Licence fee freeze leads BBC NI slashes top journalist jobs…

Grim reading this morning in the Belfast Telegraph (h/t Nevin)… Hearts and Minds, as long expected, is to finally go. The production teams for three programmes will be to some extent amalgamated, and run on a rolling basis…. And some key assets are being got rid of, including Julia Paul who’s film pieces for Hearts and Minds have been some of the corporation’s consistently highest quality output:

Politics reporters Yvette Shapiro and Julia Paul as well as environment correspondent Mike McKimm are just three of the household names that may no longer be seen on screen as a result of a voluntary redundancy programme.

The corporation has been trawling for eight to 10 journalistic redundancies in news and current affairs.

The BBC has been forced to cut 20% of its £3.5bn UK-wide budget as a result of the freezing of the licence fee.

“The licence fee freeze has really hamstrung the BBC; as soon as that was announced it was inevitable that the axe was going to fall on news which has really been quite protected up to now,” according to Yvette Shapiro, who works as a reporter on the Sunday Politics programme and who has applied to leave in July.

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  • DC

    Those being made redundant have a reputation along with an audience, what is to stop them from spinning off and producing/showing this kind of stuff out of a Youtube channel?

    Perhaps hitch up with the Detail and create a new digitised ‘Hearts and Minds’.

    Advertising revenue mightn’t be as good as the salary they were once on, but hey c’est la vie.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Just how much in total is Nolan getting paid? The money can be found for his TV show ok!

  • DC

    DR – this is when regional pay could make sense. Rather than lose people off the edge as the economy and money shrinks under our feet, people like Big Nolan would be forced to take a hit so others could be kept on in work, rather than be made redundant in order to keep Nolan and Co on turbo salaries.

    Basically, the economy is deflating and I guess a re-alignment of pay is needed across the board, otherwise people will be pushed off the edge while others carry on living the good life on grossly inflated wages.

  • DC

    Or actually thinking about, big fat Nolan is the one who probably should have been let go and encouraged to go digital and stand on his own two feet himself, because he would have the audience size and advertising revenue would probably pay off for him, than the lesser knowns above with a smaller audience.

    Besides the ones being sacked are closer to the public-service broadcasting ethos where subvention is needed to keep the public informed about regional politics and its twists and turns.

    Nolan is a bit more tabloidy in his approach. I reckon Big Nolan could cut it on a talk sport type show or something like that.

  • andnowwhat

    Agree with DR and DC about Nolan. Keeping him and sacking the 3 others is a real shame (especially Julia Paul but I’ve my own interests there 🙂 ) and speaks poorly of the priorities in BBC NI.

  • They weren’t sacked, they took voluntary redundancy, probably a very generous package at that. No doubt they’ll be able to take that package and use their contacts to waltz into a new post at the Stormont Press Office.

  • According to the BBC, its mission is to ‘enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain’ and its values include ‘Audiences are at the heart of everything we do – We take pride in delivering quality and value for money – Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation’. None of this seems to have featured in the means they’ve used to reduce staff and/or other costs.

  • Dec

    To echo Ulick, they all seem to have opted for fairly generous voluntary redundancy packages and in the case of Paul, an alternative position in the newsroom was declined. No doubt they’ll all be popping up somewhere else before too long. Those wishing to wail at the horror of it all, should probably look elsewhere.

  • Ulick, to look at it another way, those least likely to apply for redundancy will include those with limited skills and prospects. This doesn’t look like a good deal for the licence-payer or for those who like to see a public service broadcaster expose poor public service governance.

  • Dec

    ‘Ulick, to look at it another way, those least likely to apply for redundancy will include those with limited skills and prospects. ‘

    So we’re stuck with the weather team then?

  • cynic2

    Very sensible moves. Much better not to spend time asking stupid questions about Cardinals and the First Ministers wife. The replacements can focus on important issues like how well the Executive is doing, how underpaid and undervalued all our MLAs are and how we are all bathed in a warm glow of contentment that shines out of the fundament of OFMDFM.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m sure that’s right dec… I just think that whereever they turn up they are a loss to the body politic..

    Or perhaps you’d rather we had less people who were capable of explaining just what our political class are up to?

