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BBC told to stop dwelling on the Troubles


James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson in a scene from Five Minutes Of Heaven

James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson in a scene from Five Minutes Of Heaven

James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson in a scene from Five Minutes Of Heaven

The BBC has been told it needs to stop focusing on the Troubles and revamp its output to reflect the huge changes in Northern Ireland society.

In its annual review, the body that advises the BBC Trust on how well BBC Northern Ireland is operating warned that audiences now expect “a more up-to-date portrayal” of the region.

The Audience Council also said that viewers require more high quality programmes with newer and fresher ideas.

It focused on the BBC’s daytime schedule, stating that viewers found it “disappointing”.

Shows under scrutiny include Homes Under The Hammer and Bargain Hunt.

The review examines the performance of BBC Northern Ireland over the past 12 months and provides an independent assessment on behalf of the audience.

It said there was a clear message that audiences expect a more modern output.

“We have noted how often people from different backgrounds and interests talk about an apparent preoccupation with political and security issues and the absence of a fuller picture of a modern and evolving Northern Ireland,” it said. The review said the BBC needed to do more to reflect the integral role which individuals from diverse groups play within wider society. “Too often people feel that they are defined by a single facet of their identity such as disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” it added.

Among the other issues which the Audience Council highlighted were:

  • Too much programming which was formulaic or repetitive - an over-reliance on themes and formats that had run their course and needed to be refreshed or replaced.
  • The need for more “innovation and risk-taking”.
  • Doubts over whether a “disappointing” daytime schedule took account of the diversity of audience needs at this time, given changing work patterns and life choices.

But the BBC’s daytime controller, Liam Keelan, defended the corporation's schedule, claiming it has gone through a “pretty significant shift” in recent years.

“Despite challenging budgets— a daytime series budget is roughly a quarter of a peaktime series — the aim in daytime will always be to produce the highest quality programming other broadcasters wouldn't go near,” he explained.

Rotha Johnston, the National Trustee for Northern Ireland, said the Audience Council is committed to championing the interests of the audience.

“We have identified many areas of achievement, such as the sustained high performance of BBC Radio Ulster, the launch of Democracy Live, and some wonderful examples of programmes of the highest quality made in NI for a UK-wide audience,” she said.

“However, we are also very aware of areas where the audience believes that the BBC could do better.”

Outdated? Yesterday’s BBC daytime schedule

10am — Homes Under The Hammer

11am — Real Rescue

11.45am — Cash In The Attic (repeat)

12.15pm — Bargain Hunt

1pm — BBC national news

1.30pm — BBC Northern Ireland news

1.45pm — Doctors

2.15pm — Murder She Wrote (repeat)

Belfast Telegraph