Broadcasters neglect Northern Ireland obligations

26 January 2010

The UK’s major television companies have failed to portray the ordinary life, beauties, history and culture of Northern Ireland to the rest of the country, say MPs in a report published today

The BBC, Channel Four and other public service broadcasters have neglected their obligations to Northern Ireland, leaving it comparatively invisible on screens across the water in Great Britain.

The Government, too, has failed to promote broadcasting in Northern Ireland, as exemplified by the DCMS’s choice of the title Digital Britain for its White Paper on the coming digital revolution.

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Chairman Sir Patrick Cormack MP said:

"While award-winning programmes and films about the Troubles are important and often of the highest quality, we are concerned that the everyday life of Northern Ireland, the beauties of its countryside and the glories of its history and culture play next to no part in the programmes that those who live in the other parts of the United Kingdom see.

"The fact that the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Five commission next to no programming from Northern Ireland has left this part of the United Kingdom almost invisible and speaks of serious neglect of the public service broadcast responsibilities that those companies bear.

"We were dismayed to hear that high-quality production companies based in Northern Ireland often find it easier to win a commission from New York than they do from London, and we call on the major television producers and the Government to see to it that their neglect is urgently rectified."

The Committee’s report, Television Broadcasting in Northern Ireland, also calls on the Government to ensure that viewers in Northern Ireland do not lose TV programmes broadcast from the Republic of Ireland when digital switchover happens in 2012.

The Committee calls on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to take more seriously its responsibilities for broadcasting in Northern Ireland, and on the broadcasting Minister Siôn Simon MP to visit the Province to find out about local broadcasting difficulties.

It welcomes the BBC’s recent commitment to raising the level of production from Northern Ireland but calls on it to base at least one programme commissioner in Northern Ireland.

And the MPs accept that Northern Ireland does not require funding for TV news provision as urgently as other parts of the UK do, but call on the Government to help fund non-news programming in Northern Ireland to raise production levels there and awareness of Northern Ireland elsewhere in the UK.

Image: iStockphoto

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