DUP MP alleges Stephen Nolan ‘corrupted BBC recruitment process’

A DUP MP has alleged that BBC presenter Stephen Nolan “corrupted” a hiring process for a producer role on his radio show.

MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell alleged in a Westminster Hall debate that Mr Nolan “corrupted” the recruitment process by giving one candidate the interview questions in advance and coaching the candidate.

Mr Campbell also said the employee in question would be willing to come before a committee to speak on the allegations.

Mr Nolan presents regular shows on BBC Radio Ulster and Radio 5 Live, and is the fifth-highest paid talent with the BBC, earning between £400,000–£404,999.

Stephen Nolan allegations
BBC presenter Stephen Nolan (Niall Carson/PA)

On Tuesday Mr Campbell told minister of state for media John Whittingdale that he had “a disturbing and alarming piece of information”.

“The public need to have confidence in the commissioning process, because some of those processes are worth hundreds of thousands, indeed in some cases, millions of pounds,” he said.

“We have to have confidence in the BBC’s internal processes when these are awarded.

“I have been given an account of a BBC internal process, an interview for a highly sought after job in the BBC Nolan production team.

“For context, Mr Chairman, this was a widely listened to radio show in Northern Ireland at the time, and to work on the programme was a highly prized and a much sought after position.

“Indeed it’s clear by the fact that a number of notable people in (the) Northern Ireland media sector applied for the role, only one person was successful, while at least 10 other internal as well as external candidates lost out.”

He claimed: “The process was rigged.”

General Election 2019
DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Campbell continued, alleging the selection “wasn’t fair and it lacked integrity”.

“The unsuccessful applicants didn’t lose out necessarily because they were unprepared for the interview process,” he said.

“They lost out because unlike the winning candidate, the presenter did not ring them up and give them the interview questions in advance, nor were they treated to a nice meal by the presenter before the interview.

“Mr Chairman, this former BBC employee is prepared to come before this House and testify in committee that Stephen Nolan corrupted a BBC recruitment process by giving one applicant interview questions in advance and coaching them on how they should answer questions.

“I can further inform members that in October 2018, this former employee wrote to the then BBC Northern Ireland director, Mr Peter Johnson, and told him about this corruption of process, and he is unaware of any investigation or action.”

Mr Campbell said the allegations of misconduct were “appalling”.

“These are not the actions of what once was a proud bastion of truth and integrity, informing, educating and entertaining without fear or favour,” he said.

“Truth and integrity demands a thorough investigation with Government ministers telling the director-general that he needs to act, and he needs to act now.”

In response to the allegations made by Mr Campbell, Mr Whittingdale said: “Allegations have been received about possible corrupt behaviour and that obviously would also need to be investigated.”

He added: “This is not a matter which the government can or should investigate, but there are independent bodies to do so.

“The first port of call who I would suggest that the honourable gentleman might talk to as it were, is the BBC board member for Northern Ireland.”

BBC NI to cut jobs
BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is committed to filling vacancies in line with employment law and best practice. Mr Campbell’s allegation appears to refer to a BBC recruitment process in 2016.

“Stephen Nolan does not sit on interview panels for BBC staff jobs, including for this role, and decisions are made solely by the panel members.

“We will, of course, consider carefully any evidence Mr Campbell might want to share with us and take seriously the need to protect the fairness and integrity of our recruitment processes.”