Durkan defends Radio Foyle as Paisley suggests it should be put off the road

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SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan has criticised a suggestion by DUP MP Ian Paisley that BBC Radio Foyle should be scrapped and merged entirely within Radio Ulster, as “outrageous”.

Mr Paisley said: “All of the figures that I’ve been shown indicate that Radio Foyle should actually be scrapped, and (that it) should just come under the wing of Radio Ulster.”

But Mr Durkan said: “These remarks from Ian Paisley are outrageous. That any elected representative would call for the withdrawal of a valuable and valued local resource, never mind the job losses this would entail in an area of high unemployment, is reckless and irresponsible.

“Mr Paisley appears to be in competition with some party colleagues when it comes to inflammatory remarks and BBC bashing.

“BBC Radio Foyle has previously had its resources and output reduced but the dedicated team there has never allowed its quality to be diluted.”

The North Antirm MP made the comments as the latest RAJAR (Radio Joint Audio Research) statistics for Quarter 2, 2016, showed that the listenership for programming broadcast on Radio Foyle had fallen to 37,000 average weekly listeners from 44,000 in Quarter 2, 2015, and from 39,000 in Quarter 1, 2016.

However, the figures at the local station are well up on six years ago.

For instance, in July-September 2010 there were just 32,000 average listeners per week and in April-June 2012 that had fallen to 24,000 listeners per week.

That 25 per cent dip was partly accounted for by a marginal reduction in local programming at Radio Foyle under a scheduling shake-up in December 2010 when radio chiefs promised a stronger North West focus from Radio Ulster.

Before December 6, 2010, the Northland Road station was putting out eight hours of local programming a day but this was cut by 30 minutes as part of a head office rationalisation move. The changes included The Stephen Nolan show being installed as the only choice for North West BBC listeners between 9am and 10.30am for the first time.