Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar


  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 television service.


  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 Committee.

  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.

June 2002

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