TUNING in, or turning off? After a week that saw Ireland's economic problems make international headlines, we asked 10 well-known personalities whether they were shunning the bad news for the comfort of reality TV, or keeping on top of developments via the back-to-back extended news programmes on television and radio.
I lost the will to live as soon as we found out that talk of a bailout was not fiction. I had to force myself today to listen to the news and I have now conceded that I've lost all understanding of it. I am trying to force myself to keep in touch with it all but I'd almost rather watch Strictly Come Dancing which is a new low in my life. I can feel my brain rotting in my skull. I feel like the men in white suits are going to come along if one of the stations doesn't make sense out of some of the financial terms floating around.
I am a news junkie and I've had the news on every day. Part of that is because of my former job on Playback. However I have been following The X Factor and I would never have before. It is escapism of a certain kind. I even voted for Mary Byrne. It is hard to take it all in but the only way I can describe it is like childbirth: when it is happening it is excruciating but as soon as it's done you've forgotten about it and you're getting on with it. I'm optimistic and I'm both tuning in and turning off.
I went to the rugby last week and despite being defeated by the All Blacks, I was thrilled. It was a great adrenaline rush, and I could escape everything for a while, and people do need to do this, even just for a few hours. Having said that, I am, of course, usually permanently listening to the radio, talking with people and researching. The Frontline is seeing its highest viewing figures ever, so it is clear people do want to hear what's going on. At the end of the day though, when we are down at the pub, the first 10 minutes of conversation will be about the economy, then we move on to football, family and life. There is a balance.
I am tuning in to the news, and the last week's news coverage has become a form of entertainment in itself. The drama of the coverage – such as RTé dropping the live feed of Vincent Browne or the debate on how the station is covering the events, and the way that Browne himself goes after politicians, and how fast everything is moving – is keeping me watching and listening. Browne has become my favourite person to watch and he's not afraid of having a fight if it comes to it and he's determined. It will become a case of people turning off after a certain amount of time though.
Our Primetime figures are peaking at almost 750,000 now, and so I don't buy the argument that people are actually choosing to watch things like The X Factor and lighter stuff. The Irish public want to watch programmes in which the facts are presented to them in a definitive and objective way. I keep trying to explain to my eight-year-old son the importance of everything that is happening, because the last week in particular has been massively important. For myself, I am trying to stay objective and not to veer near terrifying people, but I am definitely tuned in.
Obviously, given that I'm on Ireland AM every morning, I'm surrounded by the latest happenings and news. We have never had as many texts and calls into the show, and the level of anger out there is huge. But after that, I try to give it all a wide berth. I'm rehearsing for the panto at the moment and that's keeping me away from the bad news, which would drain the life out of you. I prefer to watch The X Factor now. A lot of people are like that. There's only so much you can take.
I feel powerless against the onslaught of bad news and it's kind of sad. I am tuning in though, and being struck by certain questions. Like, what has the government got to do to get us out protesting? It looks like they'd actually have to come into our homes and steal our TVs before that happened. The truth is that the news has outdone shows like The Apprentice in becoming more watched, but the more powerless we feel, the more we are all going to tune out.
Instead of listening to two hours of Morning Ireland like I used to, I listen to only one hour and then tune into Lyric FM or something like that. It is too much, and if I kept listening I would end up having a very negative outlook for the rest of the day. Now, I'll pick up on the main headlines and leave it at that. I can't watch Vincent Browne at night as it is too overwhelming, especially at that hour when you're about to go asleep. Politics is like a soap opera now, and it's worrying.
I am completely stuck in the middle of all the news, what with me hosting a radio show, and sometimes I wish I wasn't. It is like a horror movie and we have to continually tune in to find out what the latest bizarre twist is. It is hard to get a perspective on anything right now, especially when you see how we're making the international headlines. My wife is in the other camp entirely. She has reached the point where she won't listen to the news beyond the headlines. I have to tune out too, and I get away from it in the evenings by spending time with my children.
I am definitely tuning in, but I'm not sure whether that is to my benefit or not. It all becomes a bit too much, and you go to bed anxious. But then if I don't tune in I feel like I'm missing out on something. Because of the amount of impromptu conferences being called it is a rolling story that you have to keep in touch with. I am watching more Family Guy than usual, though, to throw something lighthearted in.
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