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BBC stands by broadcast after DUP accusation of 'false claims'

By Jonny Bell

The BBC has defended a recent broadcast after the DUP said "false claims" were made on a recent political programme.

On Thursday night's The View, presenter Mark Carruthers described as "fact" that DUP votes did not transfer to the UUP in South Belfast therefore costing unionism a seat in the Assembly.

After the broadcast the DUP insisted the BBC should apologise and retract the statement.

A BBC spokesperson has since responded: “We believe our coverage of the recent Assembly election has been fair and balanced to all parties.”

During the programme the DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said there were enough votes for a second seat in the constituency but they only managed to return Christopher Stalford.

“You know why that was of course" interjected presenter Mark Carruthers, "because DUP voters didn’t transfer to the Ulster Unionist candidate and if they’d done that the fifth MLA in South Belfast would be Michael Henderson of the Ulster Unionist Party not Claire Bailey of the Green Party.

"So it is your voters who lost you that seat - that's a fact.

"That is an example of the DUP not actually backing up unionist unity or the idea of one sense of unionism by transferring within unionism."

<< Watch: how transfers in South Belfast unfolded >>

The UUP's Michael Henderson's conceded at the tenth stage of the count in the early hours of Saturday morning saying he did not see where the transfers would come from. Therefore transfers from Christopher Stalford were not completed and Claire Bailey deemed elected and so there are no official figures for stage 10.

Michael Henderson told the Belfast Telegraph the reason for his throwing in the towel was that the transfers were not there for him from the DUP to get him across the line.

He said: "Their votes were in the main DUP one and two and then in most cases TUV and their candidate had been eliminated so those ballots had died."

Nigel Dodds MP said the broadcaster had got it wrong and votes for Emma Pengelly Little did transfer to the UUP.

He said: "When DUP votes were transferred in South Belfast 3,939 went to the second DUP candidate, 494 to the UUP and only 77 to Greens.  Over six times as many transfers went to the UUP as went to the Greens.

"These are basic facts that are provided in full detail on the BBC’s own website. Instead, a social media myth was presented as fact despite the BBC being better resourced than any other news organisation through the licence fee.

"The BBC spent the entire election campaign claiming DUP warnings were scare stories. They weren’t. They used a range of supposed ‘commentators’ who were sympathetic to every party but the DUP. 

"In the aftermath the BBC website misrepresented Arlene Foster’s use of a crocodile analogy and now this gross inaccuracy.  Instead of reflecting on their biased coverage it appears the BBC and its presenters are doubling down on their anti-DUP attacks.”

Explaining the full reasons for the comments in the broadcast, the BBC Spokesperson added:

“Accurate and impartial journalism is what we provide. We seek to avoid mistakes and will always correct them if they occur. In this instance, the presenter was referring to the South Belfast count process as a whole. These numbers suggest that at a critical stage of the count process, had Michael Henderson picked up sufficient DUP transfers, he might have won the fifth seat.

"Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP who was a guest on the programme also engaged in a discussion with the presenter and made the point, regarding South Belfast, that not every DUP voter had followed the party’s advice to transfer to unionist parties."

They added: “We believe our coverage of the recent Assembly election has been fair and balanced to all parties.”

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