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Petition grows for improvement to Gaelic channel

By Emma Crichton

Arthur Cormack has started a petition to give more resources to BBC Alba.
Arthur Cormack has started a petition to give more resources to BBC Alba.

The campaign calls on the broadcasting company to up the budget for the Scottish channel and was started by well-known Gaelic singer Arthur Cormack.

Mr Cormack, who is also chief executive of the group supporting the development of Gaelic arts tuition, Fèisean nan Gàidheal, said just 3p of the monthly £12.13 television licence fee is spent on the channel.

This is the reason the majority of programmes on Alba (74 per cent) are repeats and a demand for new

programmes cannot be met, he goes on.

“It is not unreasonable to demand that new programmes are made on a regular basis to ensure BBC Alba viewers experience a greater level of equality between the BBC’s support for Gaelic programming and minority language programming on its other channels,” he said.

He added that now is the perfect time for the petition, which already has more than 1000 signatures, as the BBC is in the process of writing a new charter and making the biggest changes seen for a number of years.

It is hoped a cash boost will allow BBC Alba to broadcast a minimum of 10 hours of new programming per week.

Supporters re-enforced their strength of feeling with comments explaining why Alba is important to them.

“BBC Alba is a wonderful channel which I regularly watch and I am not even a Gaelic speaker. It deserves much more consideration in regard to money allocated for new programmes,” said Catherine Connolly.

Maria Jamieson said her daughter, the only Gaelic-speaker in the family, has little choice in television.

“All Gaelic media needs to be fresh and engaging if the language is going to flourish,” she added.

Highland MSP and Gaelic speaker Kate Forbes, who represents Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, also showed her support with a tweet featuring a link to the campaign. The MSP, whose constituency includes the Black Isle and areas to the south and west of Inverness, said: “I’m calling on BBC and BBC Trust to offer BBC Alba viewers a minimum of 10 hours of new programmes each week.”

A BBC spokesman said: “Two months ago in our response to the UK Government’s White Paper, we outlined a number of initiatives to enhance our overall coverage in Scotland, while also recognising the financial constraints on the BBC that will see us have to make close to 20 per cent savings over the next few years.

“In the next few months we will be saying more about our future commitments to broadcasting throughout the UK and will confirm then where we are able to invest any additional money.”

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