  • jthree

    There is unequivocally no living in doing a Youtube channel, blog etc.

    Here’s a bit of insight

    They could of course follow the example of a well known local veteran journalist without a paying gig, which is creditable but nonetheless massively Pooterish.

  • This is less to do with individuals and more to do with BBC NI’s priorities going forward.

    The individuals mentioned above are very talented and I am sure they will do well.

    However that ‘side’ of things has clearly been scaled back. Meanwhile, a very large budget has been allocated to Nolan.

    The priority in news, current affairs and discussion appears to be weighted towards Mr Nolan.

    That is the take-home point here. Do we believe that is an appropriate direction for BBC NI? Furthermore, much of this is based around a personality. That personality may be tempted by a full-time gig in England, be it at Five Live or Talk Sport. When he is gone, what are we left with?

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think their decision to call it a day with” hearts and minds” could be right, the format is starting to date, but isn’t that suitable to updating either. The politics show dosn’t quite hit the mark either. Hopefully a good alternative will come about, although if the money is mainly going to feed Nolan shows then its not looking promising.
    That will be £12:50 love.

  • Mick Fealty

    My hunch is that it may reflect an inability internally at senior management level to fight for its own current affairs assets…

  • Dec

    ‘Or perhaps you’d rather we had less people who were capable of explaining just what our political class are up to?’

    Not really, but I’m fairly confident others within (and outside) the BBC are capable of filling their shoes.

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    I agree with the Nolan show being a bit tabloidy and should try to maintain the real journalists at Nolan’s expense top some degree. While I still like listening to him, I’m beginning to predict the format:

    Flag news story / irish language story followed by DUP/SF sectarian bun fight

    Regional pay debate or Public/private sector shouting match between Bumper Graham on the left and Katie Hopkins on the right

    The umpteenth reincarnation of the mob rule justice of ‘should special laws be introduced to deal with ppl who attack pensioners’

    usual dog dirt/wheelie bin/ X gives you cancer blah blah blah…

    He asks good questions but the format is designed to antagonise from the outset and get irate callers ringing up spouting some unresearched garbage.

    Anyway, for anyone who listens to him on five live he puts on a totally different act, he even talks differently.

    I remember recently listening to BNP leader Nick Griffin on his show and actually found myself agreeign with him in that he said “The reason he do better was that Peter Robinson spooked unionists to vote DUP or McGuinness would become first minister.” to which Nolan responded: “No way, the NI electorate are independent minded people who cast their considered vote accordingly….” Have you ever heard such bollocks?!! We know we are the least independent voters!! That’s a given. He was just trying to protect the listeners from being told they might be a bit stupid.

  • DC

    It could will leave a gap that imo could be filled by AgendaNI magazine, a more sophisticated readership that would likely appreciate the views of Shapiro etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    Hes entertaining alright. And light on his feet. but Hes not paid to explain complexity like Julia has been.


    What shoes?

  • jthree

    AgendaNI lolz – it exists to give a little light tickle to our local administrative class. It has all the bite of an Ulster Business advertorial

  • DC

    jthree, still doesn’t mean that it couldn’t fill that gap.

  • jthree

    It could but the imperative for it and the local biz mags is not to upset advertisers or potential advertisers

  • dodrade

    Is this why Catherine Morrison and Natalie Lindo have started doing the breakfast bulletins?

  • ranger1640

    Why are publicly funded employees getting in their words is “a generous offer”??? In these alleged straightened times why are they not getting the industrial average redundancy package???

    “a package believed to be calculated at one month’s salary per year in employment”.

    “It is a generous offer compared to what many people in industry are being offered and was more than I had initially expected,”

    Read more:

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s for the BBC to decide on the pros and cons of the quality of the content supplied by Nolan, but I don’t see how in this day and age his salary can be justified. What would happen if he was made to take a 10% cut – would he really be able to command the same kind of money from a private media concern ?

  • Professor Yattle

    If only it was ‘just’ £5,000 per show.
    Nolan is getting £5,000 per DAY. Not sure how the Belfast Telegraph missed this as they published the paperwork.
    I’m also not sure how many days Nolan bills per show but it will be at least two, and will certainly be as many as he can.

