Belfast Telegraph

BBC told to make more Northern Ireland based shows

 

BY DAVID YOUNG

The BBC needs to make more programmes in Northern Ireland - and make more programmes for Northern Ireland - according to media regulator Ofcom

The watchdog yesterday published new rules designed to ensure the BBC offers high-quality, distinctive programmes for its entire audience throughout the UK.

The rules form part of a new operating licence for the broadcaster, the first since Ofcom became the BBC's first independent, external regulator in April this year.

Ofcom targets for the corporation cover not only programmes made here which are about here, but also include ensuring that BBC Northern Ireland makes its fair share of the kind of big-ticket shows like The Fall and Line Of Duty, which are destined to be seen by audiences across the UK.

In Northern Ireland, Ofcom says the broadcaster must ensure that, until 2021, two per cent of the hours of network programmes made in the UK are made here.

From 2022 that target will rise to three per cent.

And the watchdog insists that at least three per cent of BBC spending on network programmes made in the UK must now be spent in Northern Ireland. In terms of TV programmes made for a local audience, Ofcom sets a series of ambitious targets, calling for 310 hours of TV news and current affairs per year on BBC1 NI, as well as 90 hours of non-news programmes, plus 60 hours of non-news programmes on BBC2 NI.

This includes comedy shows, such as Give My Head Peace and Number 2s, and documentaries such as True North and The Landlord: Inside The Housing Executive.

For BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle, the targets are equally stretching.

The two radio stations must produce at least 240 hours per year of what Ofcom calls 'indigenous minority language' programmes, as well as 50 hours of local news every week.

Ulster University media expert Dr Phil Ramsey said he broadly welcomed the new Ofcom programming targets.

"Quotas are a good thing," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"They secure public service broadcasting because the quotas are what make it different to commercial television.

"But, at the same time, I am concerned the bar is continually being raised, so when the BBC perform well, now Ofcom come along and say: 'Well, we would like you to do a little bit better'."

The BBC said: "These are a tough and challenging set of requirements which rightly demand a distinctive BBC which serves and represents all audiences throughout the whole UK.

"We will now get on with meeting these requirements and continuing to provide the world-class, creative BBC the public wants."

Belfast Telegraph

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