Northern Ireland news

Complaints lodged over BBCNI decision not to treat the Greens as a 'major party'

BBCNI was accused of a 'distortion of our democracy' following the decision not to treat the Greens as a 'major party' in its election coverage

Clare Bailey last night accused BBC NI of a "distortion of our democracy" following the broadcaster's decision not to treat the Greens as a 'major party' in its election coverage.

The South Belfast MLA is aggrieved that the TUV, which has fewer elected representatives, is being classed as a major party, giving it access to greater airtime during the election campaign.

According to the Greens, the decision is based partly on recent opinion poll results, which the party claims is not in line with regulator Ofcom’s guidance.

At the last assembly election in 2017, the TUV won 3.4 per cent of first preference votes, compared to the Greens 2.3 per cent. However, the latter emerged with two MLAs, while the TUV has one.

Ms Bailey said the regional broadcaster had a "duty to be impartial".

“In the most recent elections, the Green Party NI won more assembly and local council seats than the TUV, so it makes no sense for the BBC to treat the TUV as a bigger party than the Greens," she said.

She said the party had lodged formal complaints with the BBC and Ofcom, and was "actively considering its legal options".

BBC NI last night defended its decision.

A statement from the broadcaster said: "We have a careful and detailed process in place for how we make judgements about the coverage of parties during election periods.

"This takes account of relevant Ofcom requirements and the BBC’s own election guidelines.”

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