territory and in a way he’s right,” says Kenny. “When you have a profile, you stick your head over the parapet – and there are a few people who are always going to throw stones at you.

“The problem is that in Britain, something like Sir David Amess – and before that Jo Cox – is being murdered. It hasn’t happened here yet, but the kind of abuse people are pelted with online encourages others.”


Pat Kenny on The Late Late Show in 1999

Almost nine years have passed since he left RTÉ, unhappy at the decision to ‘subsume’ his. front line current events show in prime time.

“I know it was the wrong decision because they reversed it when I left and it became Claire Byrne tonight. They took it off again prime time as soon as they could properly.

“I couldn’t negotiate a separate deal for radio, and then when Newstalk approached me, I was like, ‘What the hell, I have nothing left to prove at RTÉ.'”

He doesn’t hesitate to criticize the national channel, especially for the use of talent.

“The problem with broadcasting is Find the talent. In all my time at RTÉ I was never interviewed for any job – I was auditioned. And I think it’s a problem that hasn’t been recognized by broadcasters, especially RTÉ, who are now interviewing people for television. Really, if you’re looking for performance, you should audition people.

“Moderators need the knowledge, but they also need the X-factor. If they can’t sell it unless they can be likable on TV, it won’t work. And the only way to find out is to audition her. Don’t forget that in the early days of television, all the boys came from showbiz – even RTÉ’s original news anchor, Charles Mitchel, was an actor.”

He cites Dave Fanning as an example of wasted talent at Montrose.

“I never thought Dave would come into his own because of the way he was programmed – but you can only run a program that your employer allows you to do.”


Pat Kenny and Dave Fanning

Gay Byrne, Kenny’s predecessor on the Late Late ShowHe had high-profile money problems, not least badly affected by the 2008 crash. Kenny was hit too, but these days he’s in bad shape financially. Pat Kenny Media Services Ltd’s cumulative profit is now €2.05 million, up from €1.8 million in 2020, according to the latest reports.

“I don’t work because I have to, I work because I enjoy it.”

How much did he lose in the crash?

“It was just one of those things. Nothing hurts me, let me put it that way.”

With or without Newstalk, Kenny is expected to continue beyond the age of 75 and is hoping to work with a production company to develop a project that could be sold overseas.

“These ideas are just tongue in cheek – but I’m playing with them in my head.”

Meanwhile, he’s also not in favor of filming in the Battle of Bullock Harbor, having played a leading role in resisting repeated attempts by developer Richard Barrett’s Bartra company to get approval for a mixed-use project not far from his to receive at home.

In the midst of a housing crisis, should residents object to housing projects? “We built Ballymun because there was a housing shortage and then had to tear it down. The planning should be right. Any developer who buys a tricky website is betting on the Grand National. It can go big at 50-1 or they lose their jersey.”

Barrett and Bartra, he says, should have spoken to those who objected before finalizing the plans, “but maybe that doesn’t happen with developers. Maybe they’ll just walk in and take a punt and hope they get what they’re looking for on the first try. And if they don’t, they’re going to go in over and over again and wear people down.”

Good luck wearing Pat Kenny down, but he says he’s ready to talk.

“I’d be delighted to meet Richard – if he’s happy to sit down with me.” Pat Kenny still hits after all these years

Fry Electronics Team

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