Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland is a developing area of the media in Scotland which deals with broadcasts given in Scottish Gaelic and has important links with the efforts of Gaelic revival in Scotland. As well as being informative, Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland has acquired some symbolic importance. Whilst opinion polls show that the vast majority of Gaels feel they have been ill-served by broadcasting media,[1] Scotland now has Gaelic broadcasting all over Scotland both on television and radio.

Early history[edit]

The first BBC radio broadcast in the Gaelic language was aired throughout Scotland on Sunday 2 December 1923; this was a 15-minute religious address by Rev. John Bain, recorded in the High United Free Church in Aberdeen. Two weeks later, a recital of Gaelic singing was broadcast, though it was introduced in English.

The first regular programme was singer Neil MacLean's Sgeulachdan agus Oran ('Stories and songs'), broadcast from the Aberdeen studio. The first Gaelic radio play, entitled Dunach, was aired in 1933. It is perhaps indicative of the status of Gaelic broadcasting at this time that the producer of Dunach knew no Gaelic.

In 1934 a series of lessons for Gaelic learners was broadcast. In 1936, Scotland's first outside broadcast was a Gaelic service from Iona Abbey. In 1939 a weekly Gaelic news review was launched.

In 1935, Hugh MacPhee was appointed head of the BBC's first Gaelic department, which moved to Glasgow in 1938; this seems to have been the first attempt to put Gaelic broadcasting on a serious footing.

In 1940, An Comunn Gàidhealach requested an increase of output to two news programmes and a children's programme each week. This was refused, which resulted in questions being raised in the House of Commons.

The post-war years[edit]

After the Second World War, Finlay J. Macdonald (later co-founder of Gairm) joined Hugh MacPhee in the Glasgow studios; he was replaced in 1954 by Fred Macaulay. With two full-time producers, the regular programming was expanded to 90 minutes per week. There was a Friday evening news slot which George Orwell, writing at that time in Jura, criticised for its "amateurishness". A number of radio plays were produced, including An Tunnag Fhiadhaich, a translation by Lachlan MacKinnon of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck (1951).

In August 1957, a funding crisis resulted in the weekly news programme being cut back to once a month, but the weekly slot was reinstated as a result of strong protests from listeners. At this point, the first attempt at audience research was conducted, and indicