The BBC has confirmed that it has decided to end live coverage of the July 12 parade in Belfast.
The Orange Order Grand Secretary and the DUP leader were informed of the change on Thursday.
Last night, a BBC NI spokesperson said no final decision had been made on the schedule.
However, a letter was sent to Rev Mervyn Gibson and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson this morning revealing plans to replace live coverage with an extended nighttime show.
BBC NI acting director Adam Smyth said the hour-long show – covering eight events – is part of efforts “to better and more fully reflect” the Twelfth.
“We are aware that our decision not to resume live television coverage of the Belfast demonstration may be disappointing to some people and we have made this decision after careful consideration and based on all usual editorial considerations,” the letter states.
“We also want to explore how we can make audiences aware of other BBC programs on the Orange tradition, coinciding with the July 12 this year schedule and we will confirm these and other broadcast details soon.”
Smyth insisted that the public broadcaster recognizes the importance of Twelfth Order and Orange Order events.
“This is something that we will adequately reflect in our production, seeking to describe and explain the meaning of what is happening and make it more accessible, including for those with other backgrounds and beliefs,” he added.
The letter also commended Orange Order for helping the production team over the years and expressed a desire to maintain good relations.
“We hope this is something the institution feels able to facilitate, helping the BBC team in their efforts to capture the colour, diversity and importance of these events.”
Adam Smyth’s letter in full
We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about the BBC’s plans for coverage of this year’s Orange Order demonstrations on 12 July. It was a comprehensive and informative conversation and we look forward to engaging even more with you both on issues of community and cultural diversity at the BBC and in the context of other work we plan to do in this area – and your positive feedback on some of our recent programs and series.
We said we would reflect on the points you made about the return of the BBC’s live television coverage of the Belfast demonstration, as well as our other broadcast plans, including an hour-long program featuring stories, people and events at eight regional locations.
We feel that there is particular value in seeking to better/more fully reflect Orange Order events across the region and that our spotlight program, which has been popular with local audiences, is the best means of achieving this goal. The Belfast demo will of course be included in it. And that coverage will be complemented by reports on the BBC’s radio, television and online news services.
Our evening program involves significant logistical efforts and resources. Its programming and availability on iPlayer gives us the possibility to reach a larger audience and we think that its format allows us to do much more than we can do with live coverage of a single event.
We know that our decision not to resume live television coverage of the Belfast demonstration may be disappointing to some people and we have made this decision carefully and based on all the usual editorial considerations.
We also want to explore how we can make audiences aware of other BBC shows about the Orange tradition, coinciding with this year’s July 12 schedule and will confirm these and other broadcast details shortly.
We recognize the importance of the July 12 events to participants and many others in our local community. This is something that we will adequately reflect in our production, seeking to describe and explain the meaning of what is happening and make it more accessible, including for those with other backgrounds and beliefs.
Our production teams were grateful for the support they received from the Orange Order in our coverage of the previous July 12 demonstrations and we hope this is something the Institution feels able to facilitate, helping the BBC team in their efforts to capture color. , the diversity and importance of these events.
Acting Director – BBC Northern Ireland