Listen: Clare Bruce interviews Stephen O’Doherty about a new season of Open House.
After a long break, the popular Sunday night talk radio program Open House is coming back, launching on March 26—with Stephen O’Doherty behind the mic.
He’ll be following in the footsteps of former hosts Sheridan Voysey (the show’s creator), Leigh Hatcher, and Dwayne Jeffries.
We caught up with Stephen to hear about his vision for the new-look program.
Why did you take on the role of Open House host?
“I’ve been involved in Christian media for a long time in the governance space. We’ve long felt that the lack of an Open House program meant we were missing something: an opportunity to have conversations that we couldn’t really have anywhere else. Conversations that can go to a different place, ask questions other media aren’t asking, and aim to be a life changing, culture-changing influence.”
Tell us about your background in radio.
“I started out as a young man with a passion to be in radio and do news and current affairs. In the 80’s I was in my early 20s and was given the opportunity to be one of the pioneers of the news talk format in Australia. I did the drive time format program on 2GB. We were the first commercial, all talk station. It was a very exciting time to be in radio.
“I had such a love of radio, and [at the time] it was about the pursuit of ratings as much as anything else.
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“I’ve had a long time since then to reflect on the role of radio in our society, and have come to believe that community radio, and Christian community radio, are coming into their own now as media we have to have—for democracy to be strong.
You used to be a very ‘tough’ interviewer. Are you still like that?
“I was a very tenacious interviewer, and I think one of the features of our program the Sundown Rundown was that I’d get the Premier or the Prime Minister on, and I’d ask them a question, and keep pursuing the question until I got to an answer. So it became a contest between me and the interviewee.
“I’m still tenacious, I still want to get to the truth. But what happened in my mid-20s, my broadcasting phase, was that I became a Christian; I accepted the truth about Jesus and what He did. I’m still tenacious about the truth but I’m looking for truth now that reflects a sense of God’s truth.
“An interviewer is in a very powerful position, potentially, and to get somebody on the air, and pursue them to the point where you make them embarrassed or make them squirm, or in some way bring them down, is not respectful. It doesn’t help the debate, nine times out of ten, but sometimes it is necessary, and our society depends on robust seeking-after-truth. That doesn’t mean robust destroying of individuals.
“So I think what changed for me as a journalist in my 20s when I became a Christian, was I started pursuing the truth of an issue rather than bringing down the interviewee.”
What kind of topics will you tackle?
“Any issue is on the table. Open House is exactly that – ‘open’. One of the things that the show has always been very good at, and which I’m keen on, especially given my background in media and politics, is the idea that every subject is one we ought to be able to analyse from a Christian perspective. You’ll hear perspectives on Open House that you won’t hear on other media; a different way of looking at things.
“You’ll hear perspectives on Open House that you won’t hear on other media.”
“We’re aiming to influence the discussions that take place when people listening hear something they might not have thought of, and then have that discussion with the people around them.
“Anything from the very big moral questions of our time, through to daily politics or home affordability, or any issue that concerns human affairs. We think we deserve to explore what God might think about that, and how we as his people might respond in love towards others, to make the world a better place.”
What about culture – art, music, film?
“The definition of culture is making meaning of our world. As for art, film [on the Open House show], I’m a musician myself so you’re not going to stop me from being involved in all of those great things!”
What kind of perspective will Open House take?
“The perspective we’ll bring in Open House will be looking for a truth that’s greater than our own society and culture, a truth about what God wants for us as people He made in his image. What God wants for us as a society that flourishes, gives honour and glory to Him.”
How will Open House be different to other current affairs shows?
“If you watch a program closely you will eventually get some understanding of the perspectives that have informed the people who have put the program together.
“Christian radio is different because it says we’re coming from a Christian perspective. The difference with Open House is that we need to be Godly in the way we interview.
“Open House is a place for respectful debate, lots of talk back calls, discussion.”
“Open House has house rules: that it is open – a place for conversation, where every perspective is to be valued and is worthwhile (unless it’s something deliberately defamatory!). Open House is a place for respectful debate, lots of talk back calls, we want to participate in discussion. We don’t want to hear only from people who agree with those on the air. We want disagreement that produces an outcome that points us to a new truth about how God wants us to be as his people in the world he made.
“It’s going to be robust, but it’ll be respectful. It’s going to be great fun.”
* Open House airs from March 26, 7pm to 10pm each Sunday night on Hope 103.2.