Popcorn-tastic, mate

In his 1994 autobiography My Tune, the veteran disc jockey Simon Bates remarks of his amazement of how low the murder rate inside radio stations has historically been.  Bates evidently knew whereof he was writing, as his book came out a year after his very high-profile resignation from the BBC’s flagship national radio channel Radio 1, and at a time when the station was going through the biggest and most controversial personnel shake-up in its history.  At least one of …

Read more…

Bloodlands, the latest Belfast noir they’re calling it. Please don’t all swarm to Strangford Lough

Are you hooked on Bloodlands? (Sundays 9 p.m. BBC 1, iPlayer top slot).  If you haven’t it seen it yet  I won’t spoil the Goliath reference.  Jimmy Nesbitt is a grizzled PSNI detective Tom Brannick  bridging  a Disappeared angle  with  an Ulster Line of Duty. It’s the latest in the product line of creator Jed Mecurio’s love affair with making gripping TV series in Northern Ireland. Not quite as gripping as Line of Duty yet or as menacing and sophisticated …

Read more…

With over 8 hours of news in a 12 hour period is BBC Radio Ulster forgetting its remit is also to entertain?

When the lockdown was reintroduced last week I decided I needed to take drastic action to stay sane. I quit all social media, stopped reading online news, and stopped listening to Radio Ulster. I never watched the news on TV so that was already covered. Now I only read a printed newspaper as I find its less stressful but you can keep up to date. I have also switched to listening mostly to podcasts and music. Like a lot of …

Read more…

Why good talk radio output helps our discourse.

I wanted to take some time give a different view on the media and in particular the BBC output locally. Now before you say, yes I appear on the airwaves arguing the bit out on a particular issue. But i am genuinely a supporter of public service broadcasting and don’t begrudge the licence fee paying for the type of programmes that we just otherwise wouldn’t see. But the past six years has also given me experience of seeing how Ormeau …

Read more…

No news is… no problem for Radio Ulster

I was in the house the other day (as we all were) and I turned on the radio. Talkback was on with two regular contributors who were presumably disagreeing vigorously about something. I turned it straight off and four or five days later I still haven’t a clue what they were debating. That doesn’t matter because I’m pretty certain I know the positions they were taking on it (whatever it was) and the tone of how the “debate” progressed.  What …

Read more…

Behind the scenes of Spotlight on The Troubles: Willie Frazer, Alan Oliver, Patrick Ryan, and ongoing questions about ‘The Secret War’ film (Thu 9pm on BBC One NI)

At a screening of the behind-the-scenes companion show about the making of Spotlight on The Troubles (to be broadcast next week on Thursday at 9pm after the final extended episode airs on Tuesday at 8.30pm), Mandy McAuley explained her shock when victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer – with whom she had worked while making programmes about victims for two decades – admitted to his role in the distribution of weapons to loyalist paramilitaries. Further questions about the making and suppression of US film The Secret War that captured footage of the IRA at work, and the painstaking efforts to line up interviews and tie down evidence is explained.

Spotlight #3 – IRA fundraising, arms shipments, a priest’s lack of repentance, and the slow shift from the armalite to the ballot box #TheTroubles (9pm Tue 24 Sep on BBC One NI and BBC Four)

The third episode of Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History includes an interview with former parish priest Patrick Ryan who looks back on his times organising weapons shipments to Ireland, saying that he has “big regrets … I regret that I wasn’t even more effective … I would like to have been much more effective that I was … but we didn’t do too badly.”

Spotlight on the Troubles: a Secret History (BBC One NI and BBC Four, Tue 10 Sep)

Allegations about a financial link between Paisley and the UVF in the late 1960s and newly discovered footage of Martin McGuinness showing a firearm and bullets to Derry kids and inspecting a car bomb are just part of the story of the beginning of four decades of conflict being told in first of seven ‘Spotlight on the Troubles: a Secret History’ programmes.

