Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A Modest Proposal

A press release on the BBC website reports that the corporation’s executive has suggested the removal of its radio stations from the Freeview system in the evenings to make room for BBC Alba, which broadcasts between 5 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. each day.

As you may be aware, despite the considerable costs involved in setting up and funding the station, it has never been broadcast over the mainstream Freeview system, and until now there has been some doubt as to whether that would occur even after the final digital switch-over.

Might it be too much to hope for a similar dispensation to be made for TG4 in Northern Ireland? After all, the sea-change in the station’s availability promised in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 has yet to occur, the principle of Freeview transmission was conceded in an OFCOM report of November 2007, and Northern Ireland will be among the very last regions to enjoy wider digital broadcasting possibilities after the analogue switch-off. The opt-out could be at a similar time in the schedules as in the case of BBC Alba, since it is generally in the evenings that TG4 broadcasts its new, home-grown, Irish-language output.

It would certainly be possible technically, and the BBC could make its own contribution by broadcasting its Irish programming immediately before or after on the same channel. Of course, if the BBC were to do as I suggest, it would be removing its own services — albeit hardly taken up through the medium in question — in favour of one based in the Irish Republic.

I wonder what it would decide.

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