Dear Stephen Nolan,
I see that you recently took a barrage of phone calls, and have experienced quite a lot of Twitter confrontation over your comments to your callers on your BBC radio show. I must say, I sought out and listened to your show having not been a listener before, and was equally incensed not just by how you treat your listeners, but by your lack of objectivity, and with the clearly emotional, sub-factual way you presented the migrant crisis on a publicly-funded channel.
You also didn’t seem to like it when people called in to complain about this, telling them to complain to the BBC instead of calling in to your show to address you directly. Not only is that cowardly, but you and I both know that complaints to the BBC, unless they’re about Jeremy Clarkson, tend to fall on deaf ears.
I can see why you did what you did. You obviously have your own biases, which I’m not against in journalism, so long as they’re declared, and not funded by the threat of prison for those who don’t pay the licence that keeps you on air. Unfortuantely, you fall foul of at least one of these two criteria.
And I’m sure you don’t care what my criteria for responsible public broadcasting is, but I reckon I speak for quite a lot of people when I say this. People who will be opening letters from the BBC demanding payment for TV channels they don’t watch, or worse, radio programmes they listen to, call in to, and are abused on.
Your caller John from Swansea for instance, was obviously upset by the way you were treating him, as were several follow up callers. While it is a credit to you that you held your nerve and didn’t shout back, I’m afraid you were still both incredibly patronising, and played fast and loose with the facts about the migrant crisis live on air. You constantly mentioned children, when the UN itself claims that there are a maximum of 15 per cent children involved, and just 13 per cent women.
I shouldn’t have to point to these statistics, but since no major broadcaster seems to have covered them, I’d like to bring to your attention the polling numbers behind the migrant crisis. I’ve covered them in more detail here, but 50 per cent of Britons polled by YouGov just over a week ago said they wanted no Syrian families accepted into Britain.
I appreciate as a journalist and commentator that one of your instincts when you hear something you disagree with (you at the BBC call it ‘prejudice’ I believe) is to challenge and defeat it. But that’s not your job. At least I don’t think it is. Nor do I think it should be. Sure, you’re supposed to ask questions, to probe, and to discuss. But you’re not supposed to pillory your listeners, especially when their views reflect the plurality of British public opinion. You’re supposed to reflect, not try to set the agenda.
So I’ll say this: while your callers may not be the best equipped to tackle your own biases live on air, with many of them (rightly) outraged about the mainstream media coverage of the issue… I am. (I am both, by the way).
So how about you talk to your producers about hosting a live, hour-long debate replete with callers on your radio show. You versus me, with a neutral moderator between us. You can shed your BBC title for the day, and sit there as yourself. You can even donate your salary for that day to a charity that helps the migrants. I’ll match what you give, as long as the charity isn’t lobbying to increase the numbers that Britain and other European countries “should” take. I believe Save The Children have committed to spending donations in Syrian refugee camps.
So how about it Stephen? You name the time, you name the place. Me vs. you on the migrant crisis? After all, isn’t it about time you picked on someone with an ego the size of your own?
P.S. If readers are keen they may consider tweeting at @StephenNolan