The electoral battleground in the North of Ireland is becoming a little crowded these days. Below is a list of most of the current parties, some of whom are yet to field candidates in any election.

The interesting thing for me is the degree of prominence accorded to some of these parties in the mainstream media, particularly BBC and UTV. There seems to be a policy of inviting a Unionist (Generally DUP), a Nationalist (Usually SF) and a “piggy in the middle” (Usually Alliance).

Over the two most recent elections, The 2011 Assembly and Local Govt votes, party strengths were as follows:

2011 Assembly LGD
DUP 30.0% 27.2%
SF 26.9% 24.8%
SDLP 14.2% 15.0%
UUP 13.2% 15.2%
Alliance 7.7% 7.4%
TUV 2.5% 2.0%
Green 0.9% 1.0%
PPP 0.8% 0.3%
UKIP 0.6% 0.4%

So lets now look at the makeup of the panels on prominent local TV discussion panels this week:

UTV Tonight: SF and DUP only

BBC Spotlight: SF, DUP and Alliance

Hmmm, so my questions are: Do parties 1, 2 and 5 get the lions share of media coverage in the Mainstream outlets here? Is that a matter of policy? Is it fair to the other parties? Will this obvious imbalance impact on future voter behaviour? Will this further polarise support along sectarian lines and reinforce the power base of SF and the DUP? Why Alliance practically every time?

I enjoy a good old bun fight as well as the next person but when every discussion is reduced to the same bunfight……well you get the picture.

Unionist and loyalist

Nationalist and republican