We catch up this issue with the most popular radio station not only in Kerry but in Ireland it seems. Freshly back from the wonderful Lyrath Estate Hotel in Kilkenny at the PPI Awards (which to those of you unfamiliar) is the Oscars of the Radio Industry, Radio Kerry swept the boards and brought back 3 awards, Sports Programme of the Year- Terrace Talk with the infamous Weeshie Fogarty at the helm, JJ O Shea won silver with his very entertaining program Global Village, and of course the Dong of the night was for Local Station of the year in Ireland, which again we are proud to say came back to the county. I caught up with some of the team for a chat
Weeshie Congrats on your recent achievement, how does it feel to get the ultimate in the Radio Awards Sports program of the year?
Amazing honour and privilege to help Radio Kerry to this prestigious award and to finish ahead of the national stations is unbelievable really. It is I believe very important that the smaller local stations are seen to have the talent and facilities to win PPI awards such as this.
You have been involved in sport for many years when did you officially break into the broadcasting industry?
Nearly twenty years ago now, the then Head of Sports in Radio Kerry Seamus
O Mahoney very kindly invited me to do some very short match reports at local games. As the fellow said, one thing led to another and I was then invited to present programs and as the say the rest is history. My deep involvement over a long span in all aspects of sports has really stood me well.
Having worked with you on Terrace Talk all those years ago, I know how busy a show it is and how vital it is that all goes well, and like all good sporting events you have a great team would you like to tell us about them?
Yes Terrace Talk as I like to refer to it “the listeners program” has a superb back room team. The superb Eileen Moynihan takes hundreds of calls each month at reception and is our link to the world, Sinead Prendergast, always in great form is our sound engineer and her input is vital as we are all aware that mistakes in presentation is not accepted as far as possible.
Ciaran o Regan is our new young producer, full of ideas and so willing to work for the show. It was he who put the entry for the PPI win together. He is so willing to learn and has undoubtedly a great future. Ciaran took over from Andrew Morrissey who produced the show for eight years and was outstanding at his job. It is also so important to state that both Paul Byrne and Fiona Stack of Radio Kerry rarely interfere with our work and this gives us great lee way to expand our own ideas.
I guess without the listeners there would be no awards so how important do you think the LOCAL element is to the Radio Station?
Of course we might as well stay at home and watch TV if the great Kerry listeners were not tuning in. Everywhere I go the feedback from people is simply amazing. People from 8 to 98 want to talk about Terrace Talk and the one vital element I find and love to hear from people is, “ I have no great interest in sport but i never miss Terrace Talk every Monday”. And then we have exiles all over the world who tune. Following the recent three hour Terrace Talk after the All Ireland final, I got an e mail which read. “Weeshie I listened to the show last evening sitting around a camp fire in the bush in Australia surrounded by some Aborigine people near the town of Wagga Wagga. That says it all about Radio Kerry listeners. It’s an amazing station with such a dedicated bunch of wonderful people.
You have partnered many a good commentator through the years have you any special moment in particular you would like to share with our readers?
So many memories etched in my mind. One show we broadcast from the Burlington Hotel in Dublin some years ago I invited Jimmy McGee and Michael o Muircheartaigh to sit in and present the show with me. It was a surreal experience to sit between these two giants of Irish broadcasting, two exemplary gentlemen. It was amazing. Sitting in with the late Liam Higgins was always very special and that last All Ireland final in Croke Park as Kerry won and Liam was dying of cancer, he was so ill and had a morphine pump attached to his body which he used to deaden the pain whenever it hit him. He died two weeks later. It was the bravest thing I have ever seen. I certainly could not have done it. I cried bitter tears that evening when I left him at the Airport Hotel.
Dare I ask how does Weeshie relax and wind down? Is there a relaxing side to Weeshie that you would like to tell the readers all about?
How do I relax Margaret? My wife Joan and children Denise, Carol Ann and Kieran and granddaughters Lucy and Eva are very calming and comforting influences in my life. I like to go for a few pints in Killarney and talk sport, walk every morning in the magnificent national Park, the bellowing of the stags at the moment, rutting season is in I find very relaxing, I attend a film in town nearly every week, love watching documentaries, reading in bed at night, and presenting my programs on radio Kerry when the preparations are done I fine very relaxing. But at the end of the day I appreciate most of the entire old adage “Health is Wealth”.
Station Manager Fiona Stack tells us about the day to day running of the station. Having won the title 4 out of the last 9 years you must all be doing something very right, what do you attribute this achievement to?
