Good Friday Licensing Laws & The BBC – A Short Rant

This year the Republic of Ireland will for the first time in 90 years be able to have normal pub/bar services on Good Friday. But Northern Ireland still lags some way behind: bars are not permitted to serve alcohol until 5pm. It causes annual consternation and the issue is debated every single year without fail. On the one hand there are pub owners and restauranteurs who would like the licensing conditions for Good Friday to be relaxed, and on the other side we have a motley crew of fundamentalist ministers and politicians with a serious religious fundamentalism streak.

To me the issue is simple: there should be no tighter licensing restrictions on Good Friday than any other day. Having licensing restrictions as we currently do serves no useful purpose. It doesn’t prevent Christians (I’m a Presbyterian, for those who don’t know) from celebrating Easter as they see fit, and a change would be enormously beneficial to those who run bars, hotels, and restaurants, work in tourism, or just wouldn’t mind a rum and coke with their lunch.

BBC Talkback – presented by William Crawley – had a debate the other day about our archaic licensing rules. Those defending the status quo had nothing new or reasonable to say. Politician Alban Maginness called for a “balance that is respectful of Good Friday [and] can accommodate to some extent the interests of those involved in the alcohol trade.” Respectful of Good Friday? It’s a day of the week! I don’t think it really cares much about it. It has no feelings to be respected. Or, consider Pastor Paul Burns: “I believe we have to have a time of celebration where Christian people are allowed to remember the death of their Lord.” Well, who’s stopping Christians from celebrating Easter as they see fit (again, I’m a Christian too!)? No one is going to force Christians into a pub and force single malts down their throats! The level of debate was hardly top-notch.

But, wait a minute…why on earth was “Pastor Paul Burns” invited by the BBC – our “public services broadcaster” – onto a show to preach to the nation? Pastor Paul Burns runs a tiny church in a small residential area in southeast Belfast. He holds no political office, has no established religious position, heads up no umbrella organisation, and has absolutely no significant community standing. Can someone at the BBC please explain why he was brought on to their show to discuss an issue and speak to the nation? Pastor Paul Burns has made the headlines before, of course, and typically embarrasses himself with silly and irrational outbursts. Consider, as Exhibit A, his stupid remarks about the “pornographic” window of underwear shop Ann Summers: https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/belfast-news/ann-summers-defend-dark-desires-8737694

He’s certainly not the sort of person to contribute to issues of broad public concern. Why does the BBC treat its listeners with contempt by inviting nobodies on the lunatic fringe of society to contribute to issues of public interest? Needless to say I have written to the BBC with my concerns and am currently awaiting their response, which I will post here.

Stephen J. Graham

Here is the BBC Reply:

BBC Complaints – Case number CAS-4860476-FZG2SR
B

bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk

Dear Mr Graham

Complaint – Talkback (CAS-4860476)

I am responding to your complaint about the Talkback programme which discussed licensing laws as they apply to Good Friday. You are unhappy that Pastor Paul Burns appeared on the programme.

Talkback exists as a platform for our listeners to debate the issues of the day. While you describe Pastor Burns as a “nobody”, we do not characterise contributors to the programme in this way. Anyone who calls our programme has the potential to make it on air and anyone we invite on the programme is there to add something to the debate. The coverage Pastor Burns received was proportionate and appropriate within the context of the discussion.

Kind regards,

Adam Smyth

Editor Radio News/Digital News

BBC NI

**********************

They didn’t bother addressing the basic question: WHY was Pastor Paul Burns invited on? Presumably the BBC doesn’t just grab people at random off the street? No justification has been given, though that’s no surprise from an increasingly arrogant organisation who don’t feel the need to justify their editorial decisions to anyone.

**********************

I have emailed a follow up to my original complaint:

“In his response Adam Smyth didn’t actually address the substance of my complaint. He says “Talkback exists as a platform for our listeners to debate the issues of the day. While you describe Pastor Burns as a “nobody”, we do not characterise contributors to the programme in this way. Anyone who calls our programme has the potential to make it on air and anyone we invite on the programme is there to add something to the debate. The coverage Pastor Burns received was proportionate and appropriate within the context of the discussion.” Pastor Paul Burns was NOT just someone phoning in. He was actually invited into the studio as part of panel discussion/debate and I’m wanting to know – in light of his lack of any political/religious/social/community standing – he was given such a position. Presumably the BBC doesn’t just grab anyone off the street? So, why Pastor Paul Burns and not any of 101 other people who actually have some social standing and wider support. Why is Pastor Paul Burns being given such a platform? Why not me? Why not my best friend’s granny? Why not the guy in my cornershop who smells of cannabis? Why not Jim who drives the 11C bus at 8.33AM? You can’t control who phones in – nor should you – but you can control who is invited into the studio. Don’t Talkback listeners deserve a higher calibre of commentator than a random small-time pastor? Stephen”

Stephen J. Graham

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13 Comments

Filed under BBC

13 responses to “Good Friday Licensing Laws & The BBC – A Short Rant

  1. Keith

    Their Should be NO achohol served on Good Friday ! ‘Period” Get Over IT !!! Its 1 – Day Only for goodness sake ! You’ve lost your way steven -:(

  2. “Period Get over IT!!!” isn’t an argument, Keith. Have you got an actual argument for your view or are you just content to shout?

    • Keith

      Its 1, Most Sacred Day of the year Stephen lets piss it UP shall we -:( whilst most Churches are now a Weatherspoon’s or have been fitted out with a BAR “Vineyard Movement” OH Yes we have become Soooo Charismatic have we not !!! I were a publican for several yrs … Bring back the old licensing hours every piss head and psychotic maniac are plasterd by midday and you want too take away ONE DAY -:((( We have lost our way BUT you carry on of course Stephen Graham has a valued point … YeH Right ..

      • You are losing the run of yourself, Keith. You still haven’t provided an actual argument. You’re just blowing off steam. As for Good Friday” being “Sacred” – that’s silly. Days are just days, a way of measuring time, nothing else. Now if you have an actual argument to make then I’ll continue to entertain you, if not best you jog on.

  3. For the information of readers, Keith did respond again, but it was shockingly illiterate and the silly irrational outbursts continued. He even called me an atheist.

    Stephen.

  4. He responded again. This time in the midst of his unlettered response he called me a “fucking wanker,” though didn’t get the spelling right.

  5. He’s now trying to tell me his spelling was correct, whereas my spelling (ie, correct English) is, apparently, “demonic.”

    This is a prime example of the irrationality of fundamentalist nonsense.

  6. Now he’s claiming no one is interested in my article. Well, my website stats say otherwise! Other readers probably aren’t so obsessed with me as Keith.

    Anyhow, I’ve had my fun. Bye Keith!

  7. Daniel

    LOL!! Stephen, I really wish you had posted his other comments, he sound totally and utterly mental! Did he really say your correct spelling was “demonic”? That’s hilarious!!!! 🙂

  8. Lorraine

    Brilliant article…spot on with regards to pastor burns and why he is on talk back all the time…totally agree.

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