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Patrick Kielty speaking in 2019 during a conference on ending sectarianism at the University of Ulster's Belfast Campus. Alamy Stock Photo
Noel Curran

Former RTÉ Director General says Patrick Kielty would be 'brilliant choice' for Late Late

Negotiations between the presenter and the national broadcaster are understood to be at an advanced stage.

FORMER RTÉ DIRECTOR General Noel Curran has described Patrick Kielty – who is expected to be confirmed as the next host of the Late Late – as a “brilliant choice” for the show.

Curran – who held a number of senior roles at the national broadcaster before serving as Director General between 2011 and 2016 – had a lead role in the process that resulted in Ryan Tubridy becoming Late Late host.

He now heads up the European Broadcasting Union – the umbrella organisation for public broadcasters across Europe which, amongst other things, also runs the Eurovision Song Contest every year.

Speaking to The Journal at the Eurovision venue in Liverpool this afternoon Curran said that while he had no direct experience of working with Kielty, he had watched him regularly over the years.

“If it is him, if that is what RTÉ choose, I think he’d be a brilliant choice,” Curran said.

“I think he’s smart. He is really good on the light side, that entertainment element of what the Late Late needs to do and he’ll be really good at that. But he’s a smart, smart guy.

“I’ve seen him and I’ve read interviews that he’s done on a range of topics. He’s not some one-trick pony – a comedian who is going to look for a gag out of every single sentence, because that’s the danger if you get a comedian is that they’re constantly under pressure that everything has to be ‘funny, funny, funny’.”

Kielty would be just as adept at covering serious topics, Curran said.

“And, you know, he’s likeable. People can underestimate that element of television. You know, you can be the most professional person in the world. You can deliver your lines perfectly, you can ask the most pertinent question. Very often the audience would just go, ‘Do I like her? Do I like him?’

“With Patrick, he’s a likeable character so if that’s where RTÉ goes I think he’ll do a fantastic job. I think he’ll be really strong on it.”

While RTÉ is not stating officially when it expects to unveil the new host of its flagship show (in a statement, the broadcaster would only say the announcement will be made ‘in due course’) negotiations between Kielty and management are understood to be at an advanced stage.

A number of other high-profile broadcasters have ruled themselves out of the running in the weeks since Ryan Tubridy announced his imminent departure – most recently Claire Byne and Sarah McInerney.

Paddy Power suspended betting on the prospect of Kielty taking over earlier this week, and the presenter’s comments during an appearance at the IFTA awards last weekend alongside his wife, Cat Deely, were regarded as a clear indication that he was keen on the role.

While he didn’t directly state that he’d be the next host, he described the Late Late as “one of the greatest TV shows on the planet”, adding “whoever gets it is going to be really lucky”.

Marty Whelan – also in Liverpool for the Eurovision – was happy to answer reporters’ questions about Kielty during the week, saying the Co Down man would do “a very good job” and adding (tongue firmly in cheek), “I was wondering what he was doing at the IFTAs.”

Tubridy – who has presented the Late Late for fourteen years – announced back in March that he would depart at the end of the current season. His last show will be at the end of this month.

Back in 2009 the official announcement that Tubridy would take over from Pat Kenny came in mid-May, and it’s expected RTÉ will be keen to announce Kielty in the role well before Tubridy’s exit.

Curran was Managing Director of Television in 2009 and had a lead role in selecting the host of the longrunning Friday night show

Speaking today, he said management were lucky during that time as they had several strong candidates for the role. 

Asked to describe how the process was managed, he said it would “work differently in different times”.

“You involve a group of people, you come up with where you want to go with the show. You try and decide ‘what direction are we going?’ and then you try and look at what the demographic audience changes in the show have been.

“There’s a lot of number crunching that goes on around what audiences you need and where you’re going – but a lot of it comes down to where you see the show and where you want the presenter to bring the show.”

Eventually, during that process, a shortlist was made.

“In that case, when we chose Ryan, we had three candidates who all could have done the show which was a very lucky position for us because for the years before we had been looking towards what happens when Pat goes – so we’d been trying out presenters in different roles.

“It was a very, very difficult decision,” Curran added.

“Ryan has done a tremendous job. It’s a very, very difficult job. Listen – it’s a brilliant job but it is a difficult job.”

Following in Tubridy’s footsteps as host of the annual Toy Show would be particularly difficult for whoever gets the job, said Curran. The November broadcast is typically the most watched programme of the year and had a viewership of over 1.5 million in 2022.

“Again if it is Patrick Kielty, he’s got two young kids so I think he could really, really deliver on that as well.”

people-pose-for-photos-during-eurovision-week-at-pier-head-on-the-11th-may-2023-in-liverpool-england-credit-smp-news-alamy-live-news Fans gathering at the Eurovision Village area in Liverpool. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Curran was speaking ahead of tonight’s second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest which is being held in the UK on behalf of Ukraine, who won last year’s contest in Turin.

Stats from the EBU, which organises the contest each year in conjunction with the host nation’s public broadcaster, show 161 million people tuned into at least one the three live shows last year, across 34 measured markets. The viewing share for the Grand Final was up three percentage points on 2021.

The contest, Curran said, has been growing exponentially in recent years, adding that its reach on social media in particular had blown up.

“It’s growing in terms of overall audience. It’s growing hugely in terms of digital and social media audience – I got the initial figures for the week this morning, the social media figures, and they’re just extraordinary. They’ve increased massively on last year.”

The EBU was involved in the production and broadcast of an American Song Contest last year, along a similar format to the current Eurovision. While that project is on ice at the moment, Curran says his team is actively exploring other avenues for expansion – including, potentially, a song contest in Canada.

“We want to see this expanded into other countries. We had the American experiment and we’re waiting to see what happens next with that – but we certainly feel that there are opportunities in America, we feel there’s opportunities in Canada, we feel there’s opportunities in other areas for this format and these values.”

Promoting Eurovision’s “sense of diversity – the embracing of diversity” would have to be an integral part of any future, overseas song contests, Curran insisted.

Asked whether – due to his tenure at RTÉ – he had anything to with Dustin the Turkey’s unexpected reappearance at Eurovision during Tuesday’s first semi-final, Curran said he couldn’t take any of the credit (or blame) for the idea.

“I had nothing to do with the cameo. It was great. I can claim influence on some things related to Eurovision but I had no influence at all on Dustin the Turkey appearing.”

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