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Broadcasting Authorities

Volume 76: debated on Thursday 4 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met the broadcasting authorities in Northern Ireland; and what subjects were discussed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Nicholas Scott)

My right hon. Friend would not expect to have formal meetings with the broadcasting authorities, which are not responsible to him. However, he met both the BBC's Northern Ireland governor and the IBA's national member for Northern Ireland socially during February.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. When he next meets representatives of the BBC and ITV, will he convey to them the worrying anxiety felt throughout Britain and Northern Ireland about the filming of IRA funerals at which rifles are fired? Is my hon. Friend aware that it is grossly offensive and thoroughly unhelpful? People are sickened when the BBC interviews IRA terrorists who threaten our country. Should not both the broadcasting authorities respond more actively and responsibly?

I recognise the widespread offence that is caused by the televising of funerals which are turned into propaganda exercises by the paramilitaries. However, it would be wrong for the Government to try to prohibit the reporting by the media of such funerals. The media must use their own editorial judgment about such matters, just as the security forces have to use their judgment on the ground when paramilitary displays take place at such funerals. I am sure that those responsible will have noted my hon. Friend's remarks.

Will the Minister also discuss with the authorities in Northern Ireland the disquiet felt by my colleagues and I and many others about the investigative follow-up by the BBC in the aftermath of a number of sensitive security issues? I believe that that has virtually prejudiced any prospect of a police or UDR man getting a fair hearing or a fair trial in any subsequent action.

If the authorities in Northern Ireland deny what I am saying, perhaps the Minister will ask them why they refused to give me a transcript of one particular incident?

If the hon. Gentleman would care to write to me about that incident, we shall see whether there is an opportunity to raise it. The best way to handle these matters is for elected representatives and members of the public to make their views known direct to the broadcasting authorities.