Noel Thompson, Wendy Austin, Karen Patterson and Seamus McKee to leave BBC NI

Four househould names in local radio broadcasting are to step down from their roles next year.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 7:00 am
From left: Noel Thompson, Wendy Austin, Seamus McKee and Karen Patterson

Noel Thompson and Karen Patterson will no longer present BBC Radio Ulster’s flagship Good Morning Ulster programme.

Meanwhile, Seamus McKee is to leave Evening Extra and Wendy Austin will no longer front Inside Business.

The BBC said the presenters have taken the opportunity to stand down following a review into BBC News NI schedules and programmes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The broadcaster said they have “decided to move away from daily presentation on BBC Radio Ulster to take on new challenges and enjoy a change of pace”.

It is understood the four will not present other weekly or daily programmes but one or two may appear on programmes every now and again.

Adam Smyth, head of news at BBC News NI, said the presenters would be missed by colleagues and audiences alike.

“I’m immensely proud to have worked with each of these extremely talented broadcasters,” he said.

“They are not only consummate professionals who live and breathe news, but they brought versatility, personality and warmth to their broadcasting roles, making them a trusted friend and guide to listeners.”

Peter Johnston, director of BBC Northern Ireland, said he had immense respect and gratitude for all four journalists.

“Wendy, Noel, Seamus and Karen have been part of BBC Northern Ireland and, in particular, BBC Radio Ulster for as long as I can remember, so this really feels like the end of an era,” he said.

“But what a remarkable era it has been.

“Over their respective careers they have guided listeners through countless big events and stories and some of Northern Ireland’s darkest days.”

BBC Northern Ireland said each of the long-standing presenters’ contribution to broadcasting will be marked later in the year.

Commenting on his departure Noel said: “I have been so fortunate to have had a fascinating and rewarding four decades as a journalist with the world’s finest news organisation. But now I feel the time has come to allow a new generation of broadcasters to experience some of the opportunities I have had.

“I hope it’s not the end of my relationship with the BBC and that I shall still be welcomed into Broadcasting House from time to time in one guise or another.”

Karen said that for 20 years, it has been her “privilege and pleasure” to bring breaking news stories to viewers and listeners of BBC NI.

‘‘After 10 years hosting the flagship Good Morning Ulster programme and winning the 2019 IMRO News Broadcaster of the Year Award, I have decided to step back from the programme and embrace new opportunities.

‘‘I wish to thank everyone who has shared my on-air journey so far. I have covered the election of two presidents, the mixed fortunes of five prime ministers, the restoration of devolution, the fall of Stormont and, it goes without saying, Brexit in all its forms. There have, of course, been many lighter moments, but my 4am alarm call was not one of them!”

Seamus said: “After 10 years on Evening Extra, which have been among the most fulfilling of my entire time with the BBC, I have decided it’s time to step back from daily presenting. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved with Evening Extra and I wish the programme well as I start a new phase in my life, in which I hope journalism and broadcasting will play some part.”

Wendy added: “At the start of my radio career a wise colleague told me ‘when someone turns the radio on, they’re inviting you into their home. They want to hear the story you have to tell, or they want to have company, not to be talked down to or shouted at’. That’s what I’ve tried to do – it’s been a privilege, and (most of the time!) a pleasure. Thanks to all the listeners and my excellent colleagues – and perhaps I’ll be back the odd time.”

Decisions on who will succeed them as presenters will be announced at a later date.