The DUP requested a meeting with the Director-General of the BBC to raise its concerns about not being included in the leaders’ TV debates to be broadcast across the UK and about wider coverage ahead of the General Election.
The DUP has also raised its concerns with the BBC Trust and, separately, instructed lawyers to prepare to take legal action against the BBC.
The BBC, alongside ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News, has announced plans to host a series of television debates in the run-up to the General Election. These include a head-to-head debate between the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties, as well as two debates additionally involving the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.
In Northern Ireland, the BBC will host a separate primetime TV debate to ensure fair and impartial treatment of all the main Northern Ireland parties: the DUP, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the UUP and the Alliance.
James Harding, BBC Director of News, went to Belfast on behalf of the Director-General to hear directly from the leader of the DUP about the party’s concerns. The position of the broadcasters on the TV debates remains unchanged.
James Harding said: “This meeting provided an important and useful opportunity for us to hear about the DUP’s concerns. The BBC is required to cover the upcoming election impartially and independent of any political pressure. Our job is to serve the public, ensuring that all voters get full and fair coverage of the choice at the General Election.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty