Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Exodus of broadcast stars not a big deal says UTV

Moving on: presenter Mike Nesbitt

Bosses at Ulster Television have denied that the station has faced one of its toughest years yet despite losing seven of its biggest names.

Yesterday's news that long-standing broadcaster Kate Smith was standing down was just the latest in a long line of departures to hit the station.

And it brings to seven the number of familiar faces to quit UTV during 2006.

In a statement, she said she was resigning her position on UTV's news team after 23 years to pursue other interests.

"This has been a very hard decision. However, I am very excited to have the freedom and time to now look at other projects," she said.

Despite the high number of resignations bosses have denied claims that staff morale has dipped.

Michael Wilson, Head of Television said: "The team at UTV is making some of the best and most-watched regional television programmes in the UK.

"The few people who have left us recently have chosen to do so in order to further their careers in journalism or production. This is a tribute to the skills they have developed and honed at UTV.

"Mike Nesbitt is concentrating on his own independent production company and is currently writing a book; Trevor Birney is working on network television productions and Darwin Templeton has taken up the editorship of a daily newspaper.

"Graham Little is writing for national newspapers and although reporting with other international broadcasters continues to work closely with UTV on news and sports' stories.

"Kate Smith has made the decision to move on after 23 years with UTV and we wish her every success with her new ventures."

Earlier in the year, UTV was dealt a major blow when four big names said goodbye.

Among the most dramatic departures was that of anchorman Mike Nesbitt, who quit in February after 15 years.

At the time Mr Nesbitt, who co-hosted the evening show UTV Live with his wife Lynda Bryans, told station bosses that he was not renewing his contract.

UTV insiders claimed Mr Nesbitt had in the past felt sidelined within the company after supporting former employee Michael Beattie in his High Court action against the station.

Mr Nesbitt is currently running on his own independent production company and is writing a book.

Also in February and just hours after Mr Nesbitt's resignation, award-winning Insight duo Trevor Birney and Ruth O'Reilly also announced their intentions to leave.

It is understood Mr Birney, Editor of Current Affairs and Ms O'Reilly, a producer, have set up their own production company.

The pair won a prestigious award for the Insight programme report, When Hospitals Kill.

Issues raised in the programme led the then-Health Minister Angela Smith to set up an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of a number of children.

At the end of February popular sports reporter Graham Little quit to go freelance.

He is currently presenting his own show on Irish sports channel Setanta Sports.

Graham, who worked with UTV for three years, felt the move would be good for his career.

Another member of the Insight team to quit UTV was the show's frontman Darwin Templeton.

Mr Templeton, a former Young Journalist Of The Year, took up a new post as editor of the News Letter in the summer.

And it hasn't just been the television station which has suffered resignations. The fledgling local radio station U105 which was set up in November 2005, lost morning host Ronan Kelly.

The popular presenter, who held the 9am to midday slot, asked to be released from his contract - again to pursue other interests.

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