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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Irish Beach Boys and the BBC

By Katie Hutchens

The sounds of The Beach Boys and Nancy Sinatra flow from the studio speakers as Colum Arbuckle of BBC Radio Foyle tours our group around the sound studio.  He is careful to point out two very important things.  The first is the button on the control panel responsible for turning on the live-to-air microphone.  The second is that his radio station broadcasts the news to all listeners in an unbiased manner.  

Colum's audience is composed of people from both "traditions", as they say here, as well as outsiders to the area. His team must ensure that every news item, even the most straightforward, contains both sides of the issue (or more, if necessary).  All forms of journalism are meant to practice impartiality, but in this city the stakes are much higher, and any perceived bias could spark verbal confrontations or worse, a return to physical fighting. Because "British" is in their BBC title, they must constantly demonstrate to those who identify with the Nationalist tradition that they represent everyone.  Colum mentioned that when the station's existance was threatend a few years back, it was this group who fought to keep it open because they knew his station represented a venue where their point of view could be voiced and heard.

The daily delivery of news to the studio
I was impressed with the inclusive title of the station.  In this area, full of subtle symbols which identify sides and divide, the simplicity of the title seemed genius.  The Foyle River flows through the center of the city, so whether you are a resident of the  "Waterside" part of town, who may prefer to call the city by it's Protestant Loyalist name, "Londonderry", or if you live on the "Cityside" and identify with the Catholic Nationalist tradition and know the city as "Derry", the river flows between both areas.  Most importantly, the name of the river is something all sides agree on and can identify with.  In an area that has seen so much violence, something as simple as that must be considered a victory.  

As our tour was ending, we were introduced to radio presenter Mark Peterson.  His knowledge of the geography of the westcoast of the United States was impressive, especially since the majority of our group lives in Washington, Oregon and California.  It turns out Mark is an avid surfer and is working on a future story called "Coldwater California", which focuses on the not so well known Irish surfing beaches. 

How great would it be if this area was known in the future solely for it's natural beauty and big waves?


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