BBC confirms it will not broadcast live coverage of 12th July parade

BBC confirms it will not broadcast live coverage of 12th July parade

THE BBC has confirmed that it will not broadcast live coverage of the Belfast Twelfth of July parade this weekend.

In a letter to the Orange Order it said the decision was taken "after careful consideration".

Instead, the broadcaster will air an hour-long programme featuring events at eight locations.

BBC Northern Ireland interim director Adam Smyth said the decision was taken for audience reasons and "not to diminish" the importance of 12 July to the unionist community.

"There are 80% more people available to watch the highlights programme in the evening than there are available to watch the live programme during the day," Mr Smyth said.

"But more than that, I think putting some of our resources into the highlights programme, allows us to get out of Belfast to see all of Northern Ireland, and to really capture the richness of the cultural event that it is beyond Belfast, where we've been focused for quite some time."

In a statement, the Orange Order voiced its disappointment at the decision.

“This decision by BBC NI was reached without meaningful discussion or consultation with the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland and is immensely disappointing and frustrating, not only for our members but for the many members of the public who watch the programme each year," a spokesperson said.

“We became aware of the plans to cancel the live broadcast during our annual Twelfth of July planning meeting with BBC NI staff.

“The Grand Secretary Rev. Mervyn Gibson and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, a former Assistant Grand Master and DUP Leader, then met with Interim Director of BBC Northern Ireland Adam Smyth and asked him to reconsider this decision."

The spokesperson said that as a public service broadcaster, the decision to cancel live coverage of "the biggest cultural event in Northern Ireland" "defies logic".

“We pointed out many people cannot attend Twelfth of July parades for a range of reasons," the statement continued.

Many are housebound due to illness or old age, while others are in nursing homes – they are the people who will be impacted most by this decision.

“It is hard to accept this as anything other than a further snub to the wider Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist Community and our culture.”

Gregory Campbell DUP MP of East Londonderry said the BBC "has a multitude of outlets and huge resources at its disposal, so the only obvious reason for this was a lack of will to cover a significant event."

"The BBC appear to be presenting the live coverage in the early part of the day and the highlights programme at night as an either/or option. There is no real explanation as to why live coverage cannot happen alongside a later programme which always provided coverage from across Northern Ireland.

"The ultimate measure is that there will be fewer minutes of programming this year dedicated to the single largest cultural event which takes place in Northern Ireland each year.

Orange Order parades were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, while last year, the Orange Order decided to hold scaled-down parades in local areas.