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The Communications Market 2010: Northern Ireland

Hours of programmes for viewers in Northern Ireland down in 2009

The BBC and ITV1/STV/UTV produced a total of 10,439 hours of programmes for the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2009, down 12.4% (1,593 hours) compared to 2008 and down a fifth over a five-year period.

As part of its Second Public Service Broadcasting Review: Putting Viewers First, Ofcom reduced some of the quotas around the production of regional programming for the Channel 3 licences from the beginning of 2009. This was to balance the cost of programme obligations to ITV, with the benefits to the broadcaster of continuing to hold the licences and maintain PSB delivery. Otherwise it might have been in ITVís interest to relinquish the licences, in which case all guarantees of any PSB delivery would be lost. For UTV, which was in a stronger commercial position, the quota on programmes other than news was revised upwards to a minimum of two hours per week.

The number of hours produced specifically for viewers in Northern Ireland stood at 969, the lowest number of hours produced for any of the nations. Northern Ireland saw the sharpest decline in hours of output produced in 2009, down by 15.1% year on year. This compared to a UK-wide average decline of 12.4%.

However, since 2004, hours of regionalised output produced specifically for Northern Ireland declined by just 17.3%, among the smallest decline of all the nations over the five-year period (behind Scotland, which saw a 15.6% decline over the same period). The UK average decline in hours of regionalised programming was 19.5% between 2004 and 2009.

The largest single component of the reduction in hours for Northern Ireland in 2009 was attributable to non-news/non-current affairs produced by the BBC and UTV, which was down by a combined 137 hours (37%) to 232 hours. The number of hours of current affairs programming increased by nine hours to 75 hours in 2009. News hours fell by 45 hours to 662. This was attributed to UTV decreasing the number of hours of news it produced by 20%, to 245 hours in 2009.

Programming produced by the BBC for viewers in Northern Ireland accounted for 63% of all hours, while UTV accounted for the remaining 37%.


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