The Gaelic Media Service, which ensures broadcasters deliver high-quality programmes to the Gaelic community in Scotland, is to face job and programming cuts after it was announced by the Scottish Executive that its funding will remain static for the next two years.
After that period it will receive only marginal cash increases for 2007 and 2008, prompting Scottish MP Brian Wilson to call on First Minister Jack McConnell to take personal control of the campaign for a Gaelic-only channel that was started by Wilson in 1997.
Wilson, who was Labour’s first minister for the Gaelic language, said: “In 1997 I initiated a process that could and should have led to a Gaelic-led channel within five years. It is bitterly disappointing that we now seem further away from that objective than ever.”
In 2003 GMS took over the running of The Gaelic TV Fund – established by the 1990 Broadcasting Act – whereby the government paid an annual but variable sum as determined by the Scottish secretary specifically for Gaelic broadcasting. The fund initially received £9.5 million in 1992, estimated to enable it to provide 200 hours of original television programming per year. This has now decreased to £8.5 million, equating to a 25% drop in hours. Had it increased in line with inflation, as happens with Welsh language TV, it would now be receiving £12.8 million.
GMS chairman Neil Fraser, a former head of BBC Radio Scotland, said: “This [amount] would not be sufficient for a dedicated channel but it would be a starting point for an appropriate service. Getting no increase for 2005/2006 and mere token increases is a disappointment to us and the Gaelic community.
“The buck has been passed for too long between government departments to the detriment of the Gaelic community and it is ironic that Gaelic broadcasting should have become an inadvertent victim rather than the beneficiary of devolution. Not only is it impossible at this point to maintain the present inadequate provision, it makes planning for a Gaelic channel irrelevant.”
GMS, which has the responsibility of working with broadcasters to ensure the delivery of a range of high-quality programmes for the Gaelic community, is now assessing which of the existing shows can be cut or condensed.