Editor's Viewpoint: Cultural neglect isolates province
It is clear from the Ofcom report published yesterday that neither the BBC nor UTV is serving local audiences as they should, or could.
Their investment in local programming has fallen by 41% in just five years. While UTV, as a commercial broadcaster, can point to the recession and pressures on revenue as a possible excuse, the BBC has no hiding place. Funded by the licence payers, it is relatively immune to external economic problems.
The net result is that few programmes are made in the province for local consumption and virtually none for showing on the national networks of the public service and commercial broadcasters. Surely it cannot be beyond the capabilities of either BBC locally or UTV to produce programmes which reflect life in the province, either in documentary or drama formats.
In political terms Northern Ireland has always been regarded in the UK as a place apart. It is gaining a similar reputation in broadcasting terms. Indeed, a cynic might say that if it wasn't for the weather forecast and news bulletins, network programmes would never have to mention the province.
It seems almost at times as if the province is not really part of the UK.
Quality programmes have been made in Northern Ireland and have been shown on the networks, but they are very few in number and often are not based on life here, but rather using the province merely as a location for filming.
It is a cultural neglect which must be addressed by the broadcasters, especially the BBC until economic conditions improve. The BBC has committed itself to producing more programming from the nations, as it terms regions of the UK away from London. It is a commitment that it must be held to. UTV, which seems to plug into the national ITV network almost as a default reflex, also needs to raise its game significantly.