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TUV's Allister slams BBC for 'breach of faith' over when feature on him would air

By David Young

Furious TUV leader Jim Allister last night accused BBC Northern Ireland of acting in bad faith after switching a story about his election campaign to a weekend slot instead of the prime time position he'd been promised.

The politician said he wouldn't have wasted his time taking part if he'd known what the BBC planned to do.

"This week I agreed to a BBC crew filming me on the canvass trail, on the promise that the item would be broadcast on the main BBC NI news at 6.30pm next Tuesday.

"It was supposed to be a focus on smaller parties in the election.

"However, in total bad faith and breach of the assurance given, the BBC choose to broadcast it on Saturday, during rugby on UTV, on their 5.20pm bulletin.

"This is probably in the circumstances the least watched bulletin of the week.

"If I had known this was their plan I would not have wasted my time agreeing to take part."

Accusing the BBC of an abuse of power, the TUV leader said: "I view this as further evidence of the calculated bias of the mainstream media against the smaller parties.

"To deliver this particular travesty they deployed subterfuge, confirming their innate prejudice and protection and promotion of the larger parties that sustain failed Belfast Agreement devolution. Abusing their power in this way is a telling indication of their agenda."

Responding to Mr Allister's concerns, the BBC said: "The three smaller parties have each accepted an invitation to take part in an extended BBC Newsline on Tuesday, 28 February, after the BBC News at 10pm.

"This arrangement will allow them to comment on issues raised during the earlier leaders' debate on BBC One Northern Ireland. We remain confident that we have covered this election campaign in a fair and comprehensive manner and in accordance with our guidelines.

"We have kept parties updated on changes to our broadcast schedule and plans.

"We reject any suggestion of bias or deception."

Meanwhile, the Workers Party staged a protest outside the BBC's Belfast headquarters at the weekend highlighting what it described as "the suppression of alternative political views during the current election campaign".

"The Electoral Commission and the BBC have agreed between them that to qualify for an election broadcast a party has to stand a minimum of 12 candidates in at least six constituencies - effectively putting a price tag on political airtime and also ensuring that the larger, better financed parties can perpetuate the political circus without serious challenge or alternative views being aired," the Left-wing party said.

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