BBC presenter Stephen Nolan today said he is ‘deeply sorry’ following claims he shared a sexually explicit photograph with staff.
The Radio 5 Live host allegedly sent the image of reality TV star Stephen Bear’s penis to colleagues in 2016 while he was trying to get them to book the disgraced celebrity as a guest on his TV show, Nolan Live.
Bear, a former Celebrity Big Brother winner, was jailed for 21 months earlier this year after being convicted of revenge porn and voyeurism.
Nolan addressed the reports in The Irish News during his morning show on Radio Ulster, telling the audience: ‘We have had days, as you probably know, of headlines about me and the Nolan team in the papers this week.
‘I am not ignoring the story. It is just that the BBC has processes in place to deal with staff complaints and I do need to totally respect those processes.
‘They have got to be confidential for them to work. I can say one thing though and it is that I am sorry. There was a photograph, it was widely available on the internet and I was talking to a long-term friend and peer outside of work. I am deeply sorry.’
When Bear eventually appeared on Nolan Live, both he and Nolan stripped to their underwear
Nolan’s BBC Northern Ireland radio show is the most listened to in the province
Bear (pictured) was sentenced to 21 months in jail this year for voyeurism and two counts of ‘revenge porn’ featuring his former girlfriend Georgia Harrison
Bear had just won Celebrity Big Brother at the time Nolan allegedly sent the photo in 2016.
Texts and documents leaked to the Irish News revealed Nolan had said: ‘I want Bear!’, adding in another: ‘If I don’t get Bear tomorrow night I’m sending more Bear photos.’
When he eventually appeared, both he and Nolan stripped to their underpants during a segment on modelling.
Today, Nolan also rejected an allegation that he or his team have been manipulating programmes by planting producers in the studio audience.
He said: ‘I am telling you now, and I can say this on the record, that is completely, categorically false. We do not do that in the Nolan team.’
Nolan is the fifth highest paid talent with the BBC, earning between £400,000–£404,999.
The newspaper report said that a former member of staff had made a claim of bullying and harassment against Nolan which was not upheld, and that messages between team members on programmes associated with the star presenter included abusive remarks about politicians.
In a statement earlier this week, BBC Northern Ireland’s director Adam Smyth said: ‘There are important considerations of fairness and confidentiality involved in the handling of any workplace-related complaint.
‘We take these obligations seriously – and in the interests of everyone involved.
‘It is for these reasons that we cannot comment on the specifics of any individual case, who/what it may have involved or its outcome.’
Nolan and Bear dance in their pants in 2016 on his Nolan Live show after the broadcaster allegedly sent pictures of the disgraced reality star’s penis to colleagues to encourage them to book him
After the Bear allegations first emerged, former colleagues of Nolan have come forward to paint a mixed picture of the presenter.
‘The issue is that he doesn’t know where to draw the line,’ one source told the Times.
‘He is one of the biggest beasts on the BBC in Northern Ireland and has become a bit of a law unto himself because he is so powerful.’
Another former staffer said that they held ‘conflicted’ views about the presenter, adding that Nolan was a ‘bit of an enigma’.
The ex-employee said that while Nolan had helped the BBC successfully ‘communicate with working-class audiences’ that it often struggles to meet, the presenter has a ‘monstrous ego’ and is surrounded by ‘a group of yes men’.
Others, however, praised Nolan’s good character, citing the time when he paid for his whole team’s Christmas party even though he could not attend due to his fame.
The most recent string of allegations, which include bullying claims, are not the first time Nolan has faced controversy during his career at the BBC.
Last year he was thrown into a transphobia row after his podcast Nolan Investigates: Stonewall when he received a string of nominations at the annual Audio and Radio Industry Awards (Arias).
His podcast was widely praised and some suggested it may have played a role government’s decision to distance itself from the charity in 2021 over its allegedly ‘extremist stance’ on trans issues and hostility to gender-critical opinions.
But a group of radio producers threatened to boycott the awards ceremony claiming the podcast contributed to ‘a harmful moral panic surrounding trans people’ and ‘perpetuates a narrative that creating a safe world for trans people is a divisive issue.
Nolan joined BBC Radio Ulster back in 2003 and quickly rose to prominence within the corporation nabbing countless radio awards, including being named the Royal Television Society’s Presenter of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
He now presents a daily weekday morning show on Radio Ulster, which is the most listened to programme in Northern Ireland, and a nightly phone-in show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Nolan has used his success to boost his salary, which remains higher than Today show presenter’s Mishal Husain and Nick Robinson, who are paid £315,000 and £275,00 respectively.
Speaking candidly about his pay package previously in 2017, he said: ‘I am fair game for scrutiny and fair game for conversation.’
He added: ‘I want to work as much as I can, I want to be the best I can be and I want to earn as much as I can.’
Allegations about his conduct have plunged the BBC into hot water, with two of the largest political parties in Northern Ireland calling for questions to be answered.
A Sinn Féin spokesman said: ‘The BBC is funded through a government sponsored licence fee. There is, therefore, a very clear and onerous responsibility on the BBC to deliver maximum value, transparency and accountability.
‘Recent revelations relating to the Nolan show raise very serious questions for the BBC management which need to be answered candidly.’
He added that ‘audience figures and rating should never lead to the tolerance of bad practice or inappropriate behaviour by radio and TV presenters’.
Meanwhile Gregory Campbell DUP MP for East Londonderry said yesterday: ‘The scale and significance of the revelations printed today, were they related to any other area of life in Northern Ireland, would undoubtedly be headline news across the BBC. ‘Radio silence’ just won’t cut it however in this instance.
‘Many people will obviously question the culture which appears to be prevalent within the programme where its presenter has sent unwanted sexual images to staff members.
‘This ultimately is an issue of how public money is used in Northern Ireland and it deserves the same level of scrutiny and questioning, both from the BBC and other sections of the media’.