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Paisley’s call for BBC Radio Foyle to be axed gets bad reception in Derry

By Allan Preston

Published 03/08/2016

Controversy: Ian Paisley
Controversy: Ian Paisley

The DUP's Ian Paisley has suggested BBC Radio Foyle should be scrapped because Northern Ireland news is "too parochial".

The North Antrim MP made the comments to the Belfast Telegraph while discussing proposals to increase BBC Scotland's evening news output.

His intervention came after a cross-party group of MPs said BBC Scotland should be given responsibility for producing a new one-hour bulletin and that the current mix of regional and national news should be axed.

"I actually don't support it - I don't believe in parochial news," said Mr Paisley.

"I don't hold with the view that Scottish people are only interested in narrow Scottish issues and that the rest of the issues in the United Kingdom don't matter to them.

"I think for Scottish media people to think they should have their own separate, stand-alone international news team... I honestly think you're really being silly about your independence argument and should ask for your own BBC.

"We've seen the way this goes in our own radio coverage. For example, we have Radio Ulster, but, because there's a certain view that people west of the Bann might be slightly different, we also have to have Radio Foyle.

"I can make a very strong case for Radio Ballymena. People in Newry would then be entitled to Radio Newry. I think that becomes so salami-sliced.

"That won't be cheaper - it will be a very expensive thing to implement.

"In fact, all of the figures that I've been shown indicate that Radio Foyle should actually be scrapped, and (that it) should just come under the wing of Radio Ulster."

But Foyleside Sinn Fein councillor Michael Cooper claimed that licence fee-payers in the north-west enjoyed the station and would be devastated to see it closed down.

"The BBC attempted a couple of years ago to cut back on Radio Foyle's local output, bringing in more of Stephen Nolan and other Radio Ulster output," he said.

"The general population in the town here, and I would say that would include a lot of DUP voters, was opposed to it as they preferred the local output.

"Our position is that we prefer Radio Foyle's autonomy in terms of delivering local output.

"(Mr Paisley) is losing a lot of votes by making this call. Derry's the second city in the North and, as far as we're concerned, it deserves to have the local output."

The DUP MP indicated he supported the current mix of local and national BBC evening news. "To say we're not interested in the news across the UK would be a very narrow view of how we view our part in the UK," he said.

Partly agreeing with that statement, Mr Cooper added: "We currently get the half hour from London and the half hour from the BBC in the North.

"We have access to RTE here, but we would argue it's quite parochial in terms of covering the South and ignoring the North and the border areas including Donegal. If there was a proposal to change the output, we would keep local output, but focus the national coverage on the rest of Ireland."

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