1948 – Pat Kenny, Irish broadcaster is born.

Patrick “Pat” Kenny (Pádraig Ó Cionnaith – born 29 January 1948) is a broadcaster in Ireland. He presented The Late Late Show on RTÉ One from 1999 and re-signed as host in 2009. Kenny presents Today with Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1 on weekdays between 10:00 and 12:00 midday. He also presents a current affairs programme, The Frontline, aired on Monday nights on RTÉ One which replaced Questions and Answers.

Kenny had a past career as a lecturer and has academic degrees in the fields of chemical engineering. He has co-hosted the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest as well as numerous other television shows, including Today Tonight, Saturday Live and Kenny Live, and has worked for both RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ 2fm, sometimes simultaneously, in a career that has spanned four decades. Kenny spent ten years hosting The Late Late Show from 1999-2009 He is the holder of a Jacob’s Award and is RTÉ’s highest paid employee. He was named 23rd most influential person of 2009 by Village.

Early career:

Kenny was educated at O’Connell’s school and obtained a chemical engineering degree from University College Dublin in 1969, Subsequently he was a postgraduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology and then a lecturer in Bolton Street College of Technology in Dublin. He began his broadcasting career in parallel to his academic “day-job” by work-ing as a continuity announcer on RTÉ radio in the mid 1970s. He subsequently became a radio disc jockey.

In 1982, Kenny won a Jacob’s Award for his “unusual versatility” in presenting three diverse radio shows: Saturday View on RTÉ Radio 1, and, on RTÉ 2fm, The Kenny Report and The Outside Track.

Saturday Live and Kenny Live!:

Kenny became a television broadcaster on RTÉ’s Today Tonight, a current affairs programme in the mid 1980s. He moved in an unexpected direction for a current affairs presenter when he filled the role of co-presenter of the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest. This he did alongside Michelle Rocca at the Royal Dublin Society’s Simmonscourt Pavilion. Kenny continued to be associated with Eurovision, providing television commentary for Irish viewers of the event on nine occasions from 1991 to 1999. Subsequently, he had a guest slot on the weekly chat show Saturday Live. He went on to host the show permanently and its title was changed to Kenny Live!.

There was a much publicised rivalry between Kenny Live!, broadcast on Saturday nights and The Late Late Show, broadcast on Friday nights. Saturday Live, latterly Kenny Live!, had been conceived as preserving the weekend slot on a Saturday night to prevent loss of viewers and corresponding loss of advertising revenue.

The Late Late Show (1999-2009):

Gay Byrne retired from presenting The Late Late Show in 1999. Kenny became the new host, but not without criticism. Among the highlights of Kenny’s career in presenting The Late Late Show was his Toy Show interview with comedian Jerry Seinfeld. There was much uncomfortable chat on the topic of bees (Seinfeld was on the show to promote his new movie, Bee Movie). Seinfeld, who had previously lashed out at Larry King over his ignorance, remained tight-lipped, even as Pat Kenny referred to him as Jerry Sein-field.

Kenny also came under fire after an interview on The Late Late Show with Babyshambles’ lead singer Pete Doherty. Kenny repeatedly questioned Doherty over his much talked about drug habits, with Doherty appearing visibly uncomfortable. Doherty, obviously annoyed, stated that Kenny had asked him “about 12” questions about drugs and Kate Moss, but nothing about his music; “I don’t know if you could even name a song that I’ve written”, Doherty quipped at one point. “Possibly not”, Kenny replied.

On 27 March 2009, Kenny announced that he would resign as host of The Late Late Show at the end of the season. Guests on his final night included U2, who presented Kenny with a rare Gibson guitar and a pair of shades. During the final programme, which included an outside party, Kenny thanked the crew for their work during his ten-year reign as host of The Late Late Show.

Styles of Byrne and Kenny:

Kenny’s career has been extensive, having been a continuity announcer, radio disc jockey, television current affairs presenter, subsequently anchor and chat show host. His early radio career mirrored that of Byrne’s, but Kenny’s repertoire is much broader than that of Byrne, as witnessed by Byrne always being in entertainment and never in current affairs. Byrne described himself as an entertainer first.

Initially Kenny was perceived, by a critic, as being unsuited to the field of light entertainment as this description of Kenny Live! stated: “The fact is that Pat Kenny, is unsuited to the type of showbiz knockabout which Gay Byrne is so at home with.”

