What did BBC1 NI show in the 6:30pm-7pm slot in those days?
A delayed Neighbours?
Considering that Neighbours without commercial breaks is/was less than 25 minutes, how could/did NI fill the 30-minute slot?
EDIT: Also, why did NI even have its main regional news in that pre-6pm slot, at odds with everywhere else?
It was Neighbours. They tended to record it off network at lunchtime and fade out the audio completely (well usually) if it had vo promoting afternoon programmes. They started doing this when there were other shows in the pre-6pm slot and when the national news finished at 6:35 it wasn’t a problem. When regional news elsewhere moved to 6:30 they added an “Inside Ulster Update” at 6:55 which, after a few years, had sign language.
The reason was presumably to be first with the news (before UTV). During the troubles, news was particularly important, and they always wanted to beat the competition (UTV has, for many years beaten BBC NI in the ratings for regional news).
The only this was, many people weren’t home from work by 5:35 so eventually it moved to 6:30 like elsewhere. At the time they publicised the move by editing together Neighbours clips to make it seem they were talking about the schedule change.
It’s worth noting that when there was an extended Six O’Clock News, BBC NI had to broadcast Neighbours at 5:35 and Inside Ulster at 6:40 or whenever.
I have seen elsewhere that a main reason UTV used to beat the BBC was that UTV was seen as less British for nationalist viewers while not putting off unionists.
UTV always had a more warm, open feel to their news presentation. BBC was nearly always seen as colder more formal. UTV had a great aptitude for blending the hard news with soft news, especially during their peak of Good Evening Ulster in the late 70s and 80s.
BBC Northern Ireland always felt formal and cold, just like the BBC national news style. There was very little banter between the presenters, and soft news stories were hard to come by on Inside Ulster, who would focus more on politics and the troubles.
I always enjoyed UTV News output, sadly in 2019 the quality and quantity has dropped, especially since they have now been minced into the ITV corporate brand.