BBC Radio Ulster has confirmed that four of its best known news broadcasters, Seamus McKee, Noel Thompson, Karen Patterson and Wendy Austin, have decided to move away from daily presentation.
Noel and Karen currently present BBC Radio Ulster’s breakfast news programme Good Morning Ulster, Seamus presents drive-time news programme Evening Extra and Wendy hosts the business affairs programme Inside Business. The acclaimed, award-winning presenters – who have been part of the fabric of BBC Radio Ulster for decades – will leave their current roles early in the new year.
Adam Smyth, Head of BBC News NI, says: “I’m immensely proud to have worked with each of these extremely talented broadcasters. 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. They will be missed by colleagues and audiences alike as they move on to new chapters. I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from them and I certainly hope to work with them again in some capacity.”
Noel says: “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 says: “For 20 years, it has been my 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 says: “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 says: “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.”
Peter Johnston, Director, BBC Northern Ireland, says: “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. 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. I have immense respect and gratitude for each of them and their contributions to the BBC. While they leave daily presenting duties, we hope they won’t be strangers. Until then, we’ll miss their voices, their talent and, not least, their sense of humour and fun.”
Wendy joined the BBC in 1976. In 1981 she became presenter of BBC Radio Ulster’s morning news programme Breakfast Special before becoming the face of BBC Breakfast Time in Northern Ireland. She then presented the BBC Radio Ulster programmes Wendy After Lunch, Morning Extra and The Good Arts Guide and BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour from both Belfast and London. Wendy also presented the PM programme on BBC Radio 4 for a number of years and in 1993 became presenter of Good Morning Ulster on BBC Radio Ulster which she continued with for 15 years before becoming the third ever presenter of the long-running Talkback programme in 2008. She has presented BBC Radio Ulster’s flagship business affairs programme Inside Business for the past five years. On television, Wendy has hosted the television news programmes Scene Around Six and Inside Ulster, BBC NI television series including Open House and In Your Corner and documentaries such as Hillsborough Revisited and Goliath Go To Sea. She also presented BBC Children In Need for 14 years.
Noel began his BBC career 40 years ago in 1979. Since 2012 he has presented BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight Special programmes. Prior to this Noel was anchor of BBC NI’s television news programme BBC Newsline and for 16 years presented the award-winning political debate programme Hearts And Minds. He has also been compere of BBC Northern Ireland’s annual Proms In The Park event since it began in 2002. Noel started his broadcasting career on the BBC Nationwide programme which was based in Belfast, Manchester and London and has worked across a wide range of programmes on BBC Northern Ireland television as a presenter, reporter and producer. On BBC network television he has been a regular face on BBC Breakfast and the HardTalk programme.
Seamus started his BBC career in 1971 as a freelance broadcast journalist reporting across sport, arts and current affairs while he continued to teach part time. In 1981 he joined the BBC full time as presenter on Good Morning Ulster. Seamus presented Good Morning Ulster for almost 30 years before becoming presenter of Evening Extra in 2009, which he has presented for the past 10 years. Acclaimed documentaries Seamus has presented for BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Radio 4 have explored the topics such as disappearance of Lord Lucan and the life and times of Gerry Fitt. He has also presented the Radio 2 Arts Programme for BBC Radio 2. Seamus has been a recurring face on BBC Northern Ireland television having presented programmes such as Spotlight, Hearts And Minds and Songs Of Praise.
Karen Patterson joined the BBC nearly 20 years ago and has presented BBC Radio Ulster’s breakfast news programme Good Morning Ulster for over a decade. Prior to this Karen presented BBC Northern Ireland’s television news programme BBC Newsline, fronting its breakfast, lunchtime, evening and late night bulletins for more than nine years. During this period, Karen also hosted the Sunday news programme Seven Days on BBC Radio Ulster for several years and also presented BBC Radio Ulster’s drivetime news programme Evening Extra between 2006 and 2009. Away from news presentation, Karen was known to audiences as a presenter of the annual Balmoral Show programming on BBC Northern Ireland television and was a regular presenter of the motorcycle racing programme Bikes! for BBC Sport NI. She also presented BBC NI television series such as Wild On Water and Fair Play.
BBC Northern Ireland will mark each of the long-standing presenter’s contribution to broadcasting later in the year. Decisions around presentation on BBC Radio Ulster’s breakfast, drive-time and business news programmes will be announced at a later date.