Let’s Talk…

Joining Mark Carruthers on Let’s Talk last night: Ian Paisley Jr of the DUP and junior minister in the OFMDFM, the minister for social development the SDLP’s Margaret Ritchie, journalist and political activist Eamonn MCann and David Burrows, a member of the Parades Commission and a former leading Orangeman.

  • Sam Spud

    I’ve just watched him allow a panel to meander round rhetorical corners for 10mins at a time, then take forever to ask the audience for their views. Then his producer doesnt seem to know WHEN to move on to the next question.

    17 mins on the east belfast floods!

    Then we came to the Ian Jr homphobia comments. Carruthers was a complete pushover, he had no idea how to deal with the topic. The issue is NOT whether paisley is entitled to say what he said as a politician, or whether he regrets what he said. Its whether an equality minister can possibly stay in office having given this interview. This would not be possible in any other western democracy.

    When an uninformed american in the audience went off on on about hurricane katrina, carruthers allowed the panel to get into that discussion too, thereby further letting paisley off the hook.

    Can we please raise up some decent interviewers and journalists in this country? Put david dimbleby in the chair and he would have demolished paisley’s ridiculous replies with two questions. Insteaad, this programme has a presenter who lets him off the hook again and again and again.

    Please Let’s Talk producers:

    1. Limit Mark’s willingness to allow a discussion to exhaust the audience’s attention and interest.

    2. Make this programme pacier. Let’s train guests to do what they do on BBC Question Time: answer the question in 50 seconds, allowing more time for rejoinders etc.

    3. Don’t go to the audience quite as often. If you do, then don’t let mark turn it into an interview with a random member of the audience. Get their view, Mark, and move on. I don’t need you to examine a punter’s view with three additional questions.

    4. I know you want to put mark behind a podium with his pen in the air to avoid looking like u’r doing Q and A or Question Time. Well listen, word to the wise: You Are. So put him behind the table, get him to take part a LOT less, quicken up the topics, pace and discussion.

    In other words, give Mark 10 years of BBC Question Time and get him to learn from Dimbleby and predecessors. Or even the Radio 4 any questions programme. In all those questions, theres a lot LESS of the presenter. Short, sharp interventions; not long rambling attempts to form a question in the air while waving a pen around like a schoolteacher taking a roll.

    Also, when Mark encounters a panellist who is flailing around without an answer to a question, for god’s sake just move on to someone else, don’t make us listen to that for two more follow-up questions.

    If i sound like im losing my patience with this programme, it’s because i am.

    I honestly now think the BBC should replace Mark in his programme if he isnt able to lift this programme from the doldrums its now in.

  • Freddie w.belf

    thanks for the post Mick. glad to join in this one, i read sams thing in the earlier post and i think hes on the money here. LT is a disaster and needs fixed asap.

  • willis

    Unless you have satellite you would have missed a classic Question Time in this slot.


    Still there is always youtube.

  • Angelus

    The set is a part of the problem. looks untidy

  • Sam Hanna

    Ian Jr is a fool but he is entitled to his comments – get over it!

    We are truly living in aday of homofascism!

  • David D

    Last’s nights QT was indeed classic and contrasted dreadfully with Lets Talk.

    Eamonn McCann is always a good turn. He’s funny and intelligent and a great rhetorician. Had he been on QT, Dimbleby would have tigthened him up and made him better still for it.

    Ian Jr on any national show would have embarrassed himself and the presnter would have pressed him. Carruthers didn’t. Shamefully. He looked nervous, as if he’s afraid to take Ian Og on. Why would he be afraid? Ian’s not exactly George Galloway. When Ian accidentally gave the game away and said it wouldnt be acceptable for a policitian to say something racist, Mark Carruthers STILL let him away with it. He got bogged down on some notion of racist “crime”. He should have asked paisley if a non-criminal statement of racism would be ok. He didn’t and Paisley walked off with the ball. Embarrassing.

  • Kelly’s eye

    Sam Hanna:

    No debate there. Ian Jr is a fool and is entitled to his views. Not the issue here though. The issue is what’s wrong with this shite programme. I think sam spud’s onto it.

