BBC to push for end to live ban

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is to ask the Government to lift the six- year ban on the live broadcasting of Northern Ireland terrorist groups as soon as the ceasefire is declared, writes Maggie Brown.

John Birt, the BBC director-general, and Tony Hall, the news and current affairs director, intend to make instant representations to the Department of National Heritage and to make their protests public.

Broadcasters know they face being pilloried internationally by being forced to dub and subtitle Gerry Adams. They say they are being hampered in reporting a story properly for a domestic audience, and are handing the IRA and Sinn Fein a propaganda tool, and that once a ceasefire is in operation the ban is simply censorship.

Mr Adams's announcement of a ceasefire only emphasised the shortcomings of the ban, imposed by government order in 1988 and now preventing the direct broadcasting of his statement.

A heritage department spokesman said yesterday that the ban was under constant review. It is likely to be suspended once the ceasefire is seen to have been delivered and violence ceases.

The broadcasters have consistently called for the lifting of restrictions and the National Union of Journalists mounted an unsuccessful European legal challenge. The ban was imposed at the insistence of then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to deny publicity to the IRA.