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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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Balance? The BBC in Northern Ireland, 1972–1978

Balance? The BBC in Northern Ireland, 1972–1978

(p.110) 3 Balance? The BBC in Northern Ireland, 1972–1978
The BBC's Irish troubles

Robert J. Savage

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines how BBC television at both the regional and national level, addressed the continuing crisis in Northern Ireland. The chapter considers changes in the regional service and the transition from one Controller, Waldo Maguire to his successor Richard Francis. Maguire carved out a degree of autonomy for BBC NI, moving it out of the shadow of the unionist establishment. The chapter also considers how BBC managers, producers, editors and journalists worked with the new Northern Ireland Office, the department set up after the suspension of the Stormont Parliament to facilitate direct rule. Relations between the BBC and the Northern Ireland Office became strained as programming became more critical of British policy in the province and more interested in broadcasting features about paramilitaries, especially the IRA. The chapter addresses the massive Ulster Worker’s Council strike of 1974: a strike that paralysed the province and forced the collapse of the power-sharing initiative meant to bring a degree of self-government back to Northern Ireland. The BBC was heavily criticised for its coverage of the strike, its critics argued it helped facilitate the strikers who were supported by menacing loyalist paramilitaries. The chapter concludes with a debate written by the Northern Ireland Office to introduce a formal regime of censorship for broadcasting in Northern Ireland.

Keywords:   BBC, Ulster Workers Council Strike, Sunningdale, IRA, Loyalist, Richard Francis, Northern Ireland Office, Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, British Army, Harold Wilson

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