Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster was in Belfast on  27 October to consider broadcasting in the province.  The committee was chaired in his inimitable style by Sir Patrick Cormack MP and those present included two Ulster MPs, Iris Robinson and David Simpson.

In a session which lasted about two and a half hours they put their questions to Peter Johnston, Northern Ireland controller of the BBC, Michael Wilson, the managing director of UTV, and Stuart Cosgrove, head of nations and regions at Channel 4.

The session was held in the Senate Chamber at Stormont and I was able to get a DVD of the proceedings, which I watched last night.  Many of the key issues for Northern Ireland were addressed, including local television production in Northern Ireland, the cultural balance of local broadcasting and the representation of Northern Ireland on television programmes seen in Great Britain.

David Simpson asked some important questions about the imbalance between the broadcasting of Ulster-Scots language and culture and Irish language and culture.  He also said that someone in the BBC had told him there was an anti-unionist bias in the BBC.  Peter Johnston said the balance of Irish and Ulster-Scots was appropriate and he denied there was an anti-unionist bias.

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