Belfast Telegraph

'End of an era' as BBC Northern Ireland presenters Noel Thompson, Karen Patterson, Seamus McKee and Wendy Austin step down

Noel Thompson, Wendy Austin, Seamus McKee and Karen Patterson
Noel Thompson, Wendy Austin, Seamus McKee and Karen Patterson
Wendy Austin presents Inside Business
Noel Thompson and Karen Patterson
Sarah Tulloch

By Sarah Tulloch

Four BBC household names are to step down from presenting some of Radio Ulster's biggest shows next year.

Noel Thompson, Karen Patterson, Seamus McKee and Wendy Austin will no longer front shows but will return on the odd occasion, the broadcaster said.

Mr Thompson and Ms Patterson currently present BBC Radio Ulster's flagship Good Morning Ulster news programme. While Seamus McKee - who has been synonymous with the station for decades - is stepping down as host of Evening Extra and Wendy Austin will no longer front Inside Business.

The BBC said the presenters took the opportunity to stand down following a review into its schedules and programmes and they would be taking on new challenges and "enjoy a change of pace".

Adam Smyth, head of news at BBC NI, said the presenters would be missed.

"I'm immensely proud to have worked with each of these extremely talented broadcasters," he said.

"They are not only consummate professionals who live and breathe news, but they brought versatility, personality and warmth to their broadcasting roles, making them a trusted friend and guide to listeners."

The four presenters have become household names in the decades they have been with the BBC.

Wendy Austin joined the corporation in 1976, working on Good Morning Ulster, Talkback and Inside Business for the past five years.

Noel Thompson began his BBC career 40 years ago. He has fronted the broadcaster's television news and current affairs programmes Newsline, Spotlight and Hearts and Minds as well as Good Morning Ulster on the radio.

Seamus McKee from BBC Radio Ulster at the 2019 IMRO Radio Awards where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame
Seamus McKee from BBC Radio Ulster at the 2019 IMRO Radio Awards where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame

Seamus McKee joined the BBC full time as presenter on Good Morning Ulster in 1981 where he remained for almost 30 years before taking on the early evening current affairs programme Evening Extra in 2009.

He also presented Spotlight, Hearts And Minds and Songs Of Praise on the television.

Karen Patterson has been with the BBC for almost 20 years ago and listeners have woken up to her on Good Morning Ulster for the past decade. She also fronted television news broadcasts before moving to the radio.

Peter Johnston, director of BBC Northern Ireland, said he had immense respect and gratitude for all four journalists.

"Wendy, Noel, Seamus and Karen have been part of BBC Northern Ireland and, in particular, BBC Radio Ulster for as long as I can remember, so this really feels like the end of an era," he said.

"But what a remarkable era it has been.

"Over their respective careers they have guided listeners through countless big events and stories and some of Northern Ireland's darkest days."

BBC Northern Ireland said each of the long-standing presenters' contribution to broadcasting will be marked later in the year.

Decisions on their successors is to be announced at a later date.

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