A Response to Roger Doyle

A list of points made by Aodán Ó Dubhghaill, Head of RTÉ lyric fm, in response to the talk given by Roger Doyle at the Mostly Modern Open Forum.

RTÉ lyric fm is not just ‘the classical music radio station’, rather we are RTÉ’s ‘music and arts’ channel.

• While meetings took place prior to me being appointed Head of RTÉ lyric fm I am always open to such conversations. Since taking over as Head of lyric I have not been contacted by anyone about increasing the Irish-composed output on lyric. I would be very interested to know what is being referred to here – does it refer to all Irish-composed music or just a small section of Irish-composed music? Our current output on lyric stands at 6+% Irish content (composers and performers). There is an outline of some of lyric’s commissions given below.

• It is simply wrong to say that we are hiding away our Irish composers – far from it. We are trying to increase their prominence in the schedule. This is about broadcasting and is not something I wish to apologise for – all radio stations are ‘under incredible pressure to keep its listenership up’. I would go one step further – each radio station is under incredible pressure to increase its listenership! We broadcast to people and the listener is the most important person that we consider. That is our raison d’étre. Without an audience we simply don’t exist. RTÉ is co-funded – licence fee and advertising – both of which are crucial to our existence and both of which need to be satisfied. Irish-composed music in the ‘Celtic/ Riverdance’ style is popular and people want to hear it just as they want to hear the music of Beethoven, Mozart and Stravinsky.

• You may take sentences like the tongue-in-cheek ‘It goes on a bit, doesn’t it’ regarding Ravel’s Bolero out of context – but it was a joke! Lyric has never been desperate not to lose listeners – our audience is increasing!

• The ad campaign you refer to is old (3 years+) – have a look and listen to more recent ads.

• To say that you will never hear music that is mind-expanding and groundbreaking on Irish radio is wrong. Look at the examples below – just a small sample of lyric’s ‘new music’ output. Please listen to the radio.

RTÉ lyric fm’s 2004 commissions, far from being easy listening, are from these composers: Vincent Kennedy, Frankie Gavin, Marion Ingoldsby, Rob Canning, Mikael Fernstrom, Ben Dwyer, Frank Corcoran, Brent Parker, and Ronan Guilfoyle. We said we were particularly interested in short pieces for daytime radio – we never said that we would commission nothing else, and many of these pieces, or parts of them, will be played on daytime lyric fm.

• I moved the Horizons programme from being an hour-long programme for six months of the year to a year-round half hour as I felt the new music activity in Ireland deserves to be reflected all-year-round. The team working on this programme recently asked for more time as they wish to be able to play longer pieces. I am currently looking at this request. Stay tuned!

• The Horizons programme is not the only place in lyric where you will hear new Irish-composed works – try listening to Soundings, The Full Score, The lyric Concert and other places in the schedule. It is not my belief that new music, particularly Irish new music, should be ghettoised on its own or into its own programme, rather it should stand up and be played alongside other composers.

For instance, this year so far we have included the following pieces in The lyric Concert on Tuesday evenings:

4/1/05: Seóirse Bodley, A small white cloud drifts over Ireland (15’)
11/1/05:George Osborne, Piano Trio (23’),
18/1/05: Mantovani, RTÉ LMF 2004 (13’)
25/01/05: Dusapin, RTÉ LMF 2004 (8’)
1/2/05: Siobhán Cleary, Morphine, RTÉ LMF 2004 (7`)
8/2/05: Saariaho, RTE LMF 2004 (9’)
15/2/05: Maresz, RTÉ LMF 2004 (15’)
16/02/05: Jane O’Leary, In the Stillness of Time (20’)
22/02/05: Ailís Ní Riain, DON’T (5’)
1/3/05: Rachel Holstead, Enchant (5’)
8/3/05: Gerald Barry, Piano Quartet no.1 (11’)
15/3/05: RTÉ LMF 2005, Donatoni (15’)
17/03/05: John Kinsella, Triptych (11’) and Osborne (4’)
22/3/05: Benjamin Dwyer, Paralaxis (7’)
12/4/05: Frank Corcoran, A Mhairín de Bharra, RTÉ lyric fm commission (5’)
4/5/05: (tbc) Benjamin Dwyer, Voces Criticas, RTÉ lyric fm commission (15’)
19/5/05: (tbc) Raymond Deane, Concursus
(This is not a complete list of Irish composers broadcast on lyric – only a sample of one programmes output for the first five months of this year.)

• There is not, to my knowledge, a ‘British equivalent to RTÉ lyric FM’. RTÉ lyric fm is unique and has a unique (Irish) audience, although our listenership abroad is on the increase. Lyric is also a service based in a country of 4 million people. BBC Radio 3 is funded from a population 15 times that size! You can tune to Horizons and other programmes online also if you wish.

• Roger Doyle’s royalty payments indicating that his music is played more abroad are directly related to the size of the audience abroad.

• There has been no subtle new development. There has always been a lazy mind view that philistinism is alive and well and living in public service broadcasting. If there were any substance to what Roger Doyle was saying he wouldn’t be beating a tired old drum like this.

You don’t have any ‘enemies of artistic expression’ in RTÉ (if you are including us as a ‘cultural institution’) and particularly in RTÉ Radio and RTÉ’s Performing Groups. We have increased our commissioning from Irish composers and will continue to give Irish music the best exposure by bringing it to as wide an audience as possible both here in Ireland and abroad through our colleagues in the European Broadcasting Union.

RTÉ lyric fm is broadcast on 96-99 FM, Sky channel 915, and www.rte.ie/lyricfm


Published on 1 May 2005

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