BBC did not breach guidelines with coverage of Ulster marches

The BBC Trust has said the corporation’s coverage of Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland last year did not breach editorial guidelines.

The trust did not uphold a viewer’s complaint that BBC Northern Ireland’s “The Twelfth” programme, broadcast on 12 July last year, was “uncritical promotional coverage” of the controversial marches.

The complainant said the BBC, which has covered the traditional parades for 50 years, “normalised sectarianism” and did not represent a balanced view. He further alleged that it was “not reasonable for a state broadcaster to provide uncritical promotional coverage of an event that contributes extremely negatively to community relations”.

The parades in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland passed off peacefully, but there were violent disturbances later in the day as loyalists and republicans clashed, resulting in injuries to nine police officers and a number of arrests.

In not upholding the complaint, the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee said it considered the entire BBC output covering the marches and subsequent violence. Having been supplied by BBC Northern Ireland with other material covering the lead-up to and fall-out from the event, the Committee decided that it had been balanced in its coverage.

In its findings published today, the committee said that “the examples supplied demonstrated that, across the full range of programming, the totality of the picture of the controversial aspects of the parade season was covered”.

At the time of the complaint, the BBC responded by saying that the broadcasters coverage of the marches, “taken as a whole”, did reflect “the widest possible range of opinions and beliefs”.

A later complaint to the BBC’s Editorial Commission Unit was also dismissed with the ECU ruling that the programme stuck to its brief to “reflect the parade and spectacle of the day”.

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