The BBC and the Irish language

Any number of spokespeople for organisations involved in Irish language advocacy and political parties have their names mispronounced on an ongoing basis by BBC presenters and journalists. The ongoing failure of BBC management to take corrective action on this issue is an indictment of the broadcaster and fatally compromises their commitment to accuracy and impartiality as expressed in the ‘bible’ of the BBC, the Editorial Guidelines.

Picks of the Week – First Communions, Protestant Gaels, Squaddies and Stuckness

There’s a lot of highfalutin political goings on at the moment. But what are the ordinary humans talking about? Here are some media magpie treasures from the last week… RTÉ Documentary on One rebroadcast the gorgeous 2014 doc, Mairead’s First Communion. It follows two culturally Catholic, but non-religious, parents’ experience of their daughter’s First Communion. They didn’t like the idea of her doing it, but 8 year old Mairead really wanted to, so they let her. There’s so much to …

Read more…

You know things are bad when Stacey Dooley comes to town…

You get the feeling they must be tripping over camera crews in loyalist areas. The recent DUP/Conservative deal has turned the eyes of the UK media towards Northern Ireland. A steady stream of film crews has been making the trip recently. You know the format by now: lots of footage of explosions, the obligatory standing in front of a peace wall, marveling at bonfires, the arty shot at the end as flames leap into the sky. The latest documentary is …

Read more…

The limited case for Kevin

The Irish Times for which he once wrote and even more significantly the Jewish Council of Ireland have mounted a limited  defence of  Kevin Myers. As I labelled him a disgrace for the bonkers claim that two BBC presenters won bigger contracts because they were Jewish, I’m very happy to carry here the case for Kevin warts and all, such as it can be made. There is indeed more to him than this but it’s a pretty  unsightly wart. The …

Read more…

Stephen Nolan earning nearly half a million a year

The BBC has released salary details of presenters and stars earning more than 150K. As expected Stephen Nolan is the highest locally paid presenter earning a salary of between £400,000 and £449,999 a year. Nolan is famously a workaholic: The Belfast-born broadcaster presents a number of radio and TV programmes for the BBC. He presents The Nolan Show Monday to Friday on BBC Radio Ulster, a programme on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings for BBC 5 live and Question Time: …

Read more…

The BBC and Stephen Nolan show again that they are the real opposition…

The Cash for Ash scandal is the biggest financial blunder in the history of Northern Ireland. It has the potential to take down the first minister Arlene Foster. It is a mess of the highest order. The BBC spotlight team did an excellent job with last week’s programme on the affair. It was a forensic dissection of an easily preventable mess. Stephen Nolan then followed up the pressure by devoting the entirety of his show over the past few days …

Read more…

“I’m trying not to take The Fall personally.”

Guardian TV critic Stuart Heritage with a nail on head review of the “dead dog of a show” that The Fall became.  From the Guardian review Even by most recent standards, The Fall was dire this year. Now that it’s done, and Paul Spector is dead and Stella Gibson is back enigmatically muttering like a woman who lost her keys, it’s hard to fathom why anyone was ever excited about this dreary puddle of a show in the first place. …

Read more…

The Ultimate Eurovision Song Contest Winner…

With Russia discovering the joys of the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest this year, here’s the undoubted highlight from Saturday’s Grand Final in Stockholm – the interval act!  Just in case anyone from the BBC, or from RTÉ, are looking for any tips for next year.  Let’s face it, on recent form they could do with some.  All together now!  Love, Love, Peace, Peace…   Pete Baker

Terry Wogan made ordinary life special

If there was another Irish broadcaster who forced me to sit in the car park  and make me late for work it was Gay Byrne. Gay had a similar subversive streak and a light touch with a sting in the tail. But he did not  travel so well across the Irish Sea, nor did he aspire to.  Terry Wogan gave comfort  to millions by spreading the  word that  the struggles of daily life are shared far more widely than we …

Read more…

What would BBC news look like if the rule book was thrown away?

BBC: We’ve come a long way from the days of finding our news from street vendors shouting ‘Sixth Tele’, leaving the Northern Ireland Teletext page running in the corner of the room or waiting for the next Radio Ulster bulletin to find out why a road was closed or a bang was heard echoing across Belfast.