Belfast Telegraph

Axe fell despite having one of the top listened to shows

Sean Coyle on air with comedian Roy Walker
Sean Coyle on air with comedian Roy Walker

By David Reed

The Sean Coyle Show was one of the most popular daily programmes on Radio Ulster, figures show.

Leaked data from last year reveals that Sean Coyle had the most listened to non-news programme. Only the Stephen Nolan Show and Good Morning Ulster had more listeners, raising more questions as to why BBC Northern Ireland axed him.

Locally the BBC have never made their official RAJAR - Radio Joint Audience Research - figures public, but leaked figures show that Sean attracted an average audience of 82,000 listeners.

It had just 4,000 less than GMU, with the Nolan Show pulling in 134,000 - hence its host's long-standing claim to have the "biggest show in the country".

In a management shake-up started in 2017, the head of BBC Radio Ulster Fergus Keeling left his job and Michael Tumelty, then the editor for factual programmes like Sunday Sequence and On Your Behalf, assumed a stand-in role until a new structure was to be implemented.

But the BBC Northern Ireland restructure plans were delayed after Steve Carson - husband of RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan - did a U-turn on a senior management role in favour of a move to BBC Scotland.

At the start of last year Eddie Doyle joined the BBC from RTE and since then he has been trying to reshape the chain of command around content production.

It is believed that Mr Doyle will have played a role in the decision to shake up the radio schedule alongside Mr Tumelty, who he helped appoint as executive editor for live and continuous content.

An insider said it "would not have been easy for him (Tumelty) to break the news" because he was fond of the presenter and knew him well having been a previous editor of Radio Foyle.

Earlier this year this newspaper reported how local feminist campaigners took issue with the under-representation of female presenters on local radio, including BBC Radio Ulster, and staff have been speculating over who will replace Coyle.

However, the insider said that the smart money will be on Stephen Clements filling the slot, having recently moved from Q Radio and who is experienced and enjoys a large fanbase.

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