BBC NI audience body highlights `missed opportunity' on UK-wide programming

Annual report shows a slip in the region’s share of network television spending

The BBC's annual report for the year to the end of March shows it still has some way to go before it meets its target to source 3 per cent of its network television programming from Northern Ireland by 2016.

In 2012, BBC NI accounted for 1.3 per cent of total network television spending (expenditure on programmes that are broadcast not just locally, but across the UK).

This was down from 2 per cent in 2011, despite 2012 being what the BBC called “an important year” that included coverage of the Titanic centenary.

Authentic portrayal
The BBC's Audience Council for Northern Ireland, chaired by BBC trustee Aideen McGinley, noted that BBC NI programmes such as Farm Fixer and The Estate, which were broadcast first to a local audience and then on the UK-wide BBC One, had "the potential to provide audiences across the UK with a broader and richer representation of life in Northern Ireland".


Audiences want “a more authentic portrayal of a modern and changing society in Northern Ireland on the BBC’s networks”, it said. However, it noted that there were “relatively few transfers” of programmes made by BBC NI to the wider network.

“We have highlighted this to the [BBC] Trust as a missed opportunity and will look to see improvements next year.”

The council praised the drama The Fall, which was broadcast in 2013, for offering "a different – if somewhat dark – perspective" of the region.

BBC NI has been obliged to cut its cost base by 25 per cent over the past five years, with further savings of 15 per cent pencilled in for 2013-2016. The 3 per cent target is part of a broader plan by the BBC to source half of its network television programming from outside London by 2016 as it seeks to make the organisation less capital-centric.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics