‘I emigrated from Ireland but it’s great to be back’

Conor McAnally’s father, the actor Ray McAnally, favoured the adage: “inspiration is nothing without perspiration”. His son lives by his words, boasting a successful career spanning over five decades to date with 200 hours of live TV, 600 hours of live music, high-adrenaline adventure sports and a murder mystery novel.

The eldest of four, McAnally was raised in Artane and Sutton, attending St Joseph’s in Fairview before graduating in journalism from the then School of Journalism in Rathmines in 1970.

“I started my career as a junior reporter, working in crime, health and investigative reporting for Independent newspapers, winning the journalist of the year award in 1972 for breaking a story on the IRA training volunteers camps,” he says.

Moving to RTÉ in 1975, he worked in news before presenting the “esoteric” Politics Programme and youth-focused Youngline. He was the first to introduce U2 to a live audience and worked on brand new concepts when the youth TV genre was in its infancy. After a six-month production course, he became a director/producer but after seven years he wanted to go it alone.

After going freelance in 1982, McAnally produced more than 150 shows with RTÉ in his first year, despite freelancing “not being a thing yet”. In 1984 he formed Green Apple Productions with Vincent Hanley, and together they created MT-USA, Europe’s first terrestrial music TV show. “Vincent was really media savvy and he wanted to go to the US, so after exploring options in the UK we decided to present from New York.

“MTV at the time was using all their content for free, and the industry was getting savvy to it, so I thought why not talk to the record companies first. We had the first terrestrial music television deal in Europe and one by one, they all came on board.”

Suffice to say, the logistics of putting a new show together in the 1980s was complex and time consuming. “We would scout locations, organise an American shoot crew and film on Tuesdays. The American tapes were flown out on Wednesday and converted in London because we didn’t have the technology in Ireland, before being flown to Dublin to be edited on Thursday.

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