  • let’s walk

    Agree. Piece of crap tv. Dumbed down. Presenter afriad to push politicians. Carruthers seems to want to grin and make a joke out of every issue like a buffoon. He doesnt have it. They need a heavyweight on that show, someone with gravitas, style AND intelligence. When dimbleby is witty you notice it, he doesnt have to grin like a balloon all through the programme.

    Why don’t we redevise the show for them.






  • Joanna Gray

    its a bigger problem than lets talk. we lack decent hard hitting journos in ni. why dont they try a woman presenter in this slot? why is it always a male chairing? mark is a nice guy, way too nice to be any use on this. he comes across like a middle class nice boy who spends more time on his hair than he does on the questions. That’s cruel I know, but it’s how it comes across.

    My suggestion is that the show should be shorter. The panel get 45-60 seconds first answer on each question. a couple of short comments from the audience. I agree: STOP interviewing random audience members at length Mark. then allow about 2 mins for a quite tussle between the panel. keep it brief. move on. 16 mins on this programme for floods? what the hell wa actually said? Dimblebly could deal with the Iraq war, blair’s legacy AND the price of milk in estonia in that slice of time. we got repetitive dull tv instead.

    Audience members: i realise we can’t get the two hitchens and boris every week, but actually getting Ian Jr was an exclusive for this show and Mark blew it. I’d do what QT did and get a comedian/actor/tv celeb on each panel along with a columnist/pundit and three politicians. The DUP and SF need to be on every show in some capacity, the third politico chair could go to UUP, SDLP or ALLIANCE. Simple.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Watching it now.

    Soft questioning. Dull, dull, dull.

    Why didn’t the Beeb just give the DUP a party political broadcast last night. At least it would’ve been no more than five minutes long, and then we could’ve watched something more interesting afterwards. Like repeats of the test card or something.

    Thank God for McCann, although he’d probably have a go at me for suggesting his existence was due to some deity.

  • Time Will Tell

    Shite interviewer maybe but it could be worse, have you listened to Talkback lately, what a complete load of SHITE….. the most dumbed down programme in Northern Ireland.

    I have no idea who produces the programme but they should not have their contract renewed, they have made the job of the Nolan show researchers so easy it’s untrue.
    The golden rule of Talkback seems to be if it’s a Hard subject IGNORE IT FAST, CENSOR IT IN A HURRY, STUFF IT AT THE END OF THE SHOW.
    If it’s a dozey harmless easy subject pump it to the max or until the last listener has fallen asleep.


  • Cruimh

    I suspect that good investigative journalism would not be popular – the establishment doesn’t want the boat rocked. And as for the public I imagine it would end up with screams of outrage and accusations of partiality – Each side would be all for probing journalism but only when it’s aimed at the other side.

  • Liam

    They should let Eamon McCann present it! That’d be great.

  • Crazed Protestant

    Brilliant idea Liam. Anyone would be better than that grinning stuffed shirt currently presenting it. Eamonn McCann: I disagree with just about everything he stands for but I couldn’t turn off any programme he was presenting.

  • GavBelfast

    Eamonn McCann used to have a slot on TalkBack – not any more.

    It was hard and cutting-edge when Barry Cowan presented it, but then we were in a different climate, too.

    No, so much on the radio is either shallow shock-jock or just shallow, and you get the impression that, for example, Nolan tries to wear some of Talkback’s clothes, but he just talks over people and doesn’t listen to what is being said, while Talkback responds by doing some of the Nolan stuff, to be more populist, but doesn’t quite cut it.

    I don’t suppose Noel Thompson can present everything.

    At least none of it is as bad as TalkSport.

