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The X Factor

'Newstalk are looking for the next Pat Kenny - if it could be female that would be great'

The Communicorp station is always looking for presenters with that ‘x-factor’, Kenny said.

PAT KENNY’S BACK – with a (slightly) new show.

His TV3 vehicle returns each Wednesday night – with Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper taking over the presenting duties on the show formerly known as Tonight with Vincent Browne on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The veteran current affairs broadcaster was on promotion duty at the Ballymount station’s new season launch earlier this week, and sat down for a few minutes with to talk up his programme and give his assessment of the current political climate in advance of the new Dáil season.

There won’t be many changes to the show itself, in case you were wondering. Yates and Cooper will present from TV3′s fancy, redesigned news studio. Kenny’s show, shot in front of a live studio audience, has been altered a little to be more “in the round”. There’s also been a minor tweak to the title – it’s now simply The Pat Kenny Show, rather than Pat Kenny Tonight – but otherwise the format will be more or less the same.

“What will change is the Varadkar Factor which has energised politics in general,” Kenny said.

You get a kind of directness from Varadkar and hopefully that will transmit into all his front bench – they won’t run scared, they’ll answer questions and they won’t be looking over their shoulder thinking ‘what will the boss think?’.

Referencing a minor summer controversy instigated by a certain Fine Gael junior minister’s off-message remark to reporters last month, he added:

Mary Mitchell O’Connor may have a different view on that.

TV3 New Season 43 Brian McEvoy Brian McEvoy

And while Kenny, Yates and Cooper may or may not be tasked with covering the high drama of a general election in the coming months, the issue of abortion is certain to feature regularly across both of TV3′s late-night weekday shows as a referendum on the Eighth Amendment is expected to take place in the first half of next year.

Kenny, who spent four decades at RTÉ before moving to Newstalk radio and commercial television in 2013, said he was expecting an intense public debate.

We have to see the timing of it. Because I’ve been through abortion referendums before… When they’re very protracted they become very visceral and very antagonistic and very nasty.

While polls might suggest that the atmosphere has changed somewhat and that the debate may be more even-tempered this time around, the broadcaster says he’s not so sure.

“I don’t think so. I think it will be every bit as combative and as nasty and as difficult as last time  - so in a sense a short, sharp campaign would be better.”

And as a debate moderator, is there any way to ensure debates don’t descend into name calling and accusations?

“I’ve done it a couple of times on radio … and generally, it’s the personnel.

“If you have people who are moderate and reasoned in their attitude – not so much their beliefs, they can be quite extreme – but if their attitude is that they will argue their point rather than bully their point then you get a reasoned argument.

But I would predict that in a studio with a live audience passions are likely to become somewhat inflamed. Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper alongside Sarah McInerney (who will present a new politics show on Sundays), news presenters Colette Fitzpatrick and Claire Brock, and Pat Kenny. Brian McEvoy Brian McEvoy

A personnel change at Kenny’s other employer, Newstalk, provoked some criticism in recent weeks. The appointment of Yates as sole presenter of the news station’s drivetime show meant a return to an all-male presenter lineup in the prime-time (7am to 7pm) weekday schedule.

Also speaking at the TV3 launch, Yates said he didn’t think the content of his and Cooper’s new show would “be affected by the gender of the presenters”.

So what did Kenny make of the debate? Are broadcasters and media companies doing enough to promote gender balance and ensure female representation, across the board?

I think it’s fair to say that Newstalk keep on looking and looking and looking for female talent – and look, they did have Claire Byrne and she went the other way to RTÉ and she is one of the finest female presenters in the land.

Kenny also praised Ciara Kelly and Sarah McInerney, who currently broadcast on the station, adding:

“In fairness to Newstalk they are looking for the next Pat Kenny – if it could be female that would be great. And I would be very happy to share my spot with someone… I take holidays every year and it’s inevitably a guy who, kind of, replaces me. Well, show me the woman – please, take over.”

The Communicorp station is always looking for talent that will deliver ratings “and therefore will deliver advertising,” he said.

So it’s that x-factor they’re looking for and they had it with Claire – so, you know, where is the next one?

Parting shot

Various other members of the fourth estate were forming a Pat Kenny holding pattern behind, as the presenter continued his round of interviews for TV3.

As a parting question we decided to ask what he would ask Donald Trump if he happened to secure a half-hour interview with the US President.

He had quite a bit to say, it turned out. Here it all is:

“The question that intrigues me all the time is whether he really wanted the job, so my first question would probably be ‘I know you wanted to win the presidency – but did you ever really want to do the job?’.

“Because I don’t believe he really does want to do the job, I mean, I think it’s overwhelming for him. I don’t think he’s trained for it.

“I mean, he’s a developer and hotelier and golf magnate… The challenges that he has are much more subtle and nuanced than anything he’s had to do in his business life.

“So he’s simply not trained. I mean, I wouldn’t ask a marathon runner to beat Usain Bolt in the 100 metres nor would I ask Usain Bolt to run a marathon. And they are as chalk and cheese as that – his background versus the job he now has.

DC: President Trump Arrives Back To The White House From Missouri SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

“I think he’s probably realised that already but now he’s caught in that bubble. He’ll get into an election cycle again, which he’ll want to win because that’s his mentality – he’ll want to win.

But doesn’t he really want to do that job?

Glad we asked, Pat.

The Pat Kenny Show will air on Wednesday nights between 10 and 11pm on TV3

Related: ‘You won’t hear a woman’s voice, and it’s not acceptable’: What are Irish radio stations doing about gender balance? > 

Read: So TV3 confirmed the worst-kept secret in Irish media today – here’s what else is in the schedule >

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