| 7.2°C Belfast

Stephen Nolan warned off Stonewall podcast by ‘seasoned people’ within BBC

Close

Stephen Nolan...Stephen Nolan at Stormont, Parliament Buildings in east Belfast on October 15th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Stephen Nolan...Stephen Nolan at Stormont, Parliament Buildings in east Belfast on October 15th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Stephen Nolan...Stephen Nolan at Stormont, Parliament Buildings in east Belfast on October 15th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

BBC NI broadcaster Stephen Nolan has revealed “seasoned people” within the BBC warned him against producing his latest podcast investigating Stonewall.

Mr Nolan, who also presents 5 Live radio, told The Times that colleagues in the broadcasting corporation suggested the investigation about lobbying by the LGBT charity could affect his “career and safety” and suggested the subject was “untouchable”.

The ten-part investigative report on BBC Sounds touches on the potential influence of Stonewall on a number of organisations, including the Scottish and Welsh governments, the media regulator Ofcom and the BBC themselves.

The series has had a significant reaction online, with the podcast currently in the top five UK news charts on both Apple and Spotify.

One of the aspects the series focuses on is the charity’s diversity champions scheme, which advises employers on LGBT inclusion for a fee.

Founded in the 80s to campaign against Section 28, Stonewall have since become the largest LGBT organisation in Europe.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

The podcast by Mr Nolan and journalist David Thompson considers whether organisations like the BBC are too close to Stonewall.

“What these organisations are essentially doing is paying a lobby group to lobby them. Taxpayers’ money is being spent on this,” said Mr Thompson.

During the podcast, the pair investigate the charity’s diversity champions scheme, which advises employers on aspects of LGBT inclusion for a fee.

The podcast suggests the BBC had changed aspects of its internal style guidelines to take account of a tool developed by Stonewall - a “genderbread person” - to explain sex and gender.

They also found that the Scottish government removed the word “mother” from its maternity leave policy following advice from Stonewall.

Ofcom and Channel 4 have quit the diversity champions scheme, with the media watchdog saying that it “risked a perceived conflict of interest”.

Mr Nolan said while it did not include BBC bosses, senior people in the organisation advised him not to put himself in the “firing line” over the series.

He added that he had also received a “tsunami” of support, including from senior BBC staff, leaving him “gobsmacked”.

“I’ve been broadcasting in Northern Ireland for 25 years with all the bullets and bombs, and I’ve had death threats. Yet really seasoned people were saying: ‘Do you really want to put yourself in the firing line on this?’” he told The Times.

“I’ve never had the volume of people warning me off it ... [as] it could affect my career and safety.

“There’s a fear factor of even talking about it. That’s not acceptable or healthy. Debating a subject should not affect your career.”

The Belfast broadcaster said the series was “asking questions” of a lobby group and rejected accusations it was an “attack” on the LGBT community.

“There’s this framing: ‘You’re questioning Stonewall so this is an attack on gay people’,” he said.

“How ridiculous is that! Asking questions of a lobby group is not attacking anyone ... and Stonewall does not represent the views of every gay person in the UK.

“This podcast was funded by, supported by and enabled by the BBC.

“That doesn’t mean I am not going to say that it is regrettable the BBC did not answer the questions.”

In response a BBC spokesperson told The Times: “The BBC acts independently in all aspects of our operations ... We do not take legal advice from Stonewall and we do not subscribe to Stonewall’s campaigning.”

Ofcom said: “Stonewall’s advice ... has never had any impact on our regulatory decisions.”

Stonewall said: “Our work with employers focuses on helping to build an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace for their employees, and in no way affects their impartiality.”

Meanwhile, as part of the interview with the newspaper, Mr Nolan also defended his salary at the broadcasting corporation.

The Radio Ulster presenter’s pay for 2020/21 of £405,000-£409,999 placed him sixth on the list of the BBC’s top earners.

It follows an increase of around £65,000 in 2019/20, with the figure not including earnings through programmes commissioned for the BBC from his independent production company.

Mr Nolan told The Times the BBC should “not be a place where the highest-paid stars are all in London”.

“I try to earn as much money as I can,” he said.

“If I could work overnight in a petrol station and get another couple of hundred quid and do without sleep, I would. That’s just the work ethic I have.”

Nolan Investigates: Stonewall is still available on BBC Sounds.


Top Videos



Privacy