Nolan Show inundated with calls of support for axed Sean Coyle
Stephen Nolan had to use his morning Radio Ulster programme to fend off angry callers following the BBC's decision to remove presenter Sean Coyle from the airwaves.
The topic was not top of the agenda for yesterday morning's self-styled 'biggest show in the country', but within minutes the station was besieged by listeners voicing their dismay.
They were led by Michael from Londonderry, who said: "What an own goal. Over 4,000 have already signed a petition."
Gerry from Kildress, Co Tyrone, said the decision was "horrible.... like someone taking your father away from you".
Caller Hazel accused the BBC of having "no concept of the psychological impact on people who listened to Sean".
But Mr Nolan said that the day will come when a decision to replace him will also be made.
He told listeners: "Sean Coyle is a fantastic broadcaster. We all know that. He connects with the people.
"On the other side of that, how does a station which is embedded in the community change?
"There will come a time when they want to replace me. That's a dilemma that any management team in any radio station is in. When do they make change?
"As soon as we came on the air this morning, lots of you were calling the station.
"I know I'm sounding incredibly defensive of the BBC management team, but BBC Radio Ulster is very successful. It would be easier if the station wasn't one of the most successful in the whole of the UK."
Mr Nolan said the radio station is "special and has a deep connection with listeners", meaning that most programmes on the schedule are successful in their own ways.
"But do you just keep the same programmes for ever?" he asked. "The management team have to refresh at some stage and it's not for me to say if they've made a right or wrong decision about Sean Coyle. There's a new generation of talented presenters in Northern Ireland and one of them will ultimately deserve to replace me, bring a different sound and make this station evolve, as new generations do.
"It's part of the management team's function to make sure that opportunity is there for a younger generation.
"This will have been an extremely difficult decision.
"I've been a radio anorak for 20 to 25 years and it's part of radio nature when presenters are replaced that their loyal base fights for them.
"But change has to happen to us all."