Like many others on Slugger I’m sure, I regularily listen to Talkback on BBC Raidio Ulster, presented by David Dunseith. I would struggle to find a firm reason as to why I do however and I must admit that some of the regular callers simply annoy me due to the fact that they are not very knowledgable nor rational.

Aside from the general prejudices and leanings of the BBC I have always found Talkback to be fair and balanced and have always been very impressed with Dunseith’s refering skills. However that impartialilty is often questioned by callers and texters. This week it seemed that every other caller was complaining about Dunseith’s ‘lack of balance’ and ‘onesidedness’. It seems to me however that these complaints normally eminate from Unionism, this week in particular caller after caller accused the program of operating to a ‘republican agenda’. I would be interested to hear others’ impression of the balance of the program and I particular I would love to hear from unionists as to why they feel the program is slanted againist them and what changes they would make.

I have emailed the show on this matter several times but have never got a reply.

  • 6countyprod

    GGN, you need to switch on your spelling checker!

  • Gael gan Náire


    Point out any mistakes and I will change them.

    I find English quite difficult to spell.

  • slug

    I take it you are either unemployed, a student, or retired?

  • Now GgN could be a civil servant, a teacher, an academic – or off on holiday for the Twelfth, slug …

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Being an occasional listener I tend to agree.( It is strange on Slugger that it is often the reverse and Nationalists tend to complain about Slugger being too Unionist – something I dont see myself.)

    The tendency to see bias I think is at least part related to strength of a persons view – and at least part related to the legitimacy that is attached to the ‘other sides’ view. Unioinsts often see Nationlaist and Republican views as being without the same legitimacy as their own
    as they see Norn Iron as simply British and will reject any attempt to legitimise it’s Irishness -the BBC’s attempt to introduce ‘balance’ probably falls into the latter category in many Unionist’s eyes.

  • slug

    “Unioinsts often see Nationlaist and Republican views as being without the same legitimacy as their own”

    And vv.

  • slug

    Nevin, she says she is a “regular” listener to Talkback, so that rules out anyone who works during the day.

  • GgN, I used to be a regular contributor to the Talkback messageboard but I seldom listen to the radio programme.

    Some of my messages were rejected without explanation so I would occasionally ring S @ the Beeb to see if she could resolve the issue. I was told that the Paisleys were very litigious – whatever that meant – so presumably the moderators on occasion would take the easy option.

    Ellie and I used to have a lot of opportunities for banter. Our quotations from Wind in the Willows and the linkages to certain notorious Sinners were eventually pulled as were my fictional yarns about a fictional property developer called Patsy McCash and his investment vehicle, Port Moon Trust (PMT). Patsy had two political associates, Croyer Hill and Ben Gore – names taken from local placenames. By a strange quirk of fate the Paisley-Sweeney story was almost real life imitating art. Perhaps Yeats would have understood.

  • But that wouldn’t rule out civil servants, slug. I understand some of them are regular readers of my NALIL blog and my stats demonstrate that this happens during working hours 🙂

  • GGN

    Not that it is anyone’s business but I don’t have a ‘job’.

    I can listen to the radio at anytime and normally am.

    I am more a BBC Radio 4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta person than BBC Radio Ulster.

  • slug

    Gael – isn’t it boring to be normally listening to the radio?

  • slug

    Gael-personally I am not a great Talkback peraon so I rarely listen (I have a job and when on hols the last thing I want to do is listen to that sort of thing) but I generally enjoy it better when Dunseith is away and someone else is hosting it though I don’t think thats got anything to do with Dunseith’s balance.

    I haven’t noticed any great bias on the presenters of the programme, though the listeners seem biased. On the whole I find it a bit inward looking and very much an NI navel gazing programme. I think it is past its sell by date and hope it is taken off.

  • GGN

    Not at all, you can work and listen to the radio at the same time.

    In addition, I feel the medium is more powerful, more indepth and more accurate that tv media, which is essentially a form of entertainment.

    Of course, most people would find the likes of me boring.

  • alan56

    Seems unfair but I just think Talkback has started to feel a little tired and I suppose David Dunseith takes some of the rap for that. He has been a great broadcaster but change is needed.I do not think he has shown republican or unionist bias, that is just a cheap attack.

  • Belfast Greyhound

    I work, live in Scotland and listen to Talkback most days on the pc in my office.
    Talkback still does a valuable service in allowing people from both sides of the divide whose views can be repellent at times an outlet they would not normally have.
    It seems to me that this was an important thing during the long years of the ‘troubles’ and subsequent to the GFA.
    It can seem a bit ‘tired’ at times and one could not blame Dunseith for sounding as if he has heard it all before, and given the repetitive nature of Norn Iren political issues and the approach people take to them he probably has.
    I would be very unhappy if there was much talk about changing the format too much or even taking it off for a ‘rest’.
    Something like it needs to be there simply to allow the ‘head of steam’ coming off reactions to breaking news.