  • JayLo

    Talkback is definitely losing the plot. I’ve a lot of respect for Dunseith and I bet he’s not happy with where the programme has been going. Lame nonsense with Gerry and whatshisname popping up all the time like those two old guys in the muppets. Ridiculously pointless discussions. Hoking it to try to avoid controversy while being interesting. I don’t get who is running the show and why they are setting Dunseith up with such nonsense. Then they put Wendy Austin on when he’s on holiday????? What the f***. I mean, no harm to Wendy, I listen to her every morning, but she’s not going to work in that programme as a stand-in. At least she’s not as bad as Kevin the Ireland correspondent, who sounds like he’s digging a pin into his thumb every time he talks to a real member of the public.

    Back to LEt’s Talk though:

    I think this programme could be great. It could be the forum for the development of national debate. Just like Question Time. The fact is: it does not do this. So the producers need to ask why its not doing that and what they’re doing wrong. I agree with others here about hoe to fix this problem. I would def change the presenter but that’s not going to be enough to fix this one. Marksy is fine at reading the news, and doing 3 min interviews on evening extra where he always asks the same questions (who, what, where … ) but he’s lost it on this show. Out of his depth for sure.

  • Joe90

    Why does William Crawley not stand in for Dunseith on Talkback and Nolan anymore when they’re off on holiday (or on Five Live in Nolan’s case)?

    He hasn’t been on in ages and he was infinitely better than both. Agree with the point about Wendy and Kevin Connolly – and what the hell was Dennis Murray thinking as a stand-in for Nolan?

  • Kelly’s eye

    lets not hold up the nolan show as the one to emulate here, for gods sake. it’s a disgrace that the beeb even hired the guy.

  • Nationalist

    Sam is right about the programme and Mark Carruthers inability to keep to the topic and get straight answers to questions.

    As for Ian Paisley Jnr I’ll bet he would be the first to call for a ministers resignation if he didn’t like what they said and they could be seen as totally at ods with the job they are doing.

    For example would Ian Jnr be OK with Gerry Kelly taking on the Ministers role for Law and Order some time in the near future and then maybe standing up at an IRA mans funeral and expressing his views of how heroic the man was if the same man was convicted of killing 10 RUC men?

    Would Ian defend Gerry’s right to state his opinion and stay in the office of Minister for Law and Order? would he hell!

  • GavBelfast

    “Why does William Crawley not stand in for Dunseith on Talkback and Nolan anymore when they’re off on holiday (or on Five Live in Nolan’s case)?

    He hasn’t been on in ages and he was infinitely better than both.”

    I think you may have found the answer in your own question ….

  • slug

    Having watched the programme I thought that Ian Paisley (I don’t support him but) managed to turn this to his favour, emphasising that hypocrisy was not for him.

    I also thought that Margaret Ritchie was good. I have not seen much of her before on TV debate shows, but I think the is a good prospect for the SDLP.

    McCann is of course very good.

    Burrows is likeable although perhaps not very controversial.

  • Token Dissent

    I watched the first bit of Let’s Talk, and actually though it wasn’t as bad as usual. The audince seemed a bit for balanced in terms of age, usually when from Belfast its about 75% politics students.

    Despite this week’s offering being a slight improvement compared to what was on offer this week with Question Time it was banal and amateurish. The Hitchens brothers and Boris Johnston were the obvious stars, but the whole episode was great entertainment and provocative. In Tony McNulty they even managed to find a human, persuasive Government minister!

  • Shore Road Resident

    The problem with Let’s Talk is primarily the studio audience. There just shouldn’t be one, it contributes nothing except a bad atmosphere. But the BBC is heading for *more* audience participation, not less, which is why everything is dumbing down to a lowest common denominator of anodyne stupidity.
    The BBC should be serving the audience at home, not the totally unrepresentative sample of party hacks, bigots and wierdos who phone, text and come along to television studios. It’s attempt to be more ‘representative’ is just turning normal people off. I find Let’s Talk completely unwatchable.

  • GavBelfast

    Let’s Talk mophed out of ‘On Air’, which was a fairly short-lived studio based current affairs, presented by Barry Cowan, with no audience but guests / contributors on different topics. There was no audience and, in a pre-digital age, the odd phone call (treated fairly serious as opposed to sound-bytes) but no texts or e-mails.

