Submitted by Fra Hughes…
The Nolan Show is one of BBC Northern Ireland flagship presentations. It has been at the centre of many controversies over several years with its presenter Stephen Nolan being accused by many of fomenting sectarianism through his style of presentation and the platform used by the program to engage with the public.
A recent Change.org petition explicitly calling into question the format used by the Nolan Show, has to date received the support of over 12,000 signatories.
Rather than addressing the issues brought forward by the petition, BBC Northern Ireland has condemned those who have signed the petition as being Trolls involved in a tactical smear campaign of the Nolan Show and by extension Stephen Nolan?
I signed the petition. I am not a troll. I am a concerned citizen who has deep reservations about the style and content of the Nolan Show on BBC Northern Ireland television, and the Nolan Show on BBC Northern Ireland Radio Ulster.
These reservations centre around the concerns raised in the petition, that the show heightens sectarian tensions within regional society through the use of a style of presentation that encourages rating growth, through the exploitation of the events and historical facts that divide us.
While every program and every journalist has the right to comment on the news, past events, current affairs and on future proposals that may affect society at large, when that journalist or broadcaster is employed by a National Television service, provided for and paid by the Citizens of the Nation, those views in the public arena can be dissected and examined by the license fee payer for accountability and impartiality. That must be the cornerstone of National reporting.
Content in News programmes must reflect the current reality of the situation and where possible be balanced and above reproach. Talk show style programs. of which the Nolan Show on television and BBC Radio Ulster are prime examples, have a different style of content. While they may reflect the different opinions expressed by different groups within society, the role of the presenter is to provide a space for all those who wish to be heard and have that opportunity, if appropriate.
When the presenter becomes the news, something has gone drastically wrong.
The very fact the 12,000 citizens, within the region of Northern Ireland, have chosen to sign a petition calling in to doubt the neutrality of the show, the credibility of the corporation and its charter, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, we have a problem.
Many individuals, including myself, feel Stephen Nolan and the Nolan Show have crossed the line of journalistic neutrality in an attempt to boost ratings? A subject which is very important for them.
BBC Northern Ireland must take seriously a petition signed by over 12,000 people many of whom are licence fee payers, listen to BBC radio and watch BBC television.
They must not demonise, dismiss, or misrepresent those people as, Trolls. It is dishonest, it is deceitful and discredits the individuals involved.
I have chosen not to listen to the Nolan Show on the radio nor watch the Nolan Show on television. I have found it to be partisan, imbalanced and at times it appears to embrace the sectarian underbelly of society here.
I personally feel the Nolan Show has overrun itself and is past its best use-by/best before date.
BBC NI should consider canning the show or rebooting the format.
I do not wish to see my license fee contribution spent on a program that on balance seems to have a more negative than a positive effect on society.
The 12,000 people who have signed this petition are but a small reflection of the true number of individuals who have deep reservations about the continuation of this show on BBC Northern Ireland.
One of the largest political parties in the North of Ireland refuses to engage with Stephen Nolan or the Nolan Show?
This political party has a huge mandate from its voters to reflect their views in public, in society, in government and in the arena of public opinion. The fact that this party reflects the deep concerns shown by many of its electors, that the Nolan Show may not be fit for purpose, together with the 12,000 individuals, who have signed the petition, many of whom are not party politically affiliated, must encourage BBC Northern Ireland, its senior managers and program staff to reconsider the position the Nolan Show has both on regional television and regional radio.
Perhaps it is time for a change. Perhaps it is time society here moved on and moved forward. Perhaps it is time to move on from the Nolan Show, the format and substance of a program that has 12,000 people questioning its neutrality and impartiality, which has a national political party, with huge local support, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, refusing to engage with the show.
Perhaps now is the time for a new format and a new presenter.
Here is the wording of the petition,
This petition calls for BBC NI to cancel the Nolan Show on the basis that it seeks to stir sectarian tensions for ratings. In doing so, it is detrimental to good community relations and building a shared society. The show is also irresponsible in providing a regular platform for illegal proscribed paramilitary organisation representatives and apologists to air their extreme views which are not representative of public opinion.
For example, on 3rd February 2021, the show provided a platform for an unelected representative of illegal proscribed paramilitary organisations to threaten violence relating to the NI Protocol. This is highly irresponsible and risks inflaming tensions which could lead to violence. However this is not a unique example and the show regularly platforms unelected representatives and apologists for paramilitary organisations.
By cancelling the show, BBC NI can restore some integrity to its broadcasting and provide a public service rather than a public disservice.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.