Northern Ireland is famous for a couple of things around the world: religious fundamentalism and sectarian violence – there’s a strong relationship to be traced between the two. The local BBC radio talk show here tries its best to reflect these wonderful characteristics by inviting the most extreme views to participate on the programme and say offensive things, encourage anger and insult, breed narrow perspectives, hasten interruption, hashed togethers sentences and make sure that absolutely no-one listens except those at home. The result being an ugly exercise in ill manners, chaos, disrespect, caricature and frenzy – led by a production team and host (Stephen Nolan) who promote, encourage and develop all these qualities to produce one of the most listened to shows on BBC Radio Ulster with the best ratings.
I don’t listen to it – I never have. Only when I get into a taxi or my colleagues have it on in the office (and I quickly protest) do I get a sense of the flavour of it. I do see my facebook and twitter feeds fill regularly, as they did two weeks ago with sadness, discouragement, outrage, frustration and dismay whenever sensitive issues are brought on such as same sex couple adoption, equal marriage, abortion, feminism, sex, child abuse, domestic violence or church in Northern Ireland.
I’m not sure if people like the show – I just know that people listen to it. I think people find it a way to tune in about issues and having such a range of extremities by way of guests/callers keeps their interest.
I think it’s incredibly demeaning and insulting to the population in this part of the world that the production team and the host think that the quality of discussion and debate is all that the people listening here are worth. I’m disappointed because the host and produciton team work for the BBC – an organisation that in other departments does a great job of developing diverse discussion and interests.
I think the Nolan show is kidding itself in thinking it reflects the interests and views of the population. Similar to the Jeremy Kyle show on ITV in the mornings it’s a show that brings out some of the worst about society and values it and labours over it leaving everyone; participants and listeners feeling bruised, misunderstood, shaken and low.
How about we turn it off?
That’s all we have, but it’s a very important power. We have the ability to stop listening and this is how we let the producers and host know we are not interested in either what they are saying but more importantly how they are conducting the conversation.
The Nolan show is like the group of school bullies that invites the nervous and unpopular kid to a party to poke fun at them:
- The kid feels excited that they’ve been invited
- The Nolan show is discussing equal marriage/abortion/child abuse/religion’s role in society
- The kid doesn’t realise that every welcome/drink offered/question asked is an opportunity to sneer/mock and laugh
- The Nolan show will get people from various backgrounds to discuss the issues
- The kid doesn’t realise that the invitation to the party was an invitation to be bullied
- The Nolan show does a great job of polarising public opinion and shaming individuals in Northern Ireland as ‘crazy’ ‘homophobic’ ‘abusive’ etc
- The kid thinks if he doesn’t go to the party he’ll never be liked or popular – the kid doesn’t know what many of us know now that we’re older – you don’t want to be liked or popular if those guys are in charge of being liked and popular.
- The Nolan show isn’t in charge of whether gay couples can adopt, abortion should be available or child abuse should be discussed in school settings. The Nolan show thinks it is but it isn’t.
If we stop listening, if we stop showing up the Nolan show loses its reputation as the most popular radio show in Northern Ireland. The belief that Northern Ireland is represented by the callers and guests on this show may also start to waver.
I think everyone involved in making the Nolan show should be a hell of a lot more responsible – but they’re just bullies – they’re not interested in justice or nurture or dignity or change. In fact if Northern Ireland stayed exactly the same for the next ten years that would keep all those people in their nice comfy jobs for a good while yet.
So here’s my challenge: Turn Nolan Off – all it would take is a few thousand switch offs to make a big dent in Nolan’s ratings.
Tuesday 2 July 2013 #turnnolanoff
Send a message to Nolan and the BBC that we’re done with the bullying and we’re looking for some more intelligent and progressive public conversation. Tell parents, friends, businesses etc – we are looking for something different that actually might change this part of the world – use my graphic here to plaster all over facebook and twitter –
It’s just an idea but I’d love to hear what you all think?