Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Gaelic Freeview decision delayed

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland news

BBC Alba website
BBC Alba was launched in 2008

The BBC's governing body has delayed a decision on whether to make the Gaelic channel BBC Alba more widely available.

The BBC Trust had been expected to decide by April whether to put the channel onto Freeview. It is currently only available on satellite.

It will now make the decision after it its views on the future strategy of the wider BBC are published.

MG Alba, which runs the channel in partnership with the BBC, said it was disappointed.

The BBC had proposed putting the channel on Freeview in Scotland - but this would mean that many BBC radio stations would not have been available through this system between 1700 and 2300 GMT each evening.

The success of the channel to date has been recognised and is not a factor in today's decision
Alasdair Morrison
MG Alba chairman

The stations would still be broadcast on FM and digital radio as usual.

But the BBC's wider strategy review includes questions over exactly what "universality of access" to services should mean in future - in other words whether services need to be available through several different means, or just available to those who have chosen a particular method.

In a statement the BBC Trust said: "One of the main considerations for the trust's review of BBC Alba has been the question of whether the service should be made available on Freeview.

"To do this could mean removing 13 of the BBC's UK-wide network radio stations from digital terrestrial television in Scotland at times when the channel is broadcasting.

"The issue of universality is therefore directly relevant to the question of BBC Alba's availability in the future. Until the trust reaches a view on what universality should mean for the BBC as a whole, it would not be appropriate to take a decision on BBC Alba."

'Outstanding issue'

MG Alba, which runs the channel in partnership with the BBC and commissions many of its programmes, said it was disappointed with the delay.

Chairman Alasdair Morrison said: "Today's decision is disappointing as we had hoped the BBC Trust was in a position to give the go-ahead for access to Freeview now.

"The success of the channel to date has been recognised and is not a factor in today's decision.

"The only outstanding issue is the question of what services need to be universally available in Scotland."

He added: "We believe that access to Freeview is supported by the vast majority of people who responded to the BBC Trust consultation, BBC management and across the political spectrum in Scotland.

BBC Alba was launched in 2008 after years of campaigning by Gaelic speakers and politicians.

They believed a dedicated channel would benefit Gaelic speakers and encourage learners.

Print Sponsor

Gaelic TV channel being reviewed
26 Oct 09 |  Highlands and Islands
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