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New TV station to step in and cover Twelfth live after BBC axed coverage

Former First Minister Dame Arlene Foster is to commentate on live coverage of the Twelfth in Armagh after new TV station GB News stepped in to cover the event.

Dame Arlene Foster, who is a former leader of the DUP, and now works as a commentator at the station, is ‘incredibly proud’ of GB News for stepping up to cover the demonstation.

Last week the BBC revealed it would no longer be covering the Twelfth live in Northern Ireland.

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Welcoming the news that GB News was to pick it up, Upper Bann MLA Diane Dodds said: “It is great news for the Twelfth and Armagh, I am so glad Arlene has been able to organise this.”

Portadown True Blues Flute Band. INPT28-237.

Dame Arlene, who will lead commentary of the event, said she was “incredibly proud of GB News for stepping up to fill a void left by the national broadcaster.”

She added: “One of the reasons I joined GB News was to bring a better understanding of Northern Ireland life and culture to a wider UK audience. GB News stands for inclusion, of all regional voices, and the Orange Parades are core to our voice in Northern Ireland.”

GB News will focus on one of the largest of the Orange parades, in Armagh, with Northern Ireland correspondent Douglas Beattie on the ground to explain the patriotism, pageantry and colour of the processions.

Douglas said: “The BBC has huge resources so it’s a challenge to mount this broadcast at such short notice, but that makes it even more exciting. And as we proved with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, you don’t need to be the biggest broadcaster to win viewers’ hearts.”

The head of the Twelfth parade makes its way through the Town Centre on Monday. INPT28-228.

He added: “Edited highlights are never the same – you really need live coverage to capture the immediacy, passion and emotion of the Orange parades, so that’s what we’ll deliver.”

Diane Dodds welcomes move

Mrs Dodds said: “This is good news for people who are unable to attend the Twelfth but, in the past, relied on the BBC’s live coverage. I commend GB News for seizing on this opportunity and recognising that one of the largest outdoor events in the UK calendar is deserving of live coverage.

“The outrageous decision of the BBC to reduce their coverage of the Twelfth demonstration reaffirmed the trend within the broadcaster away from its local audience.

The former DUP leader Arlene Foster on GB News for her debut performance on the channel with Nigel Farage as host. Screengrab taken from July 25 2021

“It stands in contrast to the GB News decision which evidently wants to reach into the unique blend of identities which make up our great United Kingdom.”

The Orange Order described the decision by the BBC not to provide live TV coverage of Twelfth of July celebrations in Belfast as “devoid of logic”.

What the Orange Order said

A spokesperson for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said it is delighted that GB News will give live television coverage to this year’s Twelfth of July demonstration from Armagh.

Press Eye - Belfast - 22nd October 2020 - Economy Minister Diane Dodds pictured at a press conference at Parliament Buildings Stormont. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Grand Master Most Wor. Bro. Edward Stevenson welcomed the news, which followed significant engagement.

Mr Stevenson said: “The announcement from GB News today that they will give live television coverage to the Twelfth of July parade from Armagh is very welcome indeed.

“Live coverage of the Twelfth is very important to so many people, particularly those who are unable to attend parades for a range of reasons.

“We were inundated with calls, many of them from older people who were concerned that they would miss out on this year’s parades. So I am in no doubt that this announcement will come as a huge boost.

“The Twelfth in County Armagh is the biggest of all Twelfth parades and I’m confident it will make for an excellent programme. It will feature thousands of Brethren, Sisters and Juniors on parade and an excellent variety of bands.

“We are delighted to work with the GB News team and look forward to seeing the Twelfth covered live.”

BBC Northern Ireland said in a letter to the Orange Order the decision was taken ‘after careful consideration’.

The station said the Belfast demonstration will still be covered in an hour-long programme featuring events at eight locations.

What the BBC said

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.

He said: “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.

“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.

“We do understand how much value people put on the Twelfth and in no way are we seeking to deny any of that, but we’re trying to shape our resources to maximise the audience benefit.”

Mr Smyth added that audience behaviour was changing with more people switching to iPlayer to watch BBC coverage, rather than live television.

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