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Friday, January 10, 2014

BBC Radio Foyle

By:  Kathryn Vernon

BBC Radio Foyle was a good fifteen minute walk away from our hotel in Derry.  It was a great way to start the day and to begin a session on good, even-handed journalism.  In the UK, television and radio stations are supported by licenses.  If one has a radio or television, they must buy a license – because there are no commercials on British radio and television – quite a different model from our American one. 

Affiliated with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Foyle has been in existence for some time (I couldn’t find a start date on their website).  They were a main source of information for Derry residents during the time of the Troubles, even letting the citizens of this fair city know where the firefights were so they could stay away.  During this time, the stories came to them.

Our host was a gentleman by the name of Colum Arbuckle – named after St. Columb, the old Irish saint Colmcille from the sixth century.  With a ready smile and a quick word, Colum showed us the ropes on how to broadcast and defined high journalistic standards.  He insisted that if they interviewed a person with one opinion on something, they then had to give the opinion of a person from the other side – thus staying even-handed and allowing them to get through the Troubles without being accused of bias.  Even the name of Radio Foyle is non-partisan, not identifying itself with either the Nationalist or Unionist sides of the issues. 

BBC Radio Foyle is, for some, a stepping stone to bigger broadcasting, but also a home to others that are happy with the broadcasting in Derry.  Mark Patterson, a producer at the station, is proud of his Facebook page that gets many hits.  He and several others at the station are working on bringing the younger demographic into the world of radio.
There was an air of collegiality at the station – warmth, bustling production, and an excitement to get the news and the next story – that is one of the differences between now and the past – instead of the news coming to them, they must go and get it – kind of a nice change, don’t you think? And remember - when the red light is on - shhhhhhh - they're broadcasting!

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