Head of BBC ALBA Reported to be Seeking More Public Money

The head of the Gaelic-language TV channel BBC ALBA is reported saying he wants more public money, partly to cut down on the number of repeats on the channel, according to the Daily Record website.

In an exclusive story from digital editor, Iain Hepburn, Alan Esslemont is quoted saying the digital TV channel needs the money to create new shows – including Gaelic language drama.

Esslemont is quoted, saying: “Especially for the Gaelic audience we need drama. We're at present undertaking a report on how this can be created. For us it's very very important to have a strand of drama in the schedule. But if you look at most quality programming in a country the size of Scotland, there will be public funding.

“If you look at Denmark, if you look at Switzerland, if you look at Ireland, most of the television, especially public service television created, has to come from public funding.”

Hepburn notes, in his piece, that Welsh counterpart, S4C, which serves ten times the population of BBC Alba, is facing a 25 per cent budget cut, plus the widespread pressure to reduce public sector spending.

He further quotes Esslemont: “Last year in our own company, MG Alba, we cut everyone else's budget, we put all of our money into the schedule. We're all the time looking to show that money that comes to us will be money that is very well spent.

“I don't think you'll find a channel that does originations at the cost that we are doing and quality we are doing. I think that it is recognised by both governments that we run a really tight ship in terms of quality and value for money.”

Esslement is reported adding: “The channel does need more funding if it is to cut down on repeats.”

Continues Hepburn: “Currently the channel only airs on Sky and Freesat – and the Gaelic-language service wants to replace the entire suite of BBC radio stations on Freeview in Scotland in order to get onto the digital TV platform.

“The move would mean up to 90,000 radio listeners a week on Freeview being unable to listen to football commentaries on Radio Scotland or 5 live – including European games – and the recently rescued digital channel 6 Music, which campaigners fought to prevent being taken off air.

“However, the channel rejected an alternative option of replacing BBC Parliament – which is watched by around 60,000 people across the whole of the UK – in favour of taking the place of the radio stations.”