Northern Ireland

BBC probe finds Stephen Nolan's treatment of SDLP MLA was 'justifiable' but party's boycott will continue

Stephen Nolan
Stephen Nolan

The SDLP has said its boycott of Stephen Nolan's radio show will continue until its "very serious concerns" about the treatment of South Belfast MLA Matthew O'Toole are fully addressed.

The party's representatives have refused to take part in the Radio Ulster programme since March when a contribution by Mr O'Toole was halted after comments were made about Loyalist Communities Council spokesman David Campbell.

Mr Campbell, a board member of the publicly-funded Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (Afbi), issues statements on behalf of the umbrella body purporting to represent elements of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando.

The self-styled 'biggest show in the country' has been an effective no-go area for nationalist elected representatives since the incident.

Sinn Féin is believed to have been boycotting the programme for years.

Read more: SDLP says no to Stephen Nolan Show until after meeting with BBC bosses

Stormont committee to discuss agri-food appointment for Loyalist Communities Council spokesman David Campbell

It has emerged that a probe into the March 3 incident by the BBC's executive complaints unit (ECU) has found the broadcaster was justified in cutting off the SDLP MLA.

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole
SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole

According to the Sunday World, the internal review said: "In the unit's view this was sufficient to justify Mr Nolan's decision to conclude the interview."

Loyalist Community Council spokesman David Campbell
Loyalist Community Council spokesman David Campbell

SDLP sources indicated that the outcome of the investigation has not altered the party's policy on appearing on the show, which is often criticised for alleged bias.

"The SDLP has been engaging with senior BBC management following the very serious concerns raised by the treatment of a party representative on the Nolan show," a party spokesperson told The Irish News. 

"It remains our view that the matter was handled extremely poorly by the broadcaster and we will continue to hold discussions aimed at addressing the concerns we have raised."

Alluding to the current controversy at RTÉ, the spokesperson said: "With scrutiny of public broadcasters across our island intensifying, it is important for public trust in these institutions that concerns are addressed transparently and swiftly.

"The party will be issuing no further comment on the matter until discussions with the BBC have concluded."

In a statement, the BBC said: “We have explained our position on this matter previously, and in some detail. We note that an escalated complaint about our programme on 03 March wasn’t upheld, because no editorial guidelines were breached and our approach was consistent with the usual legal considerations in circumstances such as these.

"We expect to meet the SDLP again soon and hope that its representatives will feel able to take part in our programme.

"BBC programmes benefit from the involvement of politicians - explaining their policies and views, debating with others and responding to listeners' concerns. Our airwaves remain open to all of them.”