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Northern Ireland 'neglected' by TV broadcasters

A Coronation Street in Antrim, an east Belfast Eastenders or even a Holywood Oaks? Northern Ireland needs a drama that can depict everyday life, a report on TV broadcasting has said.

The paper, by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, said the UK’s major TV firms have been neglecting the region. It called on the BBC and Channel 4 do more to give people across the UK a “balanced” perception of Ulster life.

In its third annual report launched at Stormont yesterday, the cross-party committee which includes local MPs Lady Sylvia Hermon, David Simpson and Dr Alisdair McDonnell, urged broadcasters to shift the focus of non-news programmes.

“There is very little if any portrayal of ordinary life in Northern Ireland. News and current affairs coverage have in the past concentrated largely on the Troubles and their aftermath,” committe chairman Sir Patrick Cormack MP told an audience in the Long Gallery.

“Drama, documentary and film have also largely featured conflict. Northern Ireland has never produced a continuing series for broadcast on UK network television. Consequently, while life in England, Scotland and Wales (and even, if the slightly old example of Bergerac is borne in mind, the Channel Islands) has been portrayed across the UK, ordinary life in Northern Ireland has remained to some extent invisible.”

He called for the Government to provide a fund for fictional programmes to be administered by the Assembly. Last year BBCNI made acclaimed drama Occupation — set in England and Iraq.

Research from the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) shows that BBC network production from Northern Ireland in 2007 represented just 0.2% of its total network programming.

ITV1 production (excluding news) accounted for 0.1% of its total first-run network hours, C4 also was 0.1% and Five, excluding news, had no network programming at all from Ulster.

Comment, Page 24

Belfast Telegraph