Belfast Telegraph

Eilis O'Hanlon: Another slap in face for older people after the ending of free TV licences for over-75s

Sean Coyle with wife Patricia
Sean Coyle with wife Patricia
Eilis O'Hanlon

By Eilis O'Hanlon

The sacking of Sean Coyle from his BBC morning radio show is further proof that older people are the last remaining group in society against whom it's acceptable to discriminate.

What do bosses in Broadcasting House think Radio Ulster/Foyle is - Cool FM?

It will come as little comfort to the much-loved veteran broadcaster, but local and national radio and TV stations are now regularly dumping long-serving, popular presenters in the same cruel way in search of the elusive youth audience.

A former boss of Radio 1 has actually said that what matters these days is "how radio looks on a screen", because that's how the audience they're interested in attracting consumes music and other entertainment.

So much for loyal listeners with their radios turned on in the kitchen or the car.

Former Radio 1 presenter Mike Smith summed up this madness a few years ago: "I don't know why the BBC is slavishly following demographics invented by advertisers when they don't take advertising."

The benefit of having a publicly funded broadcasting service is that it allows shows to be made for audiences who'd otherwise be ignored.

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Sacrificing older listeners whilst simultaneously planning to take away free TV licenses for the over 75s is a slap in the face. Why should they pay for something that treats them with such ill-disguised contempt?

To have this decision announced days after the fifth anniversary of the death of legendary broadcaster Gerry Anderson, with whom Coyle formed such a long and iconic radio partnership, just rubs salt into the wounds.

Like the gentleman that he is, he's taken his shock departure with good grace, wishing his successor, whoever it happens to be, all the best; but he sounded understandably hurt when breaking the bad news on his final Friday show after 35 years with the BBC.

No one has a right to be on air forever. Change is inevitable. But tinkering with a tried and tested formula, without the slightest idea if what replaces it will work or be welcomed by the existing audience, is like betting the farm on an unknown horse at Down Royal in the hope that it romps home.

It usually doesn't.

There was something uniquely Northern Irish about Sean Coyle's show, sandwiched as it was between those two other local institutions, Stephen Nolan and Talkback.

The fear must be that it will now be replaced by something bland and non-specific, that sounds as if it comes from nowhere, stands for nothing, and satisfies no one.

Belfast Telegraph


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