Northern Ireland

BBC NI defends Stephen Nolan’s use of ‘DUP source’ as references to broadcaster’s ‘deal or no deal’ revelation are removed from its website

Stephen Nolan presents regular shows on BBC Radio Ulster and Radio 5 Live (PA)
BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan. PICTURE: PA

BBC NI has defended last Friday’s episode of Stephen Nolan’s radio show in which the broadcaster quoted an unnamed DUP source saying the party’s officer board was gathering later that day for a “deal or no deal” meeting.

It was widely speculated that the leak, revealed by Mr Nolan from his California holiday destination to the show’s stand-in host Holly Hamilton, scuppered plans by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to end his party’s near-two year boycott of the Stormont institutions.

The DUP leader has dismissed suggestions he was spooked by programme’s revelation about the meeting, which made public what up to then had been a tightly kept secret.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is expected to meet his party officers on Friday
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney (Liam McBurney/PA)

A DUP source told The Irish News that Mr Nolan’s source was “seeking to destabilise things”.

Under BBC News guidelines, journalists are asked to secure secondary verification of material provided by an anonymous source.

“We should be reluctant to rely on a single source,” the broadcaster’s guidelines say.

“If we do rely on a single source, it should be credible, and a named, on-the-record source is always preferable.”

It is unclear whether the Nolan Show, which within the BBC is designated as speech content, is expected to adhere to the broadcaster’s editorial standards for news.

While extensively reported by BBC NI News on Friday, references to Mr Nolan’s revelation have since been removed from its website.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We think that this story had editorial value and were able to describe and explore its potential significance, drawing on input from a range of contributors.”

Mr Nolan has faced increased scrutiny in recent months after he was forced to apologise when it emerged he shared a sexually explicit picture with fellow staff. Earlier this month, a coroner heard that an interview given to the multi-award winning broadcaster by Kieran McGrandles, who died days after being released from prison, will “feature heavily in reaching a determination” around the circumstances of his death.

In October, DUP MP Gregory Campbell accused Mr Nolan of “corrupting” a recruitment process by providing one applicant for a job on his production team “the interview questions in advance”.

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole, who in March last year was cut off by Mr Nolan live on air after he made comments about Loyalist Communities Council spokesman David Campbell, said there were “questions for a public service broadcaster about the extraordinary editorial leeway given to one particular outlet and the opaque way in which particular agendas are pushed”.

The South Belfast MLA did not mention the BBC radio host by name, however, The Irish News understands his post on X was referring to Mr Nolan.

“The BBC is far and away the most powerful media organisation in this region,” he said.

“Its resources and reach are without parallel – it is not much to expect clarity on whether the high editorial standards so many BBC journalists admirably work to are being consistently applied.”