Back in the early eighties, in the memory, RTE radio’s daybreak news programme began at 8.15 am. It seemed extraordinarily late, but maybe it was convenient for farmers coming in from the opening hours of the day’s work and for the comparatively small number of commuters driving into Dublin, in those times when only a handful of railway stations were still open after the closures of the 1950s and 1960s.
By the 1990s, Morning Ireland had moved forward to 7.30 am. The Today programme on the BBC had been on the air for an hour by that time and there were occasions when major news stories were unfolding that listening to Radio 4 had brought the full story before RTE had gone air.
Ireland’s flagship news programme moved to 7 am, perhaps ten years ago. Driving Dublin roads at that time and the city is alive with traffic, though the worst of the rush hour is still an hour or so away and schools might not start for another two hours, and trying to phone a bank is probably not advisable much before ten, when they open.
Fixed hours sound odd in a farming community where work must be done whatever the hour. Calving and lambing have no fixed times, and if the silage contractors arrive at ten or eleven at night, because their schedule has been thrown out by the weather, and have to work all night in order to catch up on lost time, then sobeit.
Facing an economic crisis that threatens to depress the country for years to come, there is a need to do whatever is necessary to try to get people back to work.
Woken at 5.45 this morning by a lorry emptying bins from the hotel, and disoriented by an eight hour time difference between Dublin and San Francisco, standing watching the Californian morning offered an insight into a city that buzzes. Two lanes of traffic were moving up the street; it was a challenge to try to imagine where everyone might be going at such an hour.
California seems to pride itself on being progressive and ensuring good conditions for its workers, even restaurant bills have an item for workers’ welfare; the early start is not about exploitation. The current controversy about cuts in social services due to the state’s massive budget deficit, cuts that are modest compared with those being imposed by the government in Ireland, show a keen sense that vulnerable people should be protected. Presumably two lanes of traffic before six is indicative of a flexibility of working hours, a willingness to arrange personal lives in such a way to assist companies to profitability and to ensure jobs remain.
Perhaps the hour of our news programme is a gauge of our potential to recover.