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Analysis of Pat Kennys decision to leave RTE to join Newstalk. With Pat Kenny Video Interview.

PK to NT 

Full video interview with Pat Kenny at the bottom of this article.

The news today that legendary RTE broadcaster Pat Kenny is to leave the state broadcaster after 41 years is a major shock to the Irish broadcasting landscape.  The shock move by Irelands Independent Talk radio station Newstalk106-108fm is a massive coup for the station and will be a huge boost to listening and earning potential for the station.  Kenny will anchor a new current affairs magazine and news show from 10am until 12.30pm from the 2nd of September.

Pat Kenny joined RTÉ as a part-time radio announcer in 1972. He moved quickly into broadcasting and later presented ‘Today Tonight’ winning a Jacob’s award in 1986 for his three radio programmes: ‘Saturday View’, ‘The Kenny Report’ and ‘The Outside Track’. Following the 1988 ‘Eurovision Song Contest’, which he co-hosted with Michelle Rocca, he presented a number of chat shows, including ‘Kenny Live’. He took over as host for ‘The Late Late Show’ from Gay Byrne in 1999 which he continued to present for the following ten years.

In 2009 he was announced as the presenter of current affairs debate programme ‘The Frontline’, moving in January 2013 as one of the presenting team of current affairs programme ‘Prime Time’. Pat Kenny has been a presenter on RTÉ Radio 1 on his morning current affairs programme ‘Today with Pat Kenny’ since the 1980s, and has won multiple awards across his career.

Welcoming Pat to Newstalk, Station Editor, Garrett Harte said: “Pat Kenny’s arrival marks a significant milestone for Newstalk and reflects our long-term commitment to the development of independent radio, in Ireland. Pat is one of Ireland’s most respected broadcasters with an outstanding pedigree in quality journalism. His addition to the Newstalk team will greatly add to our on-air offering and is a further demonstration of the ambition of this station. I am delighted to welcome him to Newstalk.”

The move will greatly enhance Newstalks reputation and profile and will surely attract the interest of sponsors and advertisers to the station, however much Kenny is due to be paid may well be recouped to some degree in the earning potential the broadcaster will bring to the station.  Listeners are very loyal and many throughout the country are reluctant to switch from the state broadcaster after years of dedication to the state provider, however the lure of Pat Kenny may prove too strong for many and it will be interesting to see the impact the move will have over the next few JNLR listenership books.

The JNLR figures are the bible of the radio industry and the main determiner in the choices of advertisers at to where to advertise their products.  Currently Today with Pat Kenny on RTE has a listenership of 328,000 which increased by 3,000 in the last JNLR book, he is moving to a timeslot in Newstalk that is currently presented by Something Happens singer, Tom Dunne, that has a listenership of in the region of 55,000.  Kenny will be expected to significantly increase that figure and it expected that many will follow him from RTE.  Newstalk has not revealed what will happen to Tom Dunne, but it has stated he will remain with the station but they have not revealed in what capacity or if he is to be offered a new programme.

What Kenny is being paid is unknown and because Newstalk is a commercial independent station it will not be obliged to release those figures, but we can presume his wage will be substantial as he earned €630,000 in 2011, €729,604 in 2009 and €950,976 in 2008 with RTE.  At the moment it seems he will no longer be broadcasting on TV and surely now there is an opening for Independent TV station TV3 to swoop in and offer a new television programme to the 65 year old.

Pat Kenny in a press release today said, “Like many of my colleagues, I have always regarded Newstalk as a valuable source of news and comment. I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the growth of Newstalk and to be part of a new team where, hopefully, my experience will also add value. I am relishing the challenge ahead and looking forward to a new chapter in my career, with the world of independent broadcasting, helping to develop Newstalk into the talk radio of choice for listeners countrywide.”

Responding to the decision of Kenny to leave the station, RTÉ Director General Noel Curran said: ‘Pat has made a huge contribution to RTÉ over many years on both television and radio. Always meticulously prepared, he is a broadcaster of real talent, range and integrity. I have worked with Pat as a Producer of both his Current Affairs and his Entertainment series and I know the range of his talent. Pat Kenny’s contract with RTÉ expired earlier this year and we have been aware for some time that he had an offer from commercial radio. Through lengthy negotiations every effort was made to retain Pat’s services but unfortunately we could not come to an agreement. I would like to wish Pat the very best for the future and I would like to thank him, both personally and as Director General for his contribution to broadcasting on RTÉ. We must all now look ahead to refreshing our Radio 1 Schedule, on the back of the very strong JNLR figures last week.’

Although the move is a major boost for Newstalk, it will cause major headaches for RTE, who will now need to reschuffle their schedule, the choices they make will be highly significant for the state broadcaster.  Music promoter, Louis Walsh, speaking on The Mooney Show today on RTE suggested that legendary Irish broadcaster, Gay Byrne, should be the person to replace Pat Kenny, and re-establish himself on the slot he previously held.  Byrne is currently presenting a music programme on RTE’s Lyric FM, and if they could convince him to move back to RTE Radio 1, it could be the answer to all their problems.  It is probably more likely that someone like Miriam O’Callaghan, one of Kennys co-presenters on the current affairs TV programme, Primetime, would be the most likely replacement, and it would address the lack of female broadcasters in primetime slots on the national broadcaster.  O’Callaghan has been standing in for John Murray on his 9am to 10am programme on RTE for the past few months.  Others in the running to take over from Kenny are Aine Lawlor, Audrey Carville, Ryan Tubridy, Today FM’s Matt Cooper.  However, the latest favourite with the bookies, Claire Byrne, who is being tipped in this mornings papers and social media circles to be the successor to Pat Kenny, seems to be out in front and appears to be the most likely person to take over the slot.

Whatever the fallout from Kenny’s decision to move to Newstalk, it will be a massive change to the broadcasting landscape and could be the cataylst that sees Newstalk become a real and significant challenger to the state broadcaster.  September traditionally sees scheduling changes announced and Newstalk appear to have caught RTE on the hop, the state broadcaster will now have to react decisively and quickly to counter Newstalks check mate move.  We can expect massive marketing and publicity campaigns by both organisations to win the battle of the mid morning market.  It will take time for Newstalk to realise the listenership increase, but it is not inconceivable that the independent broadcaster could achieve a tripling of its mid morning audience by September of 2014 and  RTE could face a decimation of it’s mid morning listenership similiar to that suffered by 2fm after the passing of Gerry Ryan.  The Irish radio landscape is facing very interesting times over the next year or so.



One comment on “Analysis of Pat Kennys decision to leave RTE to join Newstalk. With Pat Kenny Video Interview.

  1. Pingback: Poll: Will you move to Newstalk to listen to Pat Kennys new programme or stick with RTE? | irishonlineradio

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