Maggie Doyle says it’s great being a woman in broadcasting. The former BBC presenter – now standing in for Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 for the summer – worked for years in radio in London and at one stage was the only female voice on the national airwaves in the UK with a million-plus listeners.
She says she doesn’t focus on her gender, but considers it a bonus in media.
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“It’s not something that’s at the forefront of my mind,” says the Wexford native. “I don’t go forward thinking: ‘As a woman, I’m going to do this or that.’ Maybe some feminists will say: ‘Oh she’s not a feminist’ – but I hope my attitude is progress.
“It’s funny because in a way it’s a unique selling point at the moment, to be a woman. Not just in radio, but across a lot of different areas. And I hope that would stand to me. A lot of bosses in RTE are female and, of course, we have the director-general, Dee Forbes.”
With such experience under her belt, Maggie is a good fit to replace Tubridy when he’s on holiday. She bats off nerves by following the advice of the late, great Terry Wogan.
“Of course I was a little bit nervous the first time I did it – the door is closed and it’s just you there in the studio. Sometimes you have to remind yourself to breathe.
“I try to think about what Terry Wogan said: ‘Don’t think about it as talking to a couple of hundred thousand people, just think of that one person you’re talking to.’
“I am a new voice and people don’t know me – but I hope Ryan’s listeners like the new voice. If I put myself in the audience’s position, you might be a big fan of one particular voice and think: ‘Oh I’m not sure I like this new person, it’s different.’
“But I try not to emulate him or copy what he does. There is a really great team on The Ryan Tubridy Show and they are incredibly helpful in steering me in the right direction. It’s a lovely hour and mix of radio.”
She didn’t start in radio, studying psychology in Cardiff University, but was always drawn to a career behind the microphone.
“Like most Irish people, I grew up listening to radio. In the morning, it was a toss-up between Morning Ireland and Ian Dempsey. It was always on in the background, or in the car. I can still hear The Gay Byrne Show theme and picture my mother in the kitchen.
“Radio was always in the back of my mind. Psychology was very interesting, but I began wondering what I would do after the degree. I made a decision: I’m going to do radio. So I did a post-grad in journalism in London.”
She worked hard for her success, putting in years of early starts for breakfast shows and, at one stage, working double shifts to make a name for herself.
Maggie spent years in radio in London, first as a traffic and travel reporter on Trafficlink, the British version of AA Roadwatch, before going on to present shows on Virgin’s Absolute Radio, LBC and later BBC Radio Kent.
While on Absolute, she was the voice 1.3 million listeners woke up to. At the BBC, she covered international news such as the Scottish referendum, the general election, and Brexit.
Despite loving life in London, Ireland was in her heart and she felt the call to come home. “We’ll have to invent a word for the drag back to Ireland some of us get when we’re away from home for years. You either get it or not: it’s a pull on your soul.
“It got to the stage where every time I was visiting home, getting on a plane, coming through Dublin Airport, I just wanted to come back. Something inside me said: ‘I will give Ireland a go’.”
Despite her impressive CV, she feels very fortunate to have got into RTE. “You don’t just walk in there, even if you’ve been in the BBC.
“They were opening up a panel and I got in and started doing news reports and a few other bits in the newsroom and working on It Says In The Papers, Morning Ireland and the News at One.”
The one thing people always ask her is: “What’s Ryan like?” although she is never in studio when he is.
“We never really meet! I have met him on a few occasions and he has been lovely. We had a cup of tea when I first got back from London. And when I did a week for him in February, he said: ‘Well done, you were brilliant’, and it was great to get that feedback.
“I’m delighted to get the opportunity to cover for him for the summer. I don’t think I could have asked for better.”
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