  • There is bound to be friction at the BBC over the change in BBC priorities. I think it over-estimates Nolan to think that he would ever make it big in England.
    It is dumbing down.
    I have heard one politician say that Nolan (radio) is unmissable because it sets the agenda. But it only sets the agenda because politicians actually line up to be on his show. Polticians should just say “no…..if you want an interview send Noel Thompson”.
    There is no point in politicians claiming tonight that Nolan trivialises politics. They are as much to blame for allowing him to so do.

  • DC

    which one/s said that?

  • claudius

    I recall one local Company being the focus of Nolans daily anger. When asked to come on the show and explain themselves they told the show researcher that they had no interest in participating on a ‘comedy show’ .
    I don’t get the Nolan show – it seems to be Talkback lite

  • jthree

    Would he (Nolan) really be able to command the same kind of money from a private media concern ?

    I doubt it very much. What do the BBC give him? Regular network radio, daily radio in which he wields considerable power and local TV.

    Possibly UTV could offer him a similar gig but they would never give him the same money or the same production. If he did a TV show for them the production standard would be of the ‘Late & Live’ falling-down-set variety. Also I’m sceptical talkSPORT would want him – as the name suggests its presenters tend to be former sportsmen or have a background in sports journalism. Nolan knows the square root of fuck all about sport.

    No broadcaster in the Republic would want him and his morbid obesity disqualifies him from UK network TV.

  • SethS

    As far as I am aware the Nolan show is not part of current affairs so sacking him would not have much impact on the funding available for journalists in the newsroom.

    As a number have noted, the problem with this approach is that those who are good will take the package as they know they can get a job elsewhere and you’re left with the lower quality staff (or they end up back at the BBC as freelancers being paid twice as much!)

  • Framer

    ranger1640 asks why “publicly funded employees are getting in their words “a generous offer”??? In these alleged straightened times why are they not getting the industrial average redundancy package???”

    ‘Straitened,’ but anyway Ranger, you seem not to have noticed only the public sctor can afford, and of course expects, enormous redundancy packages. The BBC is notorious for such whoppers which is why the staff are happy, if not eager to depart.
    The real reason for the redundancies is not that the BBC has “been forced to cut 20% of its £3.5bn UK-wide budget as a result of the freezing of the licence fee.” This is of course entirely inaccurate, but don’t expect the Corporation to dispute the figure. 20% inflation p.a.?
    The real reason is that the BBC is taking £905m from our licence fee money to plug the hole in its pension fund, which is growing bigger because of these very redundancies!
    Would that newspapers could levy a compulsory poll tax as they might survive. Instead we will have a single media outlet with only one journalist on a gargantuan salary.

  • Jo

    Sorry, tho I can longer view it, save on iiplayer, that H & M is going. Less sorry that I wont see D Vance on any more, being paid by a BBC he calls ‘biased’. In my view, the programme slid seriously down by ascribing him any recognition. There is simply no comparison to Jude or Alex. And I shant see him squirm under a few well aimed questions fom the shows presenter. H and M, RIP.

  • Comrade Stalin


    cI have heard one politician say that Nolan (radio) is unmissable because it sets the agenda. But it only sets the agenda because politicians actually line up to be on his show. Polticians should just say “no…..if you want an interview send Noel Thompson”.
    There is no point in politicians claiming tonight that Nolan trivialises politics. They are as much to blame for allowing him to so do.

    Rightly or wrongly Nolan gets a lot of listeners. That’s why the politicians go on the show, to maximise their audience.

    We should all be very careful indeed about the idea that politicians should be able to dictate terms to the media. It’s only a small step from there to the point where politicians refuse to talk to reporters who ask the tough questions. This already happens, we need less of it not more. In a healthy democracy, politicians fear the media.

    Nolan’s style of questioning is certainly to try to set traps. Canny politicians will know his game well and can turn it to their advantage. Crap politicians fall early on, and I think we all know of the cases where Nolan has set traps and less than clueful politicians have walked straight in. Nothing unusual about that, I’ve seen Paxman do the same.

    The part about his show I really dislike is how callers are encouraged to phone into the show and abuse some of his guests.