Kenny describes his style:

“Do you want bland television where everything you hear reinforces your own view, or do you want to be challenged? I favour the latter. I like to challenge people. You might get angry and pick up the phone to Joe Duffy, or you might complain to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission; that’s great. It means you’re involved in the argument in some way”

Due to his long association with the show, Byrne in his autobiography seemed to almost have proprietarial rights, having been both producer and presenter of the show. Kenny was the subject of much media criticism for his takeover from Byrne.

In autumn 2003, The Late Late Show had a competitor in the Friday evening time slot, with the arrival of a competing television chat show by controversial broadcaster Eamon Dunphy on the rival channel TV3. However, Dunphy’s show failed to achieve expected viewership figures and was scrapped in December 2003 after 14 episodes.

Earnings:

Kenny was the highest-paid presenter on RTÉ in 2008 earning €950,956. His pay was reduced to €630,000 in 2009 due to the economic climate . Director-General of RTÉ Cathal Goan commenting on the salaries paid to the top stars said “There’s no question that by today’s standard, they were excessive.I have to repeat that they were set at a different time in a different competitive reality where some of this talent might be up for poaching by other organisations and in RTÉ’s view at the time, they delivered value for money “. Kenny issued the following statement “I am satisfied that the significant reduction in the fees paid to my company takes account of current economic circumstances while also reflecting my experience over 37 years in broadcasting at RTÉ”. His high salary was strongly denounced on live television, while Kenny was hosting. He is not technically a member of RTÉ staff but is paid through a separate company, enabling Kenny and RTÉ to reduce the amount of tax paid on his salary.

Personal life:

Kenny is married to Kathy. They live in Dalkey, Dublin, in a house built in the early 1990s on a site purchased in 1988. Kenny’s mother, Connie, died and was buried on 23 October 2008. Kenny’s mother’s burial received media coverage as it led to Kenny’s non-appearance on an edition of The Late Late Show that was aired that same evening.

Off-screen personality:

A current RTÉ employee, who has “regular dealings” with Kenny says he is “really good at what he does” and “works very hard to make both his radio show and the Late Late as good as possible.” Kenny was said to be “very good at doling out praise and encouragement, particularly to younger members of staff”. When he was attacked live on air in 2006, the attacker, Paul Stokes’s daughter Aoife (a researcher) was consoled by Kenny. He is also said to be the person who convinced Gerry Adams to grow his beard.

2008 High Court case:

In April 2008 Kenny and his neighbour went to court over the issue of who owned a nearby field. Kenny’s case was that he had entitlement of ‘Gorse Hill’ through adverse possession sometimes known as squatters rights. During proceedings it was claimed that Kenny placed a lock on the field without telling his neighbour. It was also claimed that Kenny came at him with ‘fists raised’ and ‘jostled’ or fought with him. Kenny also claimed damages for his neighbour’s assault on him. The case was settled with Kenny buying the land for an undis-closed sum and both sides paying their own costs.

On-air attacks and interruptions:

Kenny has sustained several on-air personal attacks during his career as presenter of The Late Late Show and The Frontline.

In November 2006, Paul Stokes, an intruder on the set of The Late Late Show, confronted Kenny live on air calling the show host and his predecessor Gay Byrne “insufferable arse-holes”. Eight days later Stokes rammed his car into the entrance of RTÉ’s television centre and was subsequently charged with harassment after daubing walls near Kenny’s home with threatening messages.

During an interview with SIPTU general president Jack O’Connor on The Frontline on November 2, 2009, O’Connor suggested that a “reasonable level of tax” should be levied on “trophy houses”. When asked to define the term “trophy house”, O’Connor replied: “A house like yours, probably”, to which Kenny replied, “I built my house in 1988. How is it a ‘trophy house’? I don’t want this crap coming at me!” O’Connor apologised a few moments later.

During an interview with Minister for Social and Family Affairs Mary Hanafin on The Frontline on November 9, 2009, an audience member berated Kenny over the issue of an excessive wage. He compared Kenny’s wage to that of the President of the United States for 11 hours of broadcast per working week. He alleged that Kenny had no right to pontificate about social welfare, or people who had no means. When Kenny attempted to resume, he was repeatedly interrupted by the audience member who continued to shout. The attack lasted for several minutes before a commercial break was taken.

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