RTE Must Still Beam Into North, Says Report

A high level UK report into future broadcasting has said that people in the North should continue to receive RTE after the digital switchover.

Calling on the UK government to ensure that its discussions with the government of the Republic of Ireland guarantee no loss of service to people in NI, the 'TV Broadcasting in Northern Ireland' document also called for a guarantee of money for the Irish Language Broadcasting Fund beyond March 2011.

The damning Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report also said that public service broadcasters are failing Northern Ireland.

"The UK's major television companies have failed to portray the ordinary life, beauties, history and culture of Northern Ireland to the rest of the country," said the MPs in a report published on Tuesday.

They said that the BBC, Channel Four and other public service broadcasters "have neglected their obligations to Northern Ireland, leaving it comparatively invisible on screens across the water in Great Britain".

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Chairman Sir Patrick Cormack MP said: "While award-winning programmes and films about the Troubles are important and often of the highest quality, we are concerned that the everyday life of Northern Ireland, the beauties of its countryside and the glories of its history and culture play next to no part in the programmes that those who live in the other parts of the United Kingdom see."

One of the most damning statistics quoted in today's report is that, in total Northern Ireland accounted for only 16 hours of network programming in 2007—less than one minute of network programming per 1,000 head of population, and lower than any other region of the UK.

The report quotes Peter Johnson, Director of the BBC in Northern Ireland, who accepted that NI had not received sufficient attention in the past, and said - given that 3% of the UK population live there - historically the position has been that not enough of the BBC's output has been made in Northern Ireland.

"It has typically varied between half a per cent and 1% of the overall mix," he admitted.

However, the paper also highlighted that the BBC has announced a commitment to increase its network programming from outside London to 50%, including at least 17% from the nations.

Although no specific target has been set for Northern Ireland, it is expected that at least 3% will be from Northern Ireland by 2016 and it is estimated that this will put an extra £30 million into the NI production sector.

The hard-hitting report concludes that as the BBC retains primacy, "it has not adequately discharged its responsibilities in Northern Ireland, and we repeat our call for a commissioner for programming to be based in Belfast".


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