‘The funding model for public service media … is not working’: Eoin Brady Leaves RTÉ Lyric FM
After twenty-one years, producer with RTÉ Lyric FM Eoin Brady has left the station for a new role at the University of Limerick.
Brady was a senior producer with the station and also created and developed the station’s record label which now has a catalogue of 60 releases. His role at the university, which he will begin on 5 May, is Internal Communications Manager, a newly created position that he will develop.
Originally from Cork, Brady worked as a community radio station manager in Limerick and also with Druid theatre company in Galway before joining Lyric in 1999 as a producer. His first assignment was Lyric Notes presented by Máire Nic Gearailt and he developed the ‘Quiet Quarter’ radio essay slot which turned into two popular books. He subsequently produced the educational programme ABC# presented by composer John Buckley, The Third Wave presented by Eamonn Linehan, Blue of the Night with Paul Herriott and Carl Corcoran, The JK Ensemble presented by John Kelly, and most recently Classic Drive and Weekend Drive. During his tenure with Classic Drive, presented by Lorcan Murray, the listenership has increased from 35 to 50 thousand.
Brady is leaving the music and arts station, however, because of the ongoing uncertainty around its future. Last year, it was suggested on RTÉ’s Primetime programme that Lyric’s Limerick studio would be closed and the station moved to Cork and Dublin. A public outcry meant the decision was deferred.
‘The funding model for public service media … is not working,’ says Brady.
Consequently, it’s constantly under threat of cut-backs and because of the nature of Lyric, and the size of Lyric, and its location, we are under increased threat, so we had to spread the risk [his wife Sinéad Wylde is also a producer with Lyric]. I’m sad to leave radio because I love radio, but I’m excited at making the change because I’ve done it for twenty-one years.
Record label future
Brady has been an advocate for Irish music and artists via his programmes, through commissioning new works, and across the Lyric record label for two decades. He developed the label after ABC# created demand among primary teachers for recordings of classical works. From there, he went on produce a range of recordings of works by Irish composers such as Aloys Fleischmann, Seán Ó Riada, Seóirse Bodley, Deirdre Gribbin, Kevin Volans, Bill Whelan and Donnacha Dennehy as well as recordings by artists Finghin Collins, Celine Byrne, Catherine Leonard and Hugh Tinney, Una Hunt, Alex Petcu and Michael McHale, and groups such as Camerata Kilkenny, Vanbrugh Quartet and the Irish Baroque Orchestra. The Masters of the Irish Harp and Masters of Tradition CDs were also released on the label.
There are two more recordings currently on the way, a recording from Clíona Doris of Brian Boydell’s harp works and a Neil Martin song cycle featuring Iarla Ó Lionáird. Brady has also commissioned a new work from Ryan Molloy for the Irish Chamber Orchestra for its 50th anniversary in September. ‘I loved working with musicians because they’re people who are incredible at what they do,’ said Brady. ‘There are Irish musicians who are just world class.’
He does not know if the label will survive his departure, however, which raises the question over who will release recordings of orchestral work by Irish composers in the future. As composer Garrett Sholdice wrote in the Journal of Music about the label in 2015, ‘Who else can make this kind of work visible if not the national broadcaster?’
Neither is there any sign of Brady’s own vacant position being advertised by the station. Similarly, the position of Head of Lyric FM, currently held by Aodán Ó Dubhghaill who is retiring this year, was meant to be advertised in February, but that has not happened either.
Brady first began to notice difficulties for the station in 2010 during the last economic recession. A combination of the financial crash, the rise of Google and Facebook and the subsequent loss of advertising for RTÉ created a range of serious challenges, but he believes much more could have been done to address the situation.
I think the Government has been completely unwilling to address the issue in any serious way, but similarly senior management in RTÉ were slow off the starting blocks in addressing it, and I still don’t think they have made courageous, difficult decisions with regard to RTÉ. Suggesting the closure of Lyric is not a brave decision… Lyric is low-hanging fruit and it’s not a significant money-saver to close it down, in the bigger context of the issues facing RTÉ. Culturally, RTÉ did not move fast enough, and, in my opinion, RTÉ is still not moving fast enough.
Brady has produced documentaries that have won international awards such as Splendor, which profiled a co-operatively run venue and rehearsal space in Amsterdam, and Edges of Light based on the Music Network-commissioned tour. He also produced the 20th anniversary celebrations for Lyric FM last May. He says his approach to developing Lyric listenerships has focused on drawing people into the wider range of programmes through accessible works.
I think the key is bearing in mind that what people want is really good music, and the music has to be accessible, but that doesn’t mean it all has to be lollipops. There’s lots of music out there that we don’t hear that often, so I try to have a mix of the familiar and the less familiar… these are the gateway programmes then to lead into other parts of the schedule…
The impact of Lyric over the past twenty years, he feels, is that ‘people in Ireland are now more receptive to Western art music than they were.’ As he leaves the station, Brady says, ‘I’m really proud of what I’ve done’.