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DUP's Dodds hits out at BBC 'bias' after snubbing Northern Ireland sporting heroes

Nigel Dodds

The BBC has been accused of being London-centric after the row over its snub to Northern Ireland's sporting heroes reached Westminster.

The broadcaster is facing growing criticism over the lack of local presence on its 16-person shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year.

Two-weight world boxing champion Carl Frampton was among a number of high-profile omissions.

Swimmer Bethany Firth - a star of the Rio Paralympics - and double world Superbike champion Jonathan Rea were also snubbed.

In Parliament yesterday DUP MP Nigel Dodds backed the boxer and told MPs that his exclusion had caused outrage in Northern Ireland.

Mr Dodds said: "Once again the BBC has exemplified its London-centric, anti-regional approach with its nominations for Sports Personality of the Year, with all but two of the nominees from England.

"This in spite of the fact that Carl Frampton from my constituency is widely recognised as the boxer of the year, becoming Northern Ireland's first double-weight world champion, unifying a world title and defeating a three-weight world champion."

Mr Dodds said there was "ever growing concern" about the publicly-funded broadcaster. He added: "The BBC has a responsibility to all parts of the United Kingdom who contribute excessively to its funding arrangements and this latest failure has called into question the BBC's ability to properly fulfil its statutory duties."

In response, Commons Leader David Lidington said it would be wrong for Government Ministers to intervene.

"You make the point powerfully and as you would expect me to say the BBC is and rightly should remain independent of ministerial direction," he said.

Yesterday a former director of BBC Sport said the awards' organisers should consider having someone from each area of the UK on the panel in future.

Roger Mosey said it would be a "good idea" to have full representation on the panel.

"It would be good always to make sure the selection panel is as fair as it can be," he told the BBC's Nolan Show.

A BBC spokesperson said: Those people on the shortlist are there in recognition of their sporting achievement and impact, not on the basis of their nationality.

"There have been contenders from the Nations on the shortlist every year since the panel process was put in place, including this year.

"BBC Sport also takes SPOTY to locations around the UK every year, including Northern Ireland in 2015 and Scotland in 2014."

Belfast Telegraph