Memorandum submitted by Comhairle Nan
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is an all-purpose
local authority with responsibility for the provision of public
sector services for the 27,500 residents of the Western Isles.
The administrative centre of the Comhairle is in the town of Stornoway
which has a population of 6,000. There is a sizeable "media
village" in Stornoway consisting of two studios, Alba and
Taigh Shiphoirt, a strong independent media sector and Comataidh
Craolaidh Gaidhlig (The Gaelic Broadcasting Committee). Comhairle
nan Eilean Siar and the CCG have worked closely together, since
the establishment of the CCG, to maximise the economic benefits
to the community from the Gaelic Broadcasting sector. The Comhairle
is fully supportive of the campaign for the Western Isles to become
the administrative and broadcasting centre for a Gaelic digital
1. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar fully endorses
the main recommendations of the Milne Taskforce Report on Gaelic
Broadcasting published in 2000.
2. Gaelic broadcasting has a pivotal role
to play in the regeneration and revitalisation of the Gaelic language.
The establishment of a Gaelic digital television channel in the
Gaelic heartland of the Western Isles would create exciting, new
opportunities in the broadcasting sector and would bring enhanced
economic benefits to the Western Isles economy.
3. Gaelic is one of the key indigenous languages
of the United Kingdom. It is desirable and in the national interest,
on grounds of social justice and cultural diversity, that the
Gaelic-speaking audience should be served by a broadcasting system
appropriate to the 21st century.
4. The Comhairle supports the concept that
the Gaelic service should be designated as Public Service Broadcasting.
5. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recognises
the role of the CCG in widening the range and improving the quality
of Gaelic television programmes in general. However, the CCG has
had to trim its broadcasting aspirations during the last few years
due to the total revenue lost in that time as the Gaelic Broadcasting
Fund was not index-linked. In order to provide a high quality
Gaelic television output in future, the new channel must be adequately
funded to the tune of £44 million as proposed by the Milne
6. The future well-being of the Gaelic language
is dependent on the expansion of Gaelic Medium Education. Independent
research has shown that Gaelic television development is the single
most significant aspect in positively influencing parents' choice
of Gaelic Medium Education for their children. The inextricable
link between Gaelic television and Gaelic Medium Education must
be strengthened with the delivery of high-quality Gaelic television
programmes, the key target of all those with an input from the
Gaelic broadcasting sector.
7. The scheduling of programmes has an enormous
impact on viewing figures but it is regrettable that CCG has had
no control over this important operational area. Comhairle nan
Eilean Siar is convinced that the powers of the CCG or a new Gaelic
Broadcasting Authority must be extended to facilitate and control
the scheduling of Gaelic programmes for transmission on digital
television and other appropriate delivery platforms.
8. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar supports the
establishment of a dedicated Gaelic television service based in
the Western Isles on a single digital channel accessible to all
viewers in Scotland with capacity for programme reception within
the UK and worldwide distribution where demand exists. However,
the interests of Gaelic viewers must be protected in terms of
interim arrangements while analogue services are replaced by digital.