  • RepublicanStones

    I doubt if it is ‘one-sided’. Which its being accused of more recently, but thats because of the season thats in it. One community tends to take over the streets about now, so obviously its only natural for it to take up more airtime. Its like David said over the air, after reading out some of the critical emails “It seems some people think we aren’t allowed to discuss these issues”.

  • GGN


    The thing is, as this thread shows, Nationalist and Republicans seem to think the program is fair.

    Many unionists clearly disagree, I would like to know more about why that is.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I think GGN raises an interesting point, though I don’t listen to Talk Back as much as I used to.

    The show is often described by commentators as providing a voice for Protestants and unionists (ie, who see to form a fair amount the callers), and I think there is a degree of interplay between the BBC trying to introduce that audience to new ideas while also exposing PUL views to a critical audience too.

    Hence, you get Protestants with ‘traditional’ views being given airtime to express opinions, but many of the responding callers will see them as ‘backward’, or bigoted.

    The BBC will claim this is the views of listeners, although it has a degree of control over the views aired. On the other hand, you get topics which originate with liberal Prods, Catholics and many non-NI people. Then, when the ‘traditional’ Ulster Prod comes on to denounce such things, he or she sounds incredibly out of step.

    Perhaps why this is why ‘traditional’ Prods perceive bias. You would need to carry out a rigorous content analysis over a period of time to say whether it’s objectively true – but no Protestant or unionist organisation would do such a thing, or dream of commissioning an independent media monitoring firm to conduct a more objective investigation.

    It would be an good project for anyone looking for a media studies dissertation or the like to undertake.

  • RepublicanStones

    Just wondering if anyone else got sent a link to this in their email.

    Its obviously from some lurker on Slugger.

  • GGN


    I didnt, maybe its just you? like the guy whose clothes were slimed in the Blair Witch Project!

    Belfast Gonzo,

    Good theories.

  • RG Cuan

    This is an interesting point and I also agree that it would be a great area for somebody to research.

    In a way I think the perceived ‘bias’ of Talkbalk – which for me is very balanced and fair – is a reflection of unionist society as a whole. Unlike nationalists, unionism is coming from a position of traditional power and it often seems that some within unionism are reluctant to adapt to the ‘new’ situation. As such, when unionism, or related viewpoints, are challenged on programmes like Talkback there is the usual, predictable backlash from an element within that community. As noted above, this response often appears backward compared to more moderate views.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    there are major differences between the 2 communities – it is therfore unlikely that both communities would have exactly the same level of intolerance as each other. This difference between the 2 communities as indicated by their respective characteristic cultural interests e.g. the GAA which is about sport, the Orange Order which is about Protestant ascendancy helps to explain why a ‘balanced’ arguement will present more of a problem to Unionists.

    The prods do intolerance better that the fenians and just to balance it off for you – the fenians do community self-pity better than the Prods.

  • 6countyprod

    GgN, I’ll give you a clue: there are at least nine, some repeated. See if you can find them all!

    There can be no denying that within the Unionist community there is a strong perception that the BBC has, historically, displayed an anti-unionist bent. But I don’t think old Dunseith fits that particular mould.

    Republicans, of course, are masters at manipulating circumstances and events for their own purposes, and in many instances the media, including the BBC, have been naïve and gullible victims of republican wiliness. Unionists, on the other hand, have for decades shown themselves to be woefully inept at handling the media and as a result much of the negative reporting on Unionism has been self-inflicted.

  • Eddie

    I would amend Sammy McNally (two above) to:

    Prods do insecurity better than the Fenians and the Fenians do community self-pity better than the Prods.

    So perhaps the solution to our situation is a programme of eduction to knock the age-old insecurity out of the Prods and the age-old self pity out of the Fenians.

    Is there money in the budget?

  • slug


    I have found with respect that nationalists do tend to underestimate the integrity (or “legitimacy” as you put it) of the unionist position-unioninosts have no culture, they adopt a dumb and incinsistent position with respect to being Irish, they are supremacist etc. In my estimation to be honest it is an attitude – an attitude of dismissing integrity or legitimacy – I see as stronger from the nationalist side towards unionists than vv. But then I go mainly on reading nationalist columnists and people here for my impressions of nationalists, while I go on my own knowledge of unionist people. So there is an imbalance in my sources.

  • Observer

    “Republicans, of course, are masters at manipulating circumstances and events for their own purposes, and in many instances the media, including the BBC, have been naïve and gullible victims of republican wiliness. Unionists, on the other hand, have for decades shown themselves to be woefully inept at handling the media and as a result much of the negative reporting on Unionism has been self-inflicted.”

    Can’t think of another explanation for unionism underachieving in the media? Apply Occams Razor and see what happens to your thesis.