Quartet of presenters will be missed when they leave BBC NI

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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BBC Northern Ireland is about to lose some of its most important broadcasters.

Noel Thompson, Seamus McKee, Wendy Austin and Karen Patterson will be departing from the Ormeau Avenue headquarters.

Ms Patterson is of a younger generation than the other trio, but all four have between them immense experience and have won the hearts of viewers and listeners.

They have, in the long tradition of leading BBC broadcasters, built up many years of presenting a wide range of programmes: radio, television, politics, debates, news, breakfast, lunchtime, early evening, late night bulletins.

Between them, they have interviewed everyone who is anyone, from prime ministers to churchmen to celebrities to sporting greats to people in the street.

If some of those interviewees hold positions of responsibility, then they have at times been subject to a robust grilling from those four BBC pros.

Thompson, McKee, Austin and Patterson also come from a neutral culture where no trace of their own views comes across to the person watching at home or listening in the car. None of them seem to hone in on particular stories or subjects that interest them personally, or seem to grill one type of politician or interest group more fiercely than others.

You would be unlikely to catch them approving in public of a controversial social media message that might alienate some of their potential audience. You would not even expect them to engage in the sort of casual but potentially partisan chat that Naga Munchetty did recently about President Donald Trump, leading to a disciplinary action (later overturned).

BBC Northern Ireland has a deep well of talent and will continue to have such even when these four names, who are trusted across the community, depart from their daily roles.

Things inevitably change in all organisations. Even so, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the corporation will be the poorer for their absence fronting regular shows.