    Cowan was replaced by David Dunseith, then we got the audience, and then we got Mark Carruthers.

    I would agree with Shore Road Resident, what’s the point when there’s Nolan Live for the chavs anyway.


  • Anti-Nolan Man

    Have to agree Talk-back is 100% pure DROSS.

    Sack Dunseith now and his sad producer responsible for the God-damn mess they serve up to the fee paying public as incisive politics, it’s the only hope of getting a decent show back.

  • Freddie w.belf

    I dont blame dunseith, he’s a legend and rightly so. i do blame the lame production – daft stories, weird lead stories that are absolutely pointless or so parochial that even fans of local broadcasting are left wondering what then f*** was that about. then they do that silly light story to take us up to hugo. leave that to hugo, please. while im ranting, can we get rid of the handover hing that dunseith does? whatever he’s talking about he has to blend it into some daft throw-over line for hugo to pick up. embarrassing.

  • Anti-Nolan Man

    Freddie w.belf,

    I am not anti Dunseith as a whole but it may well be the only way of getting rid of the Gimps running the production of Talk-back, if the presenters were held accountable for the drudge that we’re forced to listen too maybe then the likes of Dunseith and Co would grow a pair and stand up to the production team and tell them what shite they are forcing down the radio waves.

  • Freddie w.belf

    Fair point ANM. I agree that it’s the programme’s direction that’s in crisis, not dunseith per se. I admire him and respect him and I do regret that he’s not taking a stand on this programme. It should be the flagship. It’s a disgrace now.

    Does anyone know who the producers of Talkback are?

  • Joycean Schoooler

    That’s tlakback dealt with, still doesnt explain why mark c is allowed to ruin lets talk on a regular basis. humph.

  • I wonder…

    Agree totally that Eamonn McCann should present something like Talkback. We need a raical left wing viewpoint as the BBC (NI) is mediocre and not as *liberal* as its often presented right wing lunatic fringe commentator David Vance. Eamonn got many votes than David.

    Is anyone else as pissed off as me that David Vance as an unelectable angry old man (46) is over representd on Nolan, Talkback, Hearts and Minds and Sunday Sequence. The man just had over 1100 votes – ten years ago ffs. His views are unrepresentative and the frequency of their airing breaches the BBC charter.

    He is totally uninformed on any given subject but comes across as essentially reasonable in tone (while backstabbing all other participants in any BBC show he is invited on and advocating extreme violence on his blog. My bit said on the BBC. 🙂

  • Yer Woman

    Since she brings it up in nearly every feckin’ thread he/she posts in, no matter what the topic, can someone explain to me what the beef is between I wonder and David Vance?

  • I wonder…

    He poses views whch incite hatred and all views expressed on the BBC are at odds with his extreme views on ATW. On the BBC which he, incidentally, castigates as a left wing outlet, he appears a disproportionate number of times to the number of people who agree with him (untested since 1998)

    He has banned me from his site, after repeatedly asking me to post there rather than here, in opposition to his views. He’s a hyprocitical defender of *free speech* Try a Google search for his name and word “coon”. See?

    As a licence fee payer, I object to the views which he represents being afforded airtime disproportionate to the support his vierws have across the ider (sane) world. Succinct enough for you? 🙂 Theres more…

  • Yer Woman

    I, why not!

  • Porlock

    I wonder:

    Nolan is crap.

    Talkback is dated.

    Hearts & Minds needs revamped.

    Sunday Sequence has a small audience.

    Vance fits into all of them very neatly. Willing to work for small bucks and happy to get his name noticed anywhere.

    You don’t like his views—so what? Is the BBC there to cater for your views alone? I don’t like a lot of Vance’s stuff, either, and mainly because he seems to see the world in black and white. But he stands up for his beliefs and says what he thinks.

    If you don’t like him, then switch off, or turn down the volume when he appears.

    Better still, wean yourself away from the pisspoor programmes you seem to enjoy. I abandoned them all years ago.


