| 9.1°C Belfast

Paisley: BBC buckles under DUP onslaught with last-minute changes made to interview


Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

  First Minister Peter Robinson

First Minister Peter Robinson

Ian Paisley

Fears are growing that the BBC is caving in to the DUP following its concerns over the content of an interview with Ian Paisley.

The second part of the controversial Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie is due to be shown on Monday when it is expected the former First Minister will be highly critical of others over the circumstances of his retirement from public life.

But the Belfast Telegraph has learned that a number of concerns about the content have been raised by the DUP.

It is understood that the BBC has given the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church a right of reply to many of the more controversial claims contained within the Paisley interview.

A media screening of the second part of the interview was cancelled at short notice this week. The official explanation was that the programme was still in production. The interviews were carried out by journalist Eamonn Mallie in the latter part of 2012 and the first months of 2013.

The second programme is understood to deal in detail with Mr Paisley's retirement from politics in 2010 and his stepping down as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church.

In the first programme, Mr Paisley referred to "being kicked to the gutter" by the church which he helped to found.

Sources have told the Belfast Telegraph that the DUP has raised a number of objections to the content of the second part of the programme.

It is also understood that letters have been sent to a number of individuals within the Free Presbyterian Church for a right to reply over claims made by Mr Paisley.

But Ulster Unionist leader and former journalist Mike Nesbitt warned against any interference in the editorial process of the BBC.

He said: "You would not expect the DUP to have any editorial rights in a programme made about Ian Paisley by Eamonn Mallie for the BBC."

The Belfast Telegraph also understands the DUP was not offered a right of reply to comments made by the former First Minister in the first part of the interview, broadcast earlier this week.

But a late change was made to the content of that broadcast after Mr Paisley used the programme to launch an attack on his successor as First Minister, Peter Robinson. The peer claimed that Mr Robinson's infamous 1986 invasion of Clontibret "should not have been done".

The version that was shown to the media last week was altered slightly to what was broadcast on Monday night to include a reply by Mr Robinson over the matter.

The DUP would not comment on claims that it had raised objections to some of the charges made in the interview.

A BBC spokesman said: "The programme is still in production."

The first programme attracted 135,000 viewers. In contrast, the Nolan Show attracts around 180,000 viewers.

Belfast Telegraph