Why is the BBC ghettoising NI regional outputs?

I almost missed 14 Days, a documentary on one of several traumatic weeks in the history of the Troubles. Paul Canning, who’s based in Cambridge didn’t, and writes an impressively well researched blog asking (amongst several other things), why don’t the BBC mainstream more locally produced work?

The ‘BBC NI only’ shows are (or were) all also on iPlayer, which is the reason I know about them at all as I often skim the ‘factual’ strand, I didn’t find them because they were featured on iPlayer — but that’s no excuse. Why didn’t ‘As Others See Us’, featuring four BBC legends and which was engaging in much loved — and much mocked — BBC navel-gazing, get a screening on, even, News 24? It makes no sense except if you’re noticing that stories about the Troubles are being deliberately shunted into a ghetto.

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  • Brian Walker

    Although i’m long out of the commissioning process , it won’t be BBCNI’s fault that they are “ghettoised.”

    The national networks are commissioned by a team under their own controllers. I’m sure the local BBC do their best to get network showcases. For one thing it spreads the costs. I wouldn’t rule out versioning and airing on BBC4.

    Otherwise, you can also access BBC iPlayer on SMART TV and from 2 days ago, Channel 4’s 4oD.

    ,As you say if you search you can find BBC NI programmes on iPlayer.

    This techology is about to explode. Soon we will have a “backwards EPG ” on a BBC platform You View and Virgin’s TIVO as ” the internet comes to TV” providing more comprehensive access on as many as 650 devices.

    Re recent NI programmes, I’ve now seen all three parts of “An Independent People”, on the history of Ulster Presbyterians presented by William Crawley which you drew attention to recently. I’ll write it up after the holiday.

    This was an ambitious series but in concept definitely NI/Irish, I’d say, and well worth doing in those terms. It could be probably aired in its present form in Scotland without much of a remake but I think it would need subtantially reversioning for the networks. The ,

    This is not a criticism by any means. NI’s audience is distinct and not all ambitous programme ideas should be made on the condition that they are only worth funding if they get network airings.
    I take the unfashionable view that the NI audience needs its owns share of high quality expensive programminga dn nkt all of ti should be made for networks in mind. Great if you can co-commission or export some of it but not always esential and not always appropriate.

    However with iPlayer its’ grea that we can access regional material. And with those rapid developments in viewing on demand, the distinction between local and national is blurring and so is channel identity.

  • Brian Walker

    .. sorry I hit the wrong key before correcting but you get the gist I hope.

    The Evening Standrad has just run this interesting article on the tech developments.


  • “Why is the BBC ghettoising NI regional outputs?”

    Not just NI, it seems:

    Q673 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: You have mentioned Scotland and Wales. In England you hardly get a Scottish story. On Newsnight you have the opt out and there is a real sense that with devolution bits of the country have been cut off from each other. 2005 source [pdf file]

    This is a news related comment but it has wider relevance. One of those giving evidence was Pat Loughrey, the then BBC Director of Nations and Regions and former BBC NI Controller.

  • Brian, some members of the Diaspora wanted to see the ‘An Independent People’ series but they are blocked on BBC iPlayer.

  • Brian Walker

    Not me in London.so who?

  • jthree


    Tell them to download the Tunnel Bear app and they’ll get round any regional blocking issues.

  • Not every BBCNI programme is as good as the excellent 14 Days.
    In fact local TV …not just in Belfast is awful. Steve Coogan has done well out of this.
    For every 14 Days there is a series of Monumental.
    But there is also an uneasy feeling that BBC NI is engaged in “one for you, one for me” which is a form of ghettoism also.

  • jthree

    The Current Affairs stuff – generally excellent.

    The Entertainment stuff – not so much, especially when you compare it to the output of Scotland’s comedy unit: Limmy, Still Game, Burniston, Bob Servant.

  • The Comedy stuff is woeful and they seem to be living on past glories in News.
    A lot of good reporters cut their teeth on stories that were international rather than local.
    I suppose a lot has to do with cutbacks and outsourcing to independents.
    I watched that PG Wodehouse drama on bbc player the other night and noticed it was produced locally.
    While the stars, Tim Pigott Smith and Zoe Wannamaker and JUlian Rhind-Trott ??? (Interestingly playing Malcom Muggeridge) were “imported” and good to see Flora Montgomery also…a lot of the smaller parts seemed to be played by local actors.
    And am I right in saying that a recent ten part series about metropolitan police in Victorian times was also produced locally? It did seem to have a lot of locals and pretty sure Kilmainham was used as a location.
    Local TV is a small pool and we suffer from seeing too many over-exposed faces but I’d certainly say that local drama unit seems to be performing well.

  • jthree

    Ripper Street was shot entirely in Dublin – its been recommissioned, though frankly I’m sick of entertainment which features the carving up of women.

  • jagmaster

    Regional output? You could have fooled me. 9 times out of 10 any so called regional programme is of a Belfast bent. Ok if you’re a Belfast resident, but as non Belfast residents like myself are expected to pay the licence fee more programmes from outside the comfort zone would be welcome.

  • “Not me in London.so who?”

    Brian, my Facebook relations and friends in Canada, USA, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand would like to have seen it.

  • Thanks, jthree

  • Scáth Shéamais

    I think Kate Adie’s statement, quoted in the original piece, points toward the reason for this ‘ghettoisation’ – people in Britain just aren’t interested in hearing about the North of Ireland, especially when it’s conflict-related. Added to that the the disinterest of network (i.e. London) in “regional” programming – especially Scottish, Welsh and of course Irish.

  • Glen Antrim


    I saw this thread and decided to subscribe. I remember the events well. Interestingly enough, the youtube link above came up without any help from me. Youtube obviously have my number.

    Open either of the above links if you want to watch it.

    I did see BBC advertise this as is their wont. But let’s face it: no matter how good we might think this is, it is of minor interest.
    Posh Spice has over 5million Twit followers, Britney Spears lots more and Mick Jagger only 200k.
    Some of the documentary is interesting. Clonard keeping the faith, how journos get their pics. Reid is now just a footnote.

    Watch it and surmise.

  • paul canning

    Cheers Mick. Interesting comments!

    BTW, am in London now.

  • I think it was interesting that the BBC Panorama special on The Derby Fire …the Philpott Case was actually fronted by Mandy McAuley and produced by BBC in Belfast.
    In one sense in the age of Tinternet, it makes no difference where a programme is produced, it seems only proper that this programme should have been produced in the East Midlands.
    outsourcing to Belfast seems wrong.

  • ForkHandles

    Nevin , You just need to get a VPN client with servers to connect to in the UK. do a google for reviews of vpns for watching iplayer on a PC. I don’t want to give the name of the one I use incase some plonker tries to block its IP addresses. But it works perfectly from here in the middle east.

  • paul canning