Monday, 6 February 2017
An insight into Radio Ulster's Talkback
This morning I was contacted by the DUP press office and asked to go on to the Talkback programme to discuss some comments made today by Arlene Foster in relation to the Sinn Fein demand for an Irish Language Act.
However when the programme started it was clear that William Crawley wanted to speak about a wide range of issues and the focus was not on an Irish Language Act as I had been led to believe.
Then after some initial input from former Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay it was over to those who were phoning in and the comments of William Crawley.
I reported on what people were saying to me as we went round the doors canvassing and when I listed the top issues William Crawley responded, 'I find that hard to believe.' Well he may find it hard to believe but he hasn't been out around the doors in North Belfast talking to people, whereas we have.
The first phone-in caller said that he had been a long-time DUP voter but that he and others had been conned. I responded to him and then he also raised the issue of 'a hall in Portglenone' that he said didn't exist and repeated a claim that the 'non-existent' hall had been awarded a grant by a DUP minister. When I asked him if the source for this was the Irish News, he admitted that it was and then it all began to fall into place. The 'long-term DUP voter' reads the Irish News.
The caller could have picked the story up from the Belfast Telegraph which exposed the misreporting in the Irish News, or from the NewsLetter, which also exposed the erroneous report in the Irish News. However the caller wasn't aware that the Irish News report was erroneous so clearly he had picked it up directly from the Irish News. That is the only plausible explanation.
Furthermore he had got the location of the hall wrong because it was actually about a hall in Randalstown, not Portglenone, and he had his core facts wrong because as has been widely reported by others the hall has actually been there in Randalstown for decades and has been leased by the Orange lodge to an Ulster-Scots cultural group, which made the application. And that's what I find strange.
So how many DUP voters read the Irish News but don't read either the NewsLetter or the Belfast Telegraph? I would suggest they're few and far between.
That is one of the problems with phone-ins. Anybody can come on and claim to be anything, even if they're not. I much prefer to assess public opinion by talking to people face to face rather than relying on a Radio Ulster phone-in.