In homes across Ireland, the kitchen is the beating heart of the home.
As a child, I woke each morning to my morbid alarm clock – the local death notices. We turned it up to the last decibel “to find out who’s dead or near it”.
On shelves, cupboards and tables across kitchens in Carlow and Kilkenny, the pulse of that heart is the sounds from a radio tuned in to a local station.
This week, an elderly woman called Kathleen contacted KCLR – her local station.
Her heart was breaking.
Not only was her radio on the blink but the very voices that kept her company in her lonely kitchen, as she isolated from society for her safety, was threatened with disappearing.
As with many businesses, KCLR has experienced unprecedented drops in revenue in the last few weeks and without government support faced the terrifying prospect of dead air.
Silence is not a friend in times of crisis.
An elderly woman needs her friend’s voice – constant, trusted, cool-headed, informed and fun.
Thanks to Swan’s Electrical, we had a radio to give away on the morning that Kathleen’s radio threatened to quit.
She had heard our competition on KCLR Live and called us.
She had but one request from Sean Swan, who kindly delivered the radio to the lady’s home.
“Can someone tune it in for me – to KCLR, please.”
Her heart is restored. The pulse beats again for her.
And we hope to always keep Kathleen and our many listeners company during this difficult time.
On Wednesday morning, Minister for Communication Richard Bruton joined Eimear on KCLR Live for a chat about, along with other issues, the future of local radio.
He pulled an old election promise out of his pocket, like a crumpled-up tissue.
The broadcasting levy paid by local radio stations to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) would be waived for the first six months of the year.
He says he has also asked the BAI to assess the financial situation of local radio as a result of the pandemic.
But that’s not enough to take the edge off of this sharp downturn. Where is the urgency for a service that supports all other services?
This is not about just saving jobs, this is about remaining on kitchen tables across Carlow and Kilkenny and remaining as a loud-hailer for those who need it – the Gardai, the HSE and medical professionals, local businesses trying to stay afloat, TDs and councillors trying to help constituencies, councils trying to maintain services.
We look forward to hearing from Minister Bruton about the further measures he promises to introduce, while listeners like Kathleen continue to look forward to our comforting voices in these strange and scary times when they switch on their radios each morning.
Christine Tobin is a journalist with KCLR and producer of KCLR Live, the popular chat show presented by Eimear Ní Bhraonáin which airs from 10am to 12pm each weekday.