Monday, May 17, 2010

Smooching Rocks and Rocking Stones - Day Nine in Ireland

Irish radio doesn’t further the unrealistic and unfair stereotype of their people as drunks. In fact, on-air presenters cannot endorse drinking in a glamorous way.

Many DJs aren’t even permitted to tell jokes about a boozy night out. The reason for this is that radio stations are given licenses that assign a specific demographic.

Today we visited Red FM in Cork, which serves fresh hits to the youth of Ireland’s southern port cities. The station’s target audience is from fifteen to thirty-four.

Colm O’Sullivan, the program director for Red, met with us and explained that broadcast regulations regarding the mention of alcohol is quite strict. He said that talking about drinking while on the air is worse than swearing.

This is far different from the U.S. market. I used to listen to a syndicated show called “Rover’s Morning Glory” while I was living outside of Cleveland. I can remember the hosts talking about drinking on a nearly daily basis and even subjecting interns to random fraternity-like drinking games. This would have lost the station its license in the Republic.

O’Sullivan explained that this makes promotions difficult since the location must be considered a venue (e.g. music, theater, etc) first and a place to drink second. He said that advertisers like Heineken having gotten smarter and are hosting their own concert series that allow stations to hold promos from clubs that would have otherwise been forbidden.

Discussing of drinking isn’t the only aspect under heavy regulation either. Stations are required to carry certain about of Irish language programming each hour. This task falls to Ellish Barry, a presenter who studied in Irish during her childhood.

Barry said that many youth have a negative attitude toward Irish because it was forced on them in school. She is trying to change this embittered stance and informed us that learning Irish at a young age has its benefits. Barry said that statistics show that children having an easier time learning to French and Spanish if they are taught to speak Irish in school.

We were given a chance to enhance our speaking abilities by traveling from Cork to Blarney Castle in order kiss the coldest set of lips in Ireland – the Blarney Stone. The stone is said to give the gift of eloquence to those who kiss it.

The gift of gab doesn’t come easily though – you have to literally bend over backwards to kiss the stone. Once you climb the tiny winding stairwell (a feat for a giant like me), you are instructed to lie on your back while a man (who must have one of the most repetitive jobs in the world) holds your sides. You then reach out a grab two steel poles and lower your torso down to plant a smooch at the bottom of the stone.

The magic of Blarney must have worked because we were rounded up for a group discussion of the week’s events in our hotel lobby. No one had any trouble speaking their mind today!

Side note: We (Aaron, David, Jeremy, and I) are listening to a compilation of contemporary Irish indie rock music (given to me by Colm O’Sullivan of Red FM) while we blog. I’ll try to make a mention some of our favorites in tomorrow’s post.

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