Belfast Telegraph

Who will be next? Nolan asks over DUP boycott - Wilson says show about presenter's 'ego'

Sammy Wilson rounds on presenter saying show about 'his ego'

Stephen Nolan
Stephen Nolan
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan has hit back at revelations the DUP set out to "hurt" him by boycotting his show.

Speaking on William Crawley's Talkback on Thursday, MP Sammy Wilson claimed Mr Nolan's show had "singled out" his party in its coverage of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

He said the party took a "collective decision" to work out how best to "hurt" the broadcaster.

The green energy scheme was set up and administered by a DUP minister, the current party leader Arlene Foster. It was found to have serious flaws from the outset which included a "perverse" incentive which allowed participants to generate an income by running boilers. It is currently subject to a public inquiry.

However, on Friday morning Mr Wilson said there was no "official party-wide boycott" of the Nolan show pointing to those representatives who have appeared on it. Most recently Ian Paisley was on the show to discuss TV licence fee cuts.

"I, and other colleagues, have taken a conscious decision to boycott it," said Mr Wilson.

"I used to appear on it regularly.  I enjoyed the questioning but it is clear that the programme is more about Stephen’s ego than anything else. 

"I will not be party to such self-infatuation. His ratings are down and our vote is up, so it hasn’t done us much harm.  I’m accountable to the people not some self-obsessed and over-paid radio presenter.”

The BBC said the DUP was welcome on its shows.

Stephen Nolan told his Radio Ulster listeners he would continue to hold politicians to account. He said he didn't need nor seek the support of any elected representative and did not look to be on their Christmas card lists.

He stressed his coverage was in no way biased and said he did not set out to target any individual party. He said the DUP would be treated with "fairness and integrity".

"For as long as the public come on this programme, this programme will continue to provide the public service you pay for," he said.

"And that's the bottom line."

Where else would it be acceptable? Where does that go next?

He continued: "For a politician to actually say out loud a political party had designed a way to hurt a journalist...

"I will continue to treat the DUP with integrity and fairness. There are many good people in the DUP.

"If it is me this time that is being targeted with a strategy to hurt me what newspaper will it be the next time.

"What other journalist will it be, what if it is a broadcaster or a journalist that doesn't have the broad shoulders of me.

"What is any party about if they sit down and try to design a strategy to hurt a journalist.

"Where else would it be acceptable? Where does that go next?"

DUP MLA Jim Wells - who has had the party whip removed and does not take part in the boycott - said it was important for his party to put across its views on the Nolan show given its audience share.

The DUP has boycotted the Nolan Show in recent years due to its coverage of the fallout of the botched energy scheme.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the party was not "scared of Stephen Nolan's questions" and party representatives are often quizzed by journalists.

"We made a collective decision as a party that we would not participate in the Nolan Show for particular reasons," he said.

"We took the view - 'what is the best way of hurting him? The best way of hurting him is not to appear on his show' and that is what we have done."

Mr Wilson also said the more robust an interview the more he enjoyed it.

The BBC defended its coverage saying RHI coverage was of "significant public interest".

Following Sammy Wilson's comment on Friday the BBC added: "Stephen Nolan’s programme is an important forum for debate about issues affecting people’s everyday lives.

"We know the value that audiences attach to being able to hear from their elected representatives and our airwaves remain open to all of them. Stephen is an award-winning journalist and his programme retains its strong popularity with BBC listeners.”

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