BBC (NI) loses it

I have to note this, the BBC NI’s Stephen Nolan has just pointed to an on-air text vote on his TV programme, Nolan Live!, as evidence of public opinion.. in this case, on the value-for-money of MLAs.. 91% said No!.. which amounted to around 5,000 texts.. from a self-selecting sample.. Doesn’t the BBC have a single statistician on the staff?.. doesn’t any member of that programme, or the editorial staff, know the phone number of a statistician? Sheesh.

  • Gum

    I know Pete, I know… but its Stephen Nolan, let it go!

  • Pete Baker

    It just pisses me off when such blatant misrepresentation of statistics is allowed to be broadcast as fact, Gum.

  • 91% said “no they’re not a waste of money” or “no they’re not value for money”?

    It sounds silly, but if it’s “no they’re not value for money” I’d say 91% couldn’t be that far off.

  • Pete Baker


    Regardless of what you might personally believe, the idea that an on-air text vote could, or should, be presented as a representative sample of public opinion – as was attempted in this case – simply displays contempt for the audience by the programme makers.

  • Brian Boru

    Thought it was hillarious. It is true though that the MLA’s are being paid for doing nothing.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ll qualify that –

    Either contempt, or a complete lack of understanding of the statistical tools they are trying to apply.

  • headmelter

    fortunately i didnt hear this as the man is just too irritating to listen to.
    i prefer the brain dead nonsense of chris moyles before having to face the cack in the office first thing in the morning and besides i’m prety good at car park catchphrase.

  • Hmm. Pete, how is it any different from having a poll on a website or carrying out a public survey?

  • One or two of Mr Nolan’s previous polls, were also, shall we say, targeted by interested parties 😉

    The Northern Ireland football team proved to be a lot more popular than Stephen expected!

  • TOT

    yes i recall that one, sorry to play man and not the ball but he is takes stupid arguments and defends them as a reasonable position, the mand has the journalistic ability of a brick.

  • Nestor Makhno

    I caught the ‘teenage have sex horror’ item earlier in the show – lots of irrelevant salacious shots in the build up and then the usual shock results from a survey of teenagers – most of whom have claimed to have sex at a ridiculously early age.

    (I also wonder at the gullibility of surveyors – what teenager is going to admit to being a virgin to a complete stranger?!)

    The Nolan Show reminds me of a badly done pastiche of Chris Morris’s The Day Today.

  • Pete Baker


    It’s as meaningless a poll. But it was the presentation of the piece.. just a circus routine supposedly discussing the RPA. [Iknow, I know.. it’s not my normal viewing, but there was politics involved..]

    The politicians, from several of the parties, who took part need to question what they expected and the BBC need to ask themselves what they were trying to achieve.. because, from where I sat, none of those involved could congratulate themselves after that performance.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    I thought it was just good-humoured fun Pete. You need to chill out and take it for what it was- a dressing-down of politicians who earn £32,000 plus expenses a year for doing what?
    I realise that the poll is open to accusations that it is not representative of the 1.7 million citizens who live in Northern Ireland, but which poll is fully representative, 100% FACT?

    I’d love to meet the 9% of people who thought MLAs were good value for money- I haven’t met anyone yet who supports that view!

  • Aaron

    BBC producer guidelines require polls of this nature to be accompanied by a warning that they’re not representative. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t mentioned at some point during the show, even in passing, but if they didn’t, it was an oversight/mistake.

  • Butterknife

    Explain it in ‘Dummy guide …’ format please Pete.

  • Pete Baker

    There are really two issues here, Butterknife.

    Firstly the use of this audience feedback masquerading as a poll.. the self-selecting nature of the sample means that the results are worthless and, frankly, the sooner TV programmes [and radio programmes] stop using them, even with a qualifer of them being “not representative”, the better.

    The second issue is one we’ve touched on at Slugger before.. and that’s the relationship between the media and politics – and how one affects, or infects, the other. Previously we’ve focused on political journalists but it also applies elsewhere and, in this case, when politicians take part in the programme, even more so.

  • Butterknife

    But is it not true that the media companies take a slice of the income generated by the phone (text) poll, therefore it is in their best interest to generate interested by creating these polls (sic).

    I see your point however. Nature of the greedy beast i fear.

  • eranu

    CL, i think that 9% must have dialed the wrong number !

  • Occasional Commentator

    Most scientists don’t seem to understand stats or probability, so what chance the average journalist?

  • anon

    The 9% would take 108 MLAs people voting oh about 4 times each on average 🙂

  • Zorro

    This programme was a truly cringe worthy. It was painful to watch and yes, before the programme ended, I did avail of the ‘off-button” choice. Granted SN is SN but to think the licence fee goes to pay for such drivel. I found it embarrassing to watch SN “interview” the young magician. I agree fully with the comments made by PB but would like to ask what made the MLAs go on the show and perform their “30 seconds” of farcical pseudo-serious political comment. Furthermore, when SN invited people to contact the show, revenue will have been gained from the phone calls. How much was it and where did it go? SN was basically saying I want to know your opinion and I want you to pay to give it to me! Normally I would tell SN to stick to his day job but that’s just as bad!

  • The Nolan show was nothong compared to the Spotlight Programme on The McCartneys on Tuesday evening. How can any programme allude (on several occasions) to the way in which the issue had totally divided Short Strand and only feature opinions from residents with direct connections to the McCartney family. I know many people in Short Strand who would have been willing to give an alternative view on many incidents which occurred in the aftermath, but I havent met a single resident who was approached by the BBC reporter in question (I think it was Declan Loan). This is without doubt the single most ‘untouchable’ news story in Northern Ireland of the past decade in terms of the media’s total reluctance to offer any impartial assessement of the behaviour of some members of the McCartney family over the past 8 months. The horror and disgust over the killing is shared unanimously but you cannot produce a documentary highlighting the dissection of an entire community and only feature one side of the story. Also, the absence of factual data was appalling. 1100 residents attended the vigil shortly after Roberts death. This figure had reduced to just 450 (BBC NEWS 24) at the second rally which was held on a Sunday afternoon and was prior to the family’s much publicised vist to the U.S. The final rally at McGuiness’s bar was attended by just 160 people. There was no comment or analysis of this whatsoever. There is an untold story here which has nothing to do with intimidation or any such nonsense. It is crying out for a courageous investigative journalist to write it. They exist. So please do.

  • Lonely Pint

    macswiney, I totally agree with you. I sat and watched the programme from start to finish, expecting to hear some other point of view – and with the exception of Gerry Kelly – the programme featured the McCartney family and friends only as interviewees.

    Having said that, I was moved by the genuine hurt and anguish they are continuing to experience as a result of their brother’s murder.

    BUT – many, many families in Northern Ireland have been through this – and in 2005 as well. I know a lot of people who live in the strand and who know the McCartneys well. They tell me there is very definitely another side to the story of how the McCartneys were ‘forced to leave’ the area.

    However, because of the very real grief of the McCartney family, it would be considered insensitive and innappropriate to do that at this time.

  • Zorro

    I have been waiting for it to arrive and it has, albeit somewhat later than anticipated – that is the slur campaign against the McCartney sisters. Admittedly this is not the blog for it but I can’t help but feel there is something quite sinister a foot when reading about the McCartney murder and it continues to emanate from the so called true Republicans.

    I wonder if the IP address macswiney and Lonely Pint is the same. No matter – reading their resentful whataboutery serves to remind us that the SF Press Office hasn’t gone away you know!