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The BBC's Irish troublesTelevision, conflict and Northern Ireland$
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Robert Savage

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719087332

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719087332.001.0001

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The origins of the BBC in Northern Ireland

The origins of the BBC in Northern Ireland

(p.6) 1 The origins of the BBC in Northern Ireland
The BBC's Irish troubles

Robert J. Savage

Manchester University Press

This chapter traces the origins of the BBC in Northern Ireland, addressing how the radio service developed and maintained a close relationship with the unionist government at Stormont. The chapter provides context that enables an understanding of how television developed in the province and followed the pattern of radio. When BBC television first came to Northern Ireland its senior management was remarkably deferential to unionist elites and careful not to upset a government that had longed governed without consensus. Unionists did not want to see Northern Ireland defined as ‘Irish’ and programming that featured Irish or Gaelic music or culture provoked controversy. BBC crews that came from ‘mainland Britain’ were not welcomed because their programmes were increasingly viewed as problematic by a regional government that grew uncomfortable with broadcasts that addressed divisions in society and the widespread discrimination that disadvantaged Catholics in local elections, housing and employment. The chapter addresses the critical role television played for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in addressing the need for reforms in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. The chapter concludes by addressing the evolution of BBC television up to the resignation of reforming Prime Minister Terence O’Neill in the spring of 1969 and the outbreak of violence that summer.

Keywords:   Origins, Culture, Deference, Protest, Civil rights, Violence, Unrest

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