• GB NEWS is covering the Twelfth again this year. Yay!
• They’ll only be dipping in and out of it over the course of the morning. Wha’?

It took over 50 years for BBC Loyal Ulster to realise that pouring huge resources into live coverage of an event that takes place to “oppose the fatal errors and doctrines” of the largest religion in the North was probably not a good idea. It’s taken GB News two years.
It was 2022 when the suits at Ormeau Avenue (actually M&S shirts and Skechers these days) decided that spending half the annual outside broadcast budget on a three-hour Pumpin’ Protestant Party was not only a criminal waste of resources – it also alienated a section of the population which had relatively recently become their biggest viewership bloc.

To be fair to BBC the Pravince, during the massive amount of live coverage they gave the Twelfth over the years they went above and beyond to make their Twelfth coverage as cross-community as they could make it:

• Strictly no pictures of on-street drinking – heavy, horrific or Homeric.
• Chatty discussion of banners representing thin-lipped Presbyterian ministers or temperance pledges, but none of banners with pictures of UDA/UVF Catholic-killers.
• Compliments for bands with particularly natty milkmen’s uniforms and shiny instruments, but no compliments for bands with the names of Shankill Butchers on their big bass drums.

’Parntly in the first year of GB News’ live coverage the audience for the morning averaged 75,000, which was good going for a channel which regularly features shows that don’t have enough viewers to register on BARB, the official audience counting system. But it turned out that the audience consisted of people who watched the Twelfth like motorists watch to see what’s going on when they drive past police tape. Because in the next year  (last year) the audience fell dramatically, prompting this year’s announcement by the station that it would only be showing “segments” of the Twelfth.

Disappointingly, no hint was given of what segments Bob from Birmingham or Madge from Manchester would be treated to in between their daily doses of migrant-baiting and Covid conspiracies.

Dame Arlene Foster will be back hosting the GB News coverage, and she’ll again be joined by National Treasure Charlie Lawson, so she will. What role they will play in the segments is not quite clear, but whatever their contribution, it’s going to be a lot less demanding than anchoring an entire morning’s live coverage, so it is. Which is sadly  reflective of Arlene’s profile generally on the station. Her weekly politics show, The Briefing, hasn’t briefed for quite some time, although she did front a couple of seasonal specials, one at Easter and a Christmas Day chat with a number of politicos, including a certain Jeffrey Donaldson. GB News say she’ll also be standing in for Michael Portillo as and when required.

Strangely, the Orange Order has had nothing to say about this latest slap in the bake from a British broadcaster. When BBC Loyal Ulster announced the cancellation of its live coverage in favour of a late-night round-up two years ago the Brethren went immediately to DefCon 1. But this time there appears to be an acceptance that the Order’s years in the television spotlight are coming to an end and the GB News switch from full-fat coverage to skimmed hasn’t prompted a peep from Grand Secretary Merv Gibson.

Indeed, last year the organisation had what we might call a Jerry Maguire moment which suggested an unprecedented level of reflection and introspection was taking place at Schomberg House. In the movie, sports agent Jerry Maguire suffers an attack of conscience and announces that he’s fed up with the cutthroat business and henceforth will be treating his clients with consideration and humanity. It gets him fired.

The Orange Order described last year’s Twelfth as “probably the worst in decades” (not thought to be connected to Charlie Lawson’s involvement) and slammed scenes of drunkenness and debauchery as “abysmal and unacceptable” and suggested that in future the epicentre of the blue bag universe, the Shaftesbury Square/Sandy Row area, be bodyswerved by the main parade. The idea got the Jerry Maguire treatment from the rank and file and that stretch of the Golden Mile will again host the World Buckfast Championships this year.

But the message went out: At last there are people in the Orange Order willing to break from the Three Monkeys consensus that everything is everybody else’s fault.