“must at the very least include a mechanism that makes the broadcasting companies accountable and answerable to this Assembly…”

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accountability issue, the News Letter reports that the NI First Minister, the DUP’s Peter Robinson, appears to have withdrawn a threat to sue the BBC over a July Spotlight programme after mistaking the opinion of the Attorney General he appointed for a ruling on that opinion in a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.”

Perhaps…

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.

Which is odd.  Because broadcasting powers have not been devolved in Scotland, nor in Wales either.

So that can’t be the problem here

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  • gendjinn

    Commentators should read the entire press release. The selective quoting and commentary attempt to portray the move as Pravda & Tass.

    Here’s just one quote to illustrate the real intent of the ministers statement:

    “If our Executive had responsibility for broadcasting we would be much better placed to take action to realise the potential of our broadcasting industry.”

  • Haven’t done the sums, but they could use the newly-proposed Scottish formula of creaming off the licence fee generated in the ‘nation’ and then doing a deal with the BBC in London to continue to access their ‘network’ content in return for local programming.

    Difficulty is that what scales in Scotland may not scale as easily or efficiently in NI.

    In five years sitting on the Audience Council for NI – eleven licence fee payers along with the BBC Trustee for NI – advising the BBC Trust on behalf of Northern Ireland licence fee payers, I remember visits by two DUP ministers for Culture, Arts and Leisure. I’m a year and half away but I can’t remember many BBC Trust consultations that received input from the DCAL committee. Grasping the existing opportunities to lobby and influence would be a sign of their developing interest and understanding of the local supply issues etc.

    I’d like to see a much more mature political executive and assembly in NI before they increased their influence over any form of media – be it broadcasting, newsprint or online. Culture is still too much of a football.

  • I foresee a headline tomorrow:

    Foxes ask for control of the henhouses. Hens cry “Fowl”.

    I can’t imagine too many citizens would be in favour of giving politicians even a small measure of control over any form of broadcasting. Aren’t superinjunctions enough already?

  • aquifer

    I am calling for a broadcast ban on threats from local politicians that they are going to sue, because they have too often failed to proceed, reach a settlement, or arrive in court.

    These threats can be just a rhetorical device to cast doubt on an accusation or a ploy to scare journalists off when they know MLAs have access to free legal advice.

    As for SFDUP taking control of broadcasting?

    They ran the news for a generation or two by shouting blocking and breaking stuff and flying flags, but would they be any good at light entertainment?

  • Charles_Gould

    What about a Northern Ireland Newsnight?

  • Gopher

    “What about a Northern Ireland Newsnight?”

    Seriously Charles the local news struggles to fill half an hour each evening. There was a point during the troubles but today there is no excuse. Big (local) issues can be dealt with by a weekly half hour program. 15 minutes would be adequate for the evening inclusive of sport.

    As for local politicians having anything to do with broadcasting the most laughable suggestion I have heard is years..

  • dodrade

    I believe there was a Northern Ireland (and Wales) regional opt out for the last 20 minutes of Newsnight some years ago but only the Scottish one is still going.

  • son of sam

    Charles
    “A Northern Ireland Newsnight”.As John Mc Enroe used to say,you cannot be serious!Do we have a Paxman on the premises?

  • Barnshee

    Concentrate on ending the Licence system and allow the BBC to operate on a subscription basis let it sink or swim (DUP/SF and co can set up their own TV ststions if they want)

  • Pete Baker

    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.

    Which is odd. Because broadcasting powers have not been devolved in Scotland, nor in Wales either.

    So that can’t be the problem here