Last November I featured news from Britain on the decision by the Conservative Party government in London to make savage cuts to the public funding of S4C, the Welsh language television channel, and BBC Alba, its Scottish Gaelic equivalent. Now the SNP government in Edinburgh has intervened in the controversy, pledging to meet the fiscal shortfall in BBC Alba’s annual budget by continuing its own contribution to the station’s costs. From the Herald newspaper:
“Chancellor George Osborne announced in November that he would not renew a £1 million-a-year grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ear-marked for BBC Alba.
However Alasdair Allan, the minister for Scotland’s languages, has announced the Scottish Government will provide an additional £1 million to the service…
The extra funding comes on top of core funding for MG ALBA – a public body which works in partnership with BBC Scotland to produce BBC Alba – of £11.8m in 2016/17.
Allan said: “I have no doubt that Gaelic broadcasting adds significant value to important areas of Gaelic development, whether that’s in education, in the community or at home.
“The impact and benefits of MG ALBA are felt across Scotland, and it has an impressive economic impact – this is unique and this funding will enable these areas to increase employment, skills and training…We are committed to creating a sustainable future in the Gaelic language, and to developing broadcasting and media industries in Scotland.”
Stuart Cosgrove, Scottish broadcaster, said that the UK’s Government’s decision to withdraw funding had struck him as “malicious and short sighted”. “My argument is a familiar one that we need to support our indigenous language across the board from television to school provision,” he added.
“There is always a huge backlash against Gaelic language when the debate comes up and at times it feels like monoglot bullying.””
Issues over its funding is a perennial source of insecurity for BBC Alba, and raises once again the question of the metropolitan BBC controlling Scottish language broadcasting. Perhaps a new, and completely separate, public service broadcaster combining the resources of BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal into one corporate entity, funded by diverted domestic licence fee revenues from Scotland and direct investment by MG Alba, would be a more stable and sustainable long-term option? I have long argued that our own separate Irish language television and radio stations, TG4 and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, should be amalgamated into one broadcasting body, a TRnaG, combining the resources of both to the benefit of both, and the wider Irish-speaking community (with a budget somewhere in the region of €50 million euros a TRnaG would be far better equipped to meet its core remit).
Of course there is an even more obvious solution to Ireland’s broadcasting needs than the one proposed above, though turning RTÉ into TG4 and leaving anglophone broadcasting to the increasingly crowded private market might be a step too far for some.