  • babyface finlayson

    “I don’t get the Nolan show – it seems to be Talkback lite”
    I thought Talkback was Talkback lite these days?
    Wendytalksback is hard to listen to. DD must be spinning in his grave.

  • jthree

    Hi Framer I see the beeb had reporters out on jobs again this weekend. I thought you said they didn’t do that at the weekend or perhaps you were mistaken?

  • Comrade Stalin
    Refusing to go on the Nolan Show is hardly the politicians dictating terms to the media. Indeed recent evidence at the Leveson Inquiry suggests that the exact reversal is the more likely.
    Is it really a “game”?
    If so that is a “game” politicians shouldnt play.
    I dont much like talking about Nolan (save for a good one-liner) but with hand on heart I can say that I have never listened to his radio show and would get out of any taxi if the driver insisted on listening to it.
    I HAVE seen bits and pieces of his TV show and am unimpressed.
    Its hardly “shock jock” of the very worst kind. Rather it is “Shock-Jock Lite” with occasionally synthetic debate over sometimes meaningless issues.
    Any programme which includes the words “what to you think Pamela in Newtownards” or “Kevin from Coalisland is on the line” is a programme I dont want to hear.
    If I thought idiots had something important to say, Id take up blogging……….oh wait. 😉

  • streetlegal

    I can’t see the value of the Nolan television program. I don’t think that it adds anything useful. It seems to be a straightforward rehash of the radio show.

  • DC While on the subject of the TV nolan show, it’s been at least four programmes now and it’s telling that, having started it just adfter the titanic circus was winding down, he has avoided the subject completely. I suppose he was n’t amused at the public backlash over it and appeared[judging from his radio show calls] totally on the side of the titanic centre’s class discrimination policies. Last wednesday’s episode was pretty threadbare tbh.

  • To some extent, concentrating on Nolan takes the thread away in a direction that is maybe different from the original post.
    But a couple of points.
    In his first programme (Alex Attwood) Nolan was a bit over the top.
    His treatment of Attwood probably facilitated Poots decision not to appear the next week. I only watched parts of those shows and have not seen anything since.

    While emphasing that I dont think politicians are best served by appearing on shows which are “light entertainment”, I dont think Nolan served his own programme..or interests (or indeed the BBCs) well by appearing to be a parody of himself.
    It would certainly be interesting to have been a fly on the wall at any BBC de-briefing on the first show. I certainly detected a more subdued less over the top version of Nolan in programme 2.
    Has any politician appeared since? I dont know.
    But the point is that if a politician …….and Nolan…..want to play the game…..there has to be a certain give and take.
    Do politicians need Nolan more, less or the same as he needs them?
    Probably it depends on the politician.
    But surely Nolans target audience is the “anti-politician overclass” and presumably he pitches the programme to BBC commissioning folk on the basis that politicians will turn up.
    If he is to look after his own interests, he therefore needs to turn down the aggression.
    Whether he is the next Terry Wogan or Simon Dee is up to him.

  • BIGK

    Journalists? you must be jokeing. The British Bullshit Corperation have no use for real journalists they only need yes men who toe the party line. Any journalist worth the title would not dare mention the name of BBC and truth in the same breath. Thank God for the internet were one can access the truth. The world can survive quite well without these Common Purpose types telling them what is right and what is wrong. The BBC is the propoganda wing of the establishment and people are at last starting to wake up to this fact. Do away with the licence FINE and see how long it can survive in the real world. People are paying for their own enslavement. As far as the likes of Nolan goes he is irrelevant.

  • BluesJazz

    The Dan Snow documentary (1of 3) tonight on NI and WW2 was excellent. Was that a local production? The (Southern) Irish army couldn’t believe it when the Spitfire’s guns still fired after 70 years in the Donegal mud.
    And free Guinness and whiskey to the Allied internees at the Curragh?

  • jthree

    Jokeing – joking

    Corperation – corporation

    Propoganda – propaganda

    Also the BBC is on the internet.

    Other than those quibbles I felt you offered a rational and cogent critique.

  • BIGK

    jthree thanks for the spelling lesson. Not nescessary I have managed to get my message across regardless Maybe I hit a nerve? cant see any other reason for your petty reply,or should it be pretty?

  • jthree

    nescessary – necessary

    Keep up the good work