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LISTEN: BBC presenter 'made a mistake' by revealing he's an atheist on air

One caller was none too pleased.

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan
BBC presenter Stephen Nolan
Image: James Cridland via Flickr

BBC RADIO ULSTER presenter Stephen Nolan says he shouldn’t have revealed his own atheism during an interview with a missionary earlier this year.

He was leading a debate this morning about whether prayers should be held at a local council meeting in Northern Ireland, when a caller confronted him over previous statements.

“As a presenter, you’re meant to be neutral,” said Stephen from Dungannon.

“On Easter Monday, you played a very good interview with Maud Kells, and you said to Maud, ‘That’s where you and I differ, I don’t believe in God.’”

“That jeopardises your ability to chair this neutrally. I say the BBC is biased,” he added, citing frequent coverage of “gay issues” as an example.

In the interview on 6 April, Nolan was full of praise for the 75-year-old Co Tyrone missionary who had been shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

SN: I think you’re amazing.

MK: Well, an amazing God, my trust is in him.

SN: Well, you know what, and no offence, but I don’t believe in God, and that’s where we differ. But I think you’re amazing, because you’re devoting your life to other people.

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Nolan defended himself, at first:

It’s not as if broadcasters don’t have personal positions and beliefs, it’s whether we park them at the door when we come into our job.
The test for me is not whether I believe in God or not, the test for me is am I being impartial when I’m doing my job.

Stephen from Dungannon remained unimpressed, though:

When all these issues come up around moral issues, religious issues, I just think it has jeopardised your position.

Before finally, the presenter accepted some fault:

It was a mistake. I was trying to be honest, I was trying to have a discussion about God…and I shouldn’t have done that.

Read: What is it like to be an atheist in Ireland?>

Column: Ireland needs to become a fully secular state>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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