Belfast Telegraph

BBC Radio Ulster signals the end of an era as Wendy Austin moves aside

By Amanda Ferguson

It's one less female voice on the high-profile BBC Radio Ulster news schedules.

Veteran broadcaster Wendy Austin is leaving the long-running programme Talkback in what signals the end of an era for the radio station.

Her departure leaves Good Morning Ulster presenter Karen Patterson as the sole woman's voice anchoring a Radio Ulster news programme.

From a full-time position on the lunchtime airwaves, Wendy will now only be heard for half an hour per week following a reshuffle of the presenting team.

The presenter, awarded an MBE for services to broadcasting in 2012, is being moved to front a new dedicated business programme on a Sunday.

She is being replaced after five years in the high-profile debate slot by William Crawley, who is moving on from the ethics and religious affairs show Sunday Sequence.

Three of the BBC's four flagship radio programmes – Good Morning Ulster, the Nolan Show, Talkback and Evening Extra – are now presented by men.

Wendy's move comes just a year after concerns were raised about BBC Northern Ireland losing a series of well-known female faces.

Among the journalists to leave last year were sports presenter Denise Watson, television news editor Angelina Fusco and reporter Natasha Sayee.

They followed weather forecaster Jackie McCann and newsreader Sarah Travers who quit their jobs.

After this week's shake-up was announced, Wendy said she was leaving Talkback "on a high" and was looking forward to presenting Inside Business, which will be broadcast from 1.30pm every Sunday.

"Throughout my broadcasting career I have always welcomed the chance to do something new," she said.

"For a long time I have been encouraging BBC NI to produce a business programme so I was delighted when I was asked to be part of the team.

"The importance of a successful business sector in Northern Ireland cannot be overstated and I'm looking forward to playing a part in sharing this with BBC Radio Ulster listeners.

"I'm moving on from Talkback on a high. We've had some amazing outside broadcasts this year and just received a PPI nomination for best Interactive Speech Programme.

"I very much enjoyed my five years with the programme and would like to thank the wonderful Talkback team and, of course, all our listeners and callers.

"The 'crazies' as Gerry Anderson would jokingly call them, turned out to be quite good company."

Other changes to BBC Radio Ulster's schedule include a new member for the Evening Extra presentation team.

Seamus McKee will continue to present the programme three nights a week and an as yet to be announced presenter will host two nights.

There will also be a new half-hour live news programme at 1pm on Sundays, and Saturday morning programmes Gardeners' Corner with Cherrie McIlwaine and On Your Behalf with Linda McAuley will be extended.

From November, RTE presenter Audrey Carville, who previously worked for Radio Ulster, and broadcaster Roisin McAuley, who has just returned to live in Northern Ireland, will front Sunday Sequence on alternate weeks.

Quotes

"In nearly three decades on-air, Talkback has had three presenters – all of them household names in Northern Ireland. So I am very conscious of the programme's rich heritage, that it has many loyal followers, and that any new presenter with any sense would be wise to feel more than a little bit intimidated by the challenge of following in the footsteps of Barry Cowan, David Dunseith and Wendy Austin."

William Crawley

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