Friday, 17 July 2015

BBC Alba in Danger















The Blether Region notes that the new majority Conservative Government is considering whether funding for Gaelic-language broadcasting should be reduced — apparently on the somewhat spurious criterion of "cost per hour" compared with English-language equivalents, which needless to say takes no account of the public good or even whether the language lives or dies.

It would be particularly sad if that happened, since it was of course a Conservative Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, who oversaw the expansion of Gaelic broadcasting in the 1990s that eventually led to the creation of BBC Alba.

Gaelic in Scotland is not a nationalist shibboleth or even a party-political issue (though from London it might seem that way), and while there are many people like the Blether Region who share an interest in both language and independence, there are others who do not.

Recently the Blether Region discovered a neat little program called get_iplayer, which allows the full contents to the BBC's mediatheque to be selectively downloaded in mp4 format (those living abroad will need a proxy server). BBC Alba has many dozens of good programmes available through that route. Indeed, without it the Scottish offering would be poor indeed.

Of course, as BBC Alba is funded partly by the licence fee and partly by the Government, any shortfall in funds is likely to be made up by the latter, if not by Westminster, then by the Scottish Government. What a cut would entail, therefore, is a hidden reduction in the block grant.

If broadcasting were devolved, on the other hand, we could expect not a decrease in the budget for Gaelic but an increase — as well as, for the first time, a publicly funded station dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Lowland Scots.

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