- 07 Jan 21
In the midst of confusion, fear and isolation this year, people across Ireland tuned into local radio more than ever before. Recognising the power of local radio, and the important work that radio stations have been carrying out over the past year, we spoke to a selection of presenters from across the country – who told us how they rose to the multiple challenges of Covid-19.
Tipp FM's Fran Curry
The award-winning Tipp FM is one of the most-listened-to local stations in the country – and its popular morning show, Tipp Today with Fran Curry, continues to rank as the No.1 choice for adults in the Premier County, with over 60,000 listeners tuning in each day. Over lockdown, the station saw a significant growth in its listenership – as local people turned to Tipp FM as a source of information, entertainment, company and togetherness.
“It drove listenership here right through the roof, according to the last JNLR figures,” Fran notes. “We did extremely well. I think it’s because people were listening to the national information, but they also wanted to know what was going on locally – and they wanted to hear from local people who had the experience of having Covid.”
In many ways, Fran found that the pandemic highlighted the pre-existing merits of local radio.
“We’re listened to by people from the rural areas, and we heard all about the isolation,” he says. “That would be an ongoing discussion on local radio anyway. But this just exacerbated it completely.
“We spoke to ordinary people in their homes,” he continues. “They were telling us on air how Covid was affecting them, and it was very emotional at times. People were really upset. In the initial part of lockdown, people were suddenly deprived of affection and communication with their loved ones. It was dreadful.”
These conversations with everyday people in the community ultimately inspired Fran and the team at Tipp FM to create a documentary podcast, Surviving Covid.
“We spoke to people about their experiences with Covid,” he explains. “Some remarkable stuff came out of that. There were also some unexplained things. One gentleman we spoke to had got Covid, and he had been sleeping with his wife, and had been in close proximity with all his kids – but nobody else in the house got it except him.
“Out of everyone we spoke to, Tom Gunn probably stands out most,” he adds. “He’s a Tipperary man living in Mullingar. He’s now in his 80s – but he survived the Siege of Jadotville. He used his military discipline to get himself out of the hospital bed. He made up exercises for himself, using the bars of the bed, so he could improve his lung function. It was a remarkable story. He also told us that this was the first time in his life that he had suffered depression, in the fallout of Covid. He had to get tablets for that.”
As Tipp Today continues to reflect the concerns of its listeners, Fran notes that the next big topic on the agenda is, unsurprisingly, vaccines. And despite apprehension from some of his listeners, for the most part, the arrival of the vaccine is viewed as “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Listen to Tipp Today with Fran Curry, weekdays from 9am on Tipp FM.
Read our full feature on the power of local radio during the Covid-19 pandemic in the Hot Press Annual, out now: