BBC’s border blindness isolates EU citizens in North     

Posted By: May 26, 2021


Brian Feeney, Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, May 26, 2021.


A large element of the outrage the British government has directed against the BBC for the Diana interview is because the government, and particularly this right-wing, nativist, Brexit government, regards the BBC not just as the national broadcaster, but as the state broadcaster.


As the Culture Secretary told The Times on Monday, the BBC needs to “step up to project British values” and distinctively British programs.


What this government’s cabinet ministers really mean of course is that they want the BBC to project their version of Britain and British society.


That has always been the case, but now more so as the government threatens the BBC with drastic changes.


What successive governments’ attitudes have meant for here [Northern Ireland]is that BBC NI has always been seen as institutionally Unionist.


It’s not as bad as it used to be; far from it. In the seventies and eighties, BBC NI was to the NIO [Northern Ireland Office] what Pravda was to the Kremlin.


In Robert Savage’s book, The BBC’s Irish Troubles, he lays bare the threats to the BBC from various proconsuls and establishment figures like Lord Lowry, then Lord Chief Justice.


However, senior executives like James Hawthorne, controller from 1979-89, were happy to kowtow. There were intimate connections between BBC bosses here and Unionism.


For example, the annual Twalf [Orange Day, July 12] march detoured off Great Victoria Street so that it could be filmed parading along Bedford Street past the BBC while executives had a drinks party with the top Orangemen.


Now, however, Unionism is a hot potato. There are strong feelings in Scotland about BBC’s coverage of the SNP and complaints of anti-independence bias in election programs and news programs.


BBC set up BBC Scotland in 2019 to try to combat the criticism of being London-centered. There’s even a website,, where you can add your complaints to the list.


Here [Norther Ireland]Unionism has always been regarded as the BBC default position.


We all know there’s no weather in Letterkenny or Dundalk. Dublin-based political stories sometimes go unreported even when there are Dáil debates on The North.


Even coverage of the GAA is partitionist. You’d seldom see a Dublin-Kerry contest, only if an Ulster team is playing. For a while, post-Brexit delays at Dublin port were covered, but no more.


Last week two senior French ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of foreign affairs, and Clément Beaune, minister for European affairs visited Dublin for a cordial meeting. The slogan, devised by President Higgins, was, “France, your nearest EU neighbor”.


The Irish Protocol and the crisis in Unionism were the topics at a four-and-a-half-hour dinner. Also, the vastly increased weekly ferry crossings to France, up from 12 to 44, being used by the enormously expanded trade from the north to the south, taking advantage of the Protocol.


All this may as well have happened on the planet Uranus as far as BBC NI was concerned.


This approach is doubly unfortunate. It infuriates nationalists who identify with Dublin as their capital, but secondly, in the aftermath of the stupidity of Brexit, the majority of people here who voted against are being deprived of information they are entitled to as EU citizens.


BBC NI seems to be adopting the British government’s contrived blindness to anything European, and like political unionism has become fixated on daily reports of manufactured problems at Larne where DUP obstruction deliberately makes everything worse.


How come the French and Dutch have no problems with checks on incoming British goods?


EU citizens here pay their license fee. They have a right to expect not to be consigned to a parochial, worm’s eye view of the world, not to be cut off from matters of European interest just because they happen in Dublin.


It’s like the weather. Just as there’s no weather in Letterkenny, there’s obviously no politics in Dublin no matter how much it affects people’s lives here. BBC NI is isolating EU citizens in The North.