Clare Bailey speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly

Elections are taking place for the Northern Ireland Assembly on May 5. But despite the Green Party in Northern Ireland winning two MLAs at the last election, the party has claimed the BBC is giving more coverage to the hard right unionist party Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). The TUV won just one MLA in the last Stormont election in 2017. Since the re-formation of the Northern Ireland Executive in 2020, the Greens have been the largest party not part of the cross-community ruling administration, making the party the primary opposition.

The Greens have now launched a petition, claiming the BBC has chosen to “exclude” them from election coverage and demanding the broadcaster provides “fair coverage” for the party. Branding the BBC‘s coverage a “distortion of democracy”, the Greens have pointed to the TUV receiving an extra election broadcast, and the Greens not being included in the leaders’ debates.

Green Party in Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey has said that in addition to the petition, the party is also considering legal action. She said,

Our public service broadcaster has a duty to be impartial, especially during an election campaign. However, the BBC has decided to grant the smaller TUV more coverage than the Green Party NI, including giving them an extra Party Election Broadcast.

In the most recent elections, the Green Party NI won more Assembly and local council seats than the TUV, so it makes no sense for the BBC to treat the TUV as a bigger party than the Greens. In no other democracy would the main opposition party be excluded from election debates and other election coverage.

Whilst the BBC may choose to focus on division and sensationalism, in this election, the Green Party NI is offering a real alternative to the traditional parties’ politics of division.

We have submitted formal complaints to the BBC and Ofcom, and the Green Party NI is actively considering its legal options. I urge members of the public to make their voices heard by signing our petition

A spokesperson for the BBC has said,

We have a careful and detailed process in place for how we make judgments about the coverage of parties during election periods.

This takes account of relevant Ofcom requirements and the BBC’s own election guidelines.

Opinion polls for the forthcoming Stormont election put the Greens on between two and six per cent of the vote. In the 2017 election, the Greens received 2.3 per cent of the vote.

At the time of publication, over 2,500 people have signed the Green Party’s petition. You can sign the petition here.

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Image credit: YouTube screengrab