Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Northern Ireland ‘is losing out in BBC news coverage’

The BBC has improved its coverage of regional issues, but stories from England still dominate its network news and current affairs programmes, a new report is expected to reveal today.

Independent researchers from Cardiff University carried out the review after earlier research revealed shortcomings in the broadcaster’s national output.

The study from 2008 was critical of decisions to bypass significant regional issues in favour of stories from England.

The release of the findings comes just weeks after the broadcaster was heavily criticised for its portrayal of Northern Ireland in its programming.

Earlier this month the viewers’ body Audience Council NI revealed that many felt Northern Ireland’s portrayal on network TV focused too much on political and security matters.

It said viewers also wanted more high-quality programmes with newer and fresher ideas and thought the Beeb’s daytime schedule was “disappointing”.

SDLP South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell, who sits on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which last year scrutinised regional broadcasting, warned at the time that the portrayal was putting tourism at risk. He said dramas like the recent three-part series on the invasion of Iraq, Occupation, and Five Minutes Of Heaven starring Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, were “very useful for showcasing Northern Ireland” but the province ultimately needed a series that highlighted “good things” in the region.

During the four-week study, in October and November last year, researchers found every single BBC network news story about business, the arts and policing related only to England.

There was evidence of devolved reporting in areas like health and education but of 112 items, only eight related to the other regions.

The BBC Trust has asked for six monthly updates on the progress of BBC network news reporting of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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