  • I wonder…

    YW, P

    I believe that there are a lot of extremely violent people out there that that site (of which you are well aware) links to and which provids a common *bond* of support. T

    That support consists of encouraging a community belief in things which I believe to be erosive of the shared values which constitute community links, that that site encourages hatred and encouraging of expressing that hatred in a violent form.

    I can make my views more expressive in a legal framework, which I fully intend to do. I am not and I encourage you all not to be dissuaded (as I was) by David Vances threatening me, with legal
    ation. Although he is a former member of the UKUP.
    he isnt on good terms with Bob McCartney.
    In the meantime I intend t’exercise my democratic viw on a internet forum (which freedom I am denied by a *defender of freedom* speaker on BBC Radio Ulster. Next time David appears on Nolan. ask him about his role in Ulster Resistance in Donaghcloney

  • Belfast Gonzo

    From the Irish News earlier this month:

    Plenty of weight and no substance to flagship show
    By Denis Bradley

    I used to know a man who went around saying: “I’ll talk my fill because I am the boy who can talk”. He was more than a bit eccentric and he came back into my mind a lot during the last couple of weeks. Two things made me think of him. The first was all those advertisements that are dominating the billboards at the moment and are running nightly on television. The ads are for the BBC’s flagship programme Nolan. The other thing that brought my eccentric to mind was the Irish election.

    “Love it or hate it, Nolan gets you talking’ is what the big ad says. This is the programme BBC NI is putting most of its energy, money and reputation into. It appears it is very popular and attracts a big viewing audience.

    For years the BBC has had a problem. It could never quite match UTV in the popularity stakes. UTV had the common touch. Its main focus was in making money and therefore seldom put the same production values into news and current affairs. But it nearly always attracted the bigger audiences. The BBC may have had stature and reputation but it couldn’t match that with the common touch. As well as that the BBC had to meet its commitment to public service broadcasting.

    That meant it had to cater for all sorts of tastes and demands.

    Like the old public transport system it had to go to places where few people went.

    In the meantime its rivals could concentrate on the routes where the big number of people wanted to go.

    There was something else that had an impact but which will not be a factor in the future. Like politics we will find that broadcasting has been devolved.

    During the Troubles, when it came to the ‘big’ stories, the ones that required a lot of research and authority, both UTV and BBC NI were stood aside and the network took over. That meant that people flew in from London and elsewhere to enhance their reputation as working at the cutting edge of investigative journalism. They had big wallets, big reputations and big egos and all the local reporters could do was stand and stare and desist from putting their hands around their controller’s neck for letting it happen.

    So, what about the Nolan Show?

    Do I love it or hate it? Neither actually.

    To love it or hate it is to give it a dignity that it does not deserve. My point is that I don’t think the BBC should be running such a show. From what I have heard, I think that ‘Nolan’ on the radio borders on being unacceptable but I usually manage to avoid it, because where I live is tuned (thank God) to BBC Radio Foyle. But I have seen enough of the television Nolan Show to come to my own conclusions.

    At a time when we are in need of serious and intelligent discussion, when we need the maximum amount of engagement by the maximum number of people, I think it is unacceptable for the BBC to go looking for the lowest form of entertainment disguised as a discussion programme. I don’t think it is the time to be using serious issues as weapons to provoke artificial outrage. Everybody, including those who love it, knows that the show is not about the issues. The show is about Nolan. That is fine as long as it is not the flagship of our premier broadcaster.

    Whether Stephen Nolan loses weight or not is of great interest to his nearest and dearest but it should not be occupying valuable and premium airtime.

    Not that I am against weighty men. Brian Cowen is a weighty man and he stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the Irish election. As every party went into the election with a frenzy of promises to reduce or abolish taxes of all sorts, Cowen was seen and heard to stand against the run towards populism and flaky solutions. As Bertie Ahern was off about other business, sometimes his own and sometimes the country’s, Cowen was the one who caught and interpreted the public mood.

    Steady as she goes was the message. As the days and weeks passed and Fianna Fail were initially in meltdown and then neck to neck with the opposition, Cowen’s voice and Cowen’s authority could be felt pulling the arguments and the people in his direction.

