PPI Awards 2015

First Award to Recognise
Tech in Irish Radio

Once in a while, something very right happens.

Once in a while, something that - it seemed to me anyway - was a huge omission for years has been put at least a little bit right. While regrettably, it comes too late for some of their number, it's better late than never.

It has been my privilege to work alongside many outstanding people in radio. Outstandingly resourceful, outstandingly dedicated, people whose entire life both inside and outside the station revolves around their jobs. These are the kind of people you would go looking for if some catastrophic disaster befell us.

I have soldiered alongside them, through long nights into mornings doing "tech stuff" that few know about, understand or even care about. I have even been in a fraught touch-and-go situation where the work went not at all to plan and we had only barely got it sorted when the morning staff got in...

"Is this studio ready or not?"
"Yes, it's fine now"
"So could you tidy it up after yourselves please?"
...completely oblivious and unaware of the planks, sweat and blood on the floor.

I am absolutely delighted that one of that cohort has finally been honoured: Pat Balfe of Communicorp has received a PPI Lifetime Achievement Award. What a very right thing to happen! Pat carries an enormous workload both nationally and even further afield for his company. His knowledge, attention to detail and organisational skills are legendary. Yet you can still hear him being credited for technical operation at the Electric Picnic! I have met him at dawn in Dublin and when I got finished a few hours later and wanted to sign off, found to my amazement that he was already in Limerick working there. Truly one of the industry's unsung heroes - until now that is.

But Pat isn't alone - there's bound to be a tech type lurking in your station. Do you know how to spot one? They are both male and female and they are usually almost invisible until needed. Use all your senses. Listen carefully for the one name that stressed people sing out when something goes wrong. They were probably the ones who helped with your PPI submission - or did it for you! Smell one out by the faint whiff of diesel spilled when filling diesel into a generator in high wind on a mountain top or when fuelling the Outside Broadcast truck getting ready for the morning. Look out for a weather-beaten face sometimes showing signs of sleep deprivation. Listen for the phone that rings with constant calls from people who just want calm reassurance that "everything is ok - I've tested it already". Observe the sudden, completely unpredictable sprinter's takeoff when their sixth sense realises that something is about to go wrong and they position themselves for yet another save.

These folks are heroes, every one. As Pat graciously and with typical modesty said in an email exchange with me about the award "its great to see technical getting the 'tip of the hat'". I couldn't agree more.

Notice your technical staff. Appreciate their work. Give them a hug. Say "Thank You" the odd time, now that you know how to find them, because we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Make something so right go a long way.

Congratulations Pat, and thank you.


October 2015