This is not intended as a reflection on the journalistic ability of new Talkback presenter Wendy Austin, more a comment on the dumbed-down nature of this one-time jewel in BBC Northern Ireland’s crown.
Talkback's topic on Monday was transport. As a news and current affairs production, this edition was very poor and was dominated not by informed comment or debate, but by the usual ill-informed banter — at a holiday park, of all places.
The programme was poorly researched. Three examples illustrate this.
There was no debate or discussion about the need, or lack of it, for three airports in Northern Ireland and the impact on Northern Ireland land transport links should, as informed transport opinion has suggested, airport provision be reduced to one regional airport.
Transport and planning issues are intrinsically linked with the current urbanisation of the countryside and the ongoing decay of town and village centres being fed by the love of the car and out-of-town shopping centres. Yet there was no debate on the impact of this car dependency and the long-term implications for our town centres.
The third example is roads. Recently, the DRD announced that the A5 linking Aughnacloy and Londonderry was to be converted to a dual-carriageway running alongside the current A5 at a cost to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland taxpayers of £800m.
But, according to a letter from Dr Malcolm McKibbin, chief executive of the Roads Service, to Lord Laird (published in Hansard), Dr McKibbin stated ‘there are currently no proposed plans for dualling any sections of the A5 road between Ballygawley and Londonderry’. Talkback failed to question DRD on this contradiction.
Talkback was once a serious programme with aspects of humour. In recent years, it has become nothing but a vehicle for banter and lacking the in-depth questioning that is required in this society.
The new presenter and introduction theme could have presented a reversion to its old self. But on the basis of Monday’s programme, it has failed.