    Now there’s a man, love him or hate him, who can get you talking.

  • I wonder…

    The issue. with certain people, is that the last northern electionm proved that not enough people HATE to keep this conlfict going in a violent form.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I usually have Nolan’s programme on when driving in in the mornings, not because I like it but to have some background noise. Almost every other caller, rather than merely just voicing a often seriously misinformed opinion, flatters the host by stating that he is the “only man” who can “help” with a particular problem or grievance they’ve got. I often wonder whether the BBC deliberately encourages or prompts callers to make this comment when they call in, or if they are blinkered enough to believe that a talk radio host can get things done that their local MP or MLA cannot.

    When I say his callers are misinformed, I mean chronically so. For example the other day one caller said that he never ever used trains, but simultaneously claimed in the same breath that the Dublin train broke down twice a day. Nolan didn’t bother to ask why a man who admitted that he never used the trains appeared to be aware of the breakdown frequency – breakdowns seldom make the news (they did last week only because Translink rather stupidly told their passengers that the train would only reverse, providing a comic moment that the media milked to full embarassing effect). He generally doesn’t bother to challenge much of the nonsense that people phone in with, except where he personally disagrees with it.

    Regarding David Vance, I don’t think he should be put off the BBC. I think the fact that he gladly accepts a paycheque from that organization for doing the bit on Hearts and Minds, while simultaneously hammering it’s alleged biases on his blog, shows the world precisely how principled he is. I actually think it’s quite funny how Vance tones down his extremist talk for their benefit, knowing that if he stuck to his principles and expressed his real views, he’d lose the slot and the fee he receives for doing it. I hope Vance continues to make his absurd take on the world public, so that reasonable people know how out of touch and crazed that he is.

    “I wonder ..”, I think you should change the record a bit though. You’re coming over as somewhat obsessed.

  • Dupper


    Nolan is crap, you say. Tell that to the SONY judges. He’s won more than anyone else in history. Not my cup of tea but you can’t argue with his success.

    Talkback is dated, you say. It’s still very popular and David enjoys enormous respect from his audience. I listen regularly.

    Hearts and minds needs revamped, you say. The programme reflects the need for our political culture to be revamped. Thompson does the job brilliantly. I watch every week.

    Sunday Sequence has a small audience, you say. It actually has one of the biggest audiences on radio ulster and is most intelligent show they have.

    Vance fits into them all, you say. He’s entitled to his views and even though I think he’s in danger of becoming a caricature of himself, at least he’s prepared to put his views out there to be taken on.

    All radio ulster and bbc ni programmes can be improved, no debate. Let’s not forget that radio ulster is the most successful radio station in the UK in terms of awards and audience. There’s a reason for that. Hats off to them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Vance fits into them all, you say. He’s entitled to his views and even though I think he’s in danger of becoming a caricature of himself, at least he’s prepared to put his views out there to be taken on.

    I hardly think that expressing your perspective and then buggering off without sticking around to debate it constitutes having your views “taken on”.

  • I Wonder


    The other tactic was taunting people here to come to his website (which means more money for him) and challenging him there. When I and others did this, he banned us. I think that this needs to be known, especially as Mick regards him as a “friend.”

    I do take your point about changing the record. Most of my posts have more to do with other issues. Occasionally, though, I like to “tramp the dirt down.” 🙂

  • I Wonder

    Where does one find info. on listening figures for RU?

  • Cruimh

    Man, Ball ?

  • I Wonder

    Posts are on the issue:
    BBC representation of political perspective.

  • JayLo

    radio ulster listening figures are available on rajar.

  • Kelly’s eye

    i heard that talk back’s figures were down this last period.

    not as bad as the alan simpson show! unbelievably crap programme. I didnt listen to george jones much but it was a better show than the slan simpson sh*t. i heard the show last week while driving am i wanted to phone the producers and give them advice! they probably despair at this point, so i thought id be kind to them

  • clubsound

    Thanks for that last post,George. (Err sorry, ‘Kelly’s eye’!)