Northern Ireland

Gregory Campbell accuses BBC NI of a 'lack of transparency'

Gregory Campbell Image copyright PAcemaker

Gregory Campbell has said he has serious concerns about the "lack of transparency" at the BBC in Northern Ireland.

The DUP MP accused the broadcaster of refusing to answer questions about how contracts for programmes are awarded and financed.

Mr Campbell raised his concerns with the National Audit Office (NAO) and is expecting a response within weeks.

It is understood the NAO has not launched a formal investigation.

A BBC spokesperson said the broadcaster had "routine contact" with the NAO about a range of issues relating to the BBC's work and consistent with its role as the BBC's auditor.

"We remain confident in the robustness, integrity and fairness of the BBC's commissioning processes in Northern Ireland," she added.

Mr Campbell was speaking during a debate he secured at Westminster focusing on the "independent accountability of the BBC commissioning process".

Image caption Mr Campbell raised questions about BBC NI presenter Stephen Nolan's role as a company director and BBC employee

"I have been approached by a number of independent media companies who feel they don't get a fair deal with the BBC because of a lack of transparency," he said

"I first raised concerns with the BBC in 2016 around how contracts were awarded and how some BBC presenters had benefited from contracts and got no answer," he added.

Mr Campbell claimed a contract worth hundreds of thousands of pounds was awarded to the media firm Third Street Studios and at the time he said the company didn't exist.

He also claimed one of the company's directors Stephen Nolan was allowed to "advertise" his independent productions while employed as a radio presenter by the BBC.

"I hope the National Audit Office will get to the truth of these matters and if it is the case there are questions about a of lack transparency, then there will be a national scandal," said Mr Campbell.

'Asking difficult questions on public's behalf'

In relation to the DUP MP's comments about promotional content on air, the BBC said it was "standard practice for BBC programmes to cross-promote other programmes and services".

Mr Nolan, responding to Mr Campbell's claims, said the DUP "regularly complain about me to a whole range of people, including making numerous complaints about me to BBC senior management".

He said he would "continue to represent the public by asking difficult questions on their behalf".

"That is what the people of this country pay me to do and I will never let them down," he added.

Caused some 'disquiet'

A spokesperson for the NAO said: "We can confirm that we are looking at concerns that have been raised with us by Gregory Campbell MP about the commissioning process in Northern Ireland.

"We expect to reply to Mr Campbell with our findings at the end of February."

Culture Minister Margot James said she was not aware of Mr Campbell's concerns prior to the debate and admitted they did cause some "disquiet".

She added the DUP MP deserves answers and she trusts the audit office will provide them.

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