Peter Peacock backs calls to make BBC Alba available on free view

11 February 2010

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock has backed calls to make the Gaelic language TV channel BBC Alba available on free view.

He was speaking in support of his party’s amendment to a Scottish Parliament motion urging the BBC Trust to resolve issues which currently mean the channel can only be seen via satellite.

Mr Peacock said he was delighted to have played a role in establishing BBC Alba when he was the Gaelic Minister, "as it is making a big contribution to the strengthening and normalisation of Gaelic in our society".

He explained: "The channel has peak viewing figures of 600,000 and average viewers of 220,000, which represents 5% of the Scottish population.

"Reach in the Highlands and Islands is 11%, so viewing cannot solely be confined to Gaelic. This channel is not a Gaelic ghetto, but an active bridge between Gaelic and the many other cultures in our country."

He said the viewing numbers were far greater than the Gaelic speaking community currently had, therefore English speakers were viewing and were, in the process, encountering important Gaelic influences.

"Gaelic is reaching out into purely English speaking communities. That is because the channel is not parochial or introspective, it reflects the culture of our Gaels - outward looking, international and multi-cultural in the perspectives," added Mr Peacock

However, the promising start to BBC Alba needed to be strengthened.

The MSP explained: "There are many Gaels, living in their own communities, who cannot get the service, for technical reasons.

"If they were, through free-view, the BBC estimate the audience would attract a further 150,000 to 180,000 viewers.

"That would empower Gaelic speakers to view programmes in their own language and through the cultural roots they have.

"But also empower non-Gaels to get access to this rich and vital dimension to our national culture."

He added: "So dominant is TV as a force in our modern world that Gaelic needs to have a strong presence there if it is to be seen as relevant.

"BBC Alba provides that presence, it is a channel offering a wide and diverse range of programming.

"The Channel is a force for good in Gaelic and for wider Scottish society.

"It deserves our support to expand its outlets.

"I strongly hope that will happen soon."


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