Speaking of making the media accountable… The Northern Ireland Minister for Culture, Sinn Fein’s Carál Ní Chuilín, has declared that she is “considering options such as appointing a panel of experts to review broadcasting in the North and devolution of responsibility locally with a view to bringing proposals forward for cross-party support”. Here’s a couple of lines from the minister’s press release
[NI Culture Minister, Sinn Fein’s Carál Ní Chuilín] “I am considering options such as appointing a panel of experts to review broadcasting in the North and devolution of responsibility locally with a view to bringing proposals forward for cross-party support.
“I believe there is a huge accountability gap with government responsibility for broadcasting held in Westminster. This Assembly should have a say on the future of broadcasting here and the licensing of broadcasters, or charter in the case of the BBC, must at the very least include a mechanism that makes the broadcasting companies accountable and answerable to this Assembly. [added emphasis]
[At what cost? – Ed] Indeed. The NI Culture Minister’s press release accompanied a Sinn Féin motion in the NI Assembly calling for the minister “to explore with the Secretary of State the potential for transferring broadcasting powers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to her Department”. [Which her?! – Ed] Indeed, again.
Thankfully, when the NI Assembly got around to a vote they disagreed. At least for now… Whether the NI Culture Minister will abide by the decision of the Assembly is another matter.
In the meantime, and still on the media accountability issue, the News Letter reports that the NI First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, appears to have withdrawn a threat to sue the BBC over a July Spotlight programme after mistaking the opinion of the Attorney General he appointed for a ruling on that opinion in a court of law. From the News Letter report
Spotlight made public part of an email which the First Minister sent to the BBC saying that if it broadcast the criticisms of him in the programme he had instructed his lawyer to begin proceedings against the BBC without further instructions.
In the News Letter’s pre-conference interview with Mr Robinson this week he dismissed some of the arguments in favour of libel law reform.
We also asked the First Minister if he had changed his mind about suing Spotlight.
Mr Robinson said: “I think since then we’ve had the announcement of the investigation being carried out by the DSD committee. The issues will be dealt with there.
“But I don’t need to [sue] because I now have a very clear opinion from the Attorney General which indicates that the BBC was completely wrong and vindicates my position. [added emphasis]
“So once again the BBC has made allegations which the most senior legal mind in the Province is indicating are inaccurate.”
Adds According to the Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín
“We have seen a burgeoning in Scotland and Wales of their relevant broadcast sectors yet due to the failure to transfer these powers to the north such development on a local basis is stymied.
So that can’t be the problem here…