The Radio Room

LOCAL RADIO: Man’s best friend?

"Here was a person living in rural Ireland. He trusts what he hears on radio. Radio is his best friend."

A few years back, I sat in Uncle Jimmy’s kitchen in the West of Ireland along with my Dad and siblings (You’re never too old to be dragged around visiting the country cousins by your Da). The chat stopped abruptly and we sat in silence as the death notices came on the radio. Jimmy listened intently as the sympathetic female voiceover went through the notices for that day.

“Mary Hedwin, Moss Road, Ballinasloe, died peacefully in her home….”

We continued to sit; daring not to interrupt in case Jimmy would miss anything. Calm-voiceover-lady continued…

“…PJ Mulhearn of Main Street, Knockrockery, Co. Roscommon. Reposing at Flynn’s Funeral Home tomorrow evening at 7…”

Jimmy sat upright. “Now, there’s one for me.” Just like that.

He looked around at us and continued (with one ear still cocked in the direction of the radio)… “He’d be a brother-in-law of a second cousin of mine from home, god rest him”. We looked around at each other, not sure whether to laugh or sympathise. The first thing that went through my head was that death notices are a bloomin’ social service to listeners!

Is this is what Jimmy plans his day/ week around?? Unbelievable!

BUT… how engaged he was (and it wasn’t just the death notices) stuck in my mind long afterwards; and it changed the way I looked at local radio.

Here was a person living in rural Ireland. He trusts what he hears on radio. Radio is his best friend. His local station not only keeps him up-to-date on what’s going on; it makes him listen, laugh, and overwhelmingly, it keeps him included. It keeps him company. It keeps him RELEVANT. 

When the radio is on, he’s never alone. It all sounds very old-school I know; but the sentiment of radio remains the same.

Urban folk might guffaw at the death notices as a bit of a joke. Or as commercial folk, we might roll our eyes now and again at an accent or colloquial banter. But do you know what? No matter what age the listener is (and they’re not all Jimmy’s vintage let me tell you!) local radio still works. It never stopped working! It works because it is tailored to local listeners and it resonates with them. They listen in their thousands and they listen all the time.

(11 of the 17 local stations outside of the urban areas showed an increase in audience in the latest JNLR figures; amazing results in the face of competition from ‘new’ media!)

The local garda station might have closed its doors. The Post Office might have shut up shop. But local radio in rural Ireland remains as relevant as ever.

Local Radio is still doing exactly what it says on the tin.  

Until next time!


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