BBC demands end to Ulster ban

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The Independent Online
SIR MICHAEL Checkland, the BBC's director-general, yesterday urged the Government to lift its broadcasting restrictions on certain groups in Northern Ireland.

The curbs forbid the direct broadcast of comments by members of banned republican and loyalist organisations and of two legitimate political parties, Sinn Fein and the smaller Republican Sinn Fein. Writing to Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, on the fourth anniversary of the Northern Ireland broadcast notice, Sir Michael called for an immediate review of the legislation.

He requested an early meeting with Mr Brooke to discuss how a review might be carried out and repeated the BBC's strong opposition to the restrictions.

'The view of the BBC expressed in a statement which the chairman and I made on the very first day was that this was an intervention by government into matters that should properly be the responsibility of independent broadcasters. We shall continue to ask that the notice be withdrawn.'

Broadcasters have used various means to get round the restrictions, including the overdubbing of proscribed individuals with actors' voices and the use of subtitles. However, any attempt to scrap the restrictions is likely to run into strong opposition from Unionist MPs who have been firm supporters of them.

John Birt, page 19