THE Orange historian who for more than a decade has commentated on the Twelfth parades for the BBC has said he is disappointed to have been dropped from this year’s coverage.
Clifford Smyth, a former politician and one-time active member of the Order, has written extensively about the inner workings of the institution.
Dr Smyth said he received an email from the BBC a fortnight ago thanking him for his past work and saying that he was not required for Tuesday’s coverage.
Overnight viewing figures indicate that Tuesday morning’s live Twelfth coverage had a 105,000 audience – almost half the total TV audience at that point – and the evening programme had a 26 per cent audience share with 141,000 viewers.
Dr Smyth said: “I was extremely disappointed to be dropped because it was something that I thought I could make a contribution to.
“The Orange isn’t well understood, it is an inarticulate organisation which doesn’t explain itself well to the world and it gives somebody who has studied the whole thing the opportunity to say something about the Orange Order and what it stands for.”
Dr Smyth said he went to a country Orange demonstration in Comber, something which reinforced to him the view that the Belfast parade is unrepresentative of wider Orangeism.
He said he had told the BBC that “some kind of new format was needed” for its coverage, by going to some of the parades outside Belfast.
“There are a lot of problems with the Belfast parade. It is exceptionally unrepresentative of Orange parades.
“It’s unique and very different from the experience that you’re going to get in somewhere like Comber, both in terms of the quality of the bands – I’m not decrying the bands but there is a sameness about the bands in Belfast which you don’t get in these country areas – and I personally think that the length of that parade in Belfast is, if it’s not actually killing the Orangemen, it’s killing Orangeism in Belfast.
“It’s far too long, and I’m getting that from my wife, who has done the walk for years.”
A spokeswoman for BBC Northern Ireland said that it reviewed its coverage to bring an additional live outside broadcast from Randalstown as well as coverage of the Belfast parade and other features.
She added: “While Clifford Smyth was not part of the commentary team this year, we would like to thank him for his professionalism, knowledge and dedication to the production over the years and look forward to working with him again.”