Gaelic broadcaster MG Alba gets £2.1m boost

THE Gaelic broadcaster MG Alba has won an additional £2.1million in funding from the Scottish Government.

MG Alba: 2.1 million pound funding boost from Scottish Government. Picture: MG Alba

First Minister Alex Salmond announced the extra cash, which will support the production of new programmes, as he officially opened the organisation’s new £2.5million headquarters in Stornoway.

The opening includes new offices and studios of MG Alab, BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

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It marks the historic preservation of the building which was originally a Harris Tweed mill that served the industry at its height and which has now become the ‘media hub’ for the Western Isles.

MG Alba said it would now be entering three year production deals with six independent production companies that will allow the production companies and the channel to work together to support the language, grow the Gaelic media talent base and provide a firm foundation from which the sector can work to increase its competitiveness in other markets.

BBC Alba will also share in the significant additional BBC investment being made in programming on the Commonwealth Games, the referendum and the centenary commemorations of World War I, with around 30 new hours of content either in production or in the pipeline for the channel.

During the Scottish Cabinet’s visit to Stornoway, the First Minister was updated on the creative sector in the Western Isles.

Currently, 75 per cent of MG Alba’s total programme expenditure is spent on independent production companies located throughout Scotland, supporting 288 full-time equivalent jobs across the country.

Of these, 95jobs are located in the Highlands and Islands, with more than 80 of those based on the islands.

Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG Alba, which operates the channel in partnership with the BBC, said: “MG Alba partners are dedicated to the growth of BBC Alba and producing high quality Gaelic programming.

“We have worked diligently over the last five years to create a successful channel that has grown vastly in viewership and appealing to both Gaelic and national audiences and today’s funding announcement allows for further development of channel content going forward.”

MG ALBA will receive £1 million in 2014-15 and £1 million in 2015-16, the remaining two years of this spending review. It will also receive £100,000 for programming.

The First Minister also opened the new Creative Industries and Media Centre at the site of a former Harris Tweed mill near Stornoway.

He met cast members of CBBC’s Katie Morag programme, which is being redubbed in Gaelic for transmission on BBC Alba.

Since BBC Alba became available on Freeview, its viewing figures have increased and the channel now regularly achieves a weekly reach in excess of 750,000 viewers.

Mr Salmond said: “I am delighted to open these new facilities which will be an important boost to the local economy, to the broadcasting industry and to the use of Gaelic both in the Western Isles and throughout Scotland.

“Scotland is enriched by the existence of different cultures and languages including Gaelic and this Government is committed to creating a sustainable future for the language.

“BBC Alba plays a key role in promoting the speaking and learning of the Gaelic language in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has made clear its ambition to develop broadcasting and media industries in Scotland and the £2.1 million in new funding will enable MG Alba to progress and to build on its recent and impressive success.

“This new centre has a critical role to play in developing capacity and helping to acheieve that ambition.”