Kerry is a special place with great sense of community. Kerry people are great talkers and storytellers, who have a strong sense of identity and have opinions on sport, news, politics and events in their communities- all mixed in with a great attitude to life and a sense of humour. If Local Radio was going to work anywhere it was in Kerry. As the Voice of the Kingdom we are the means by which the people of Kerry tell their own story and we are proud to play a part in that.
As part of Radio Kerry from the start really what major changes have you seen in the industry over those years and what is Kerry’s secret for success?
We lead the same lives as our listeners and have been here all the events and changes that have happened in Kerry over the last 24 years. The main changes have been the way technology has evolved allowing us to reach listeners in new ways through our website, apps, and social media. We have developed a training school with the Kerry ETB which allows students learn radio skills but also helps us find new talent. Radio Kerry is the only one of the original local radio stations which has gone on to expand now owning another radio station Shannonside/ Northern Sound. We have gotten involved in off air events such as concerts, Kerry’s Got Talent and wedding fairs and sponsorship of The Ring of Kerry Cycle.
Winning 3 awards at the event must be a great achievement where next for the station?
It’s great for staff to see hard work, commitment and a love for what they do rewarded. In times such as Februarys storms or during a Local Election lots of extra unsocial hours are put in so it’s nice to have a night out when people can feel proud of that. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of listeners and advertisers. Radio Kerry renewed its broadcast license for a further 10 years this year so we hope to continue doing what we do bringing people a comprehensive news and sports service, music, speech programming, requests and competitions – wearing our Kerry colours with pride.
As general manager of such a successful station it must be a busy day each day and I guess no two days are the same, what is your favourite part of the job?
Radio Kerry is live on air from 7am to midnight every day of the year and as you say no two days are the same. I am very grateful for the colleagues I work with who rise to whatever challenge comes our way and are committed to doing the best job they can whatever area of the station they work in. The fact that I started work with Radio Kerry in the newsroom meant I got to know lots of people around the county and I love that in my role as General Manager now I’m still dealing with many of those people. Kerry people have always been very supportive of Radio Kerry and when you say you are ringing from Radio Kerry you are often pushing an open and welcoming door. It makes us want to do the best job we can even more.
Finally Paul Byrne Chief executive had a few words to tell us of his experience over the years and how proud he is of the staff that make Radio Kerry what it is Paul as Chief Executive of Radio Kerry Group there is more than one station under the umbrella do you often compare and use tips from each individual station to keep the standard of service to the community as good as it is?
Each Radio Station in the group has its own unique identity catering specifically for the area that it broadcasts to. People in Kerry will have different issues and concerns to the people in Monaghan for example. It is important to recognise these differences and to provide a service which is customised for that individual area. This is the key to the huge listenership figures that each station attains. However, items such as station events, promotions and marketing and some features are common to all stations. Once something has proven to be a success in a particular area the template is easily transferrable to the others.
You must be very proud of the team in Kerry and what they have achieved with 3 awards on the night?
We are extremely proud of all our achievements at Radio Kerry. It is always a source of pride by all staff that the station is recognised for excellence in what we do. The PPI awards are extremely important as it’s recognition that what we do is of the highest standard as decided by our peers in the Industry
The JNLR Results are always showing an increase in listenership to the station, why do you think Radio Kerry has such an appeal to all age groups?
Radio Kerry is a full service station that has its finger on the pulse of all that’s going on in Kerry. Throughout the broadcast day we recognise that the audience changes on an almost hourly basis. We therefore tailor our programmes and content specifically for that available audience. For example our Breakfast Show is very much family orientated and the next programme Kerry Today deals with hard News and Current Affairs issues of the day. We have a broad selection of programmes which we feel covers all tastes and interests within the County
You’re not a Kerry man; you are with the station how many years now? What do you like best about Kerry and its people that make you want to stay as chief Executive of the best local Radio Station in Ireland?
I have been in Kerry now for 11 years and the attraction of the county is simple… the people. Kerry people are intelligent, determined, supportive, inquisitive, and extremely articulate. Because of its geographical location, the County also has its own it has its own traditions and a unique way of doing things. As CEO of Radio Kerry I have the good fortune of meeting numerous people from all walks of life in the county and enjoying every moment of my time here.
JJ O Shea was not available to chat with us but we wish him continued success with his programme who brought home silver from the awards.
Continued success to Radio Kerry and the team behind it, we look forward to celebrating 25 years with you all in 2015. We would also like to take a moment to reflect on the sad passing of an active team member and colleague Noreen O Reilly, a team worker and a vibrant lady Noreen will be missed by all her colleagues, to her family and friends we offer our condolences and to the team in Radio Kerry it will not be the same without her, may the sod rest lightly on her gentle soul. RIP.