Farewell Stephen Nolan? New Radio 5 Live show may see presenter leave for good
In a move that could signal the beginning of the end of his career in Northern Ireland, Stephen Nolan is to host a new hard-hitting network show for Radio 5 Live.
The programme will see him teaming up with the BBC's flagship political debate Question Time from Thursday, May 16.
In what is being seen as a significant step for the presenter, he's being lined up as a prominent political broadcaster.
It also means he will spend four days a week broadcasting in England, prompting speculation that a permanent move across the water is inevitable.
Radio 5 Live's new Thursday night politics coverage will begin each week at 10pm, 35 minutes before Question Time airs. The show will then be broadcast simultaneously on TV and radio and will be followed on 5 Live with a further public debate hosted by Nolan.
The Ulsterman will be joined by 5 Live political editor John Pienaar as they take on the topics addressed during the show.
Speaking of his latest radio role, Nolan said the chance to team up with Question Time – "one of the best shows on television" – had been too good to miss.
But, in what might be seen as a strong hint of an imminent move, he said he would continue to juggle his Sony-award-winning Radio Ulster programme with his four Radio 5 Live shows for as long as possible.
"I love Northern Ireland but this is an incredible opportunity for me as news and politics is what gets me up in the morning," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"When the BBC told me they were teaming up with Question Time and they wanted me to front 5 Live's show associated with it, I nearly choked.
"As for The Nolan Show, it is and always has been part of my soul and I will continue to present it for as long as I can."
The presenter has tackled local politicians on contentious issues for a decade on his Radio Ulster programme.
And he has admitted that these regular run-ins have prepared him for his new anchor role.
"I've been used to dealing with our Northern Ireland politicians for over a decade now and it's a dream come true to be given an opportunity to do more politics on the network," he said.
"I've spent many years interviewing local politicians and their interviews and on air battles have created the biggest radio show in Northern Ireland.
"I'd like to thank all the Northern Ireland politicians for giving me such a hard time every day, because they have prepared me well for what is ahead."
The 39-year-old, who currently broadcasts his 5 Live shows from Manchester every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, described the Question Time simul-cast as one of highlights of his career, and that he has never missed the show.
"I want Thursday nights on 5 Live to be an exciting place for British politics on the radio," he said.
"During these tough economic times, the public want to engage with politicians like never before because the decisions that are made about how the country is run matter like never before.
"I can't wait to box with some of our politicians on the network. I'm sure some will punch back and, of course, we will give them the space and time on air to fight for their ideas.
"As well as continuing with my morning Ulster show, I now can't wait to start this new national show. Thursday night is politics night on 5 Live and I can't wait to get started."
It is understood the move from a three-day to four-day 5 Live stint will see Nolan stay in Manchester from Thursday to Monday.
He broadcasts his Radio Ulster morning show every Monday from Manchester as his Sunday night 5 Live show finishes at 1am.
In previous interviews Nolan, who also presents a local television talk show, has said he intends to tackle his increased workload by taking longer holidays abroad when his schedule permits.
A BBC spokesman said: "Stephen will continue to split his time between Northern Ireland and BBC North in Salford.
"We are currently working through the logistics of where he will broadcast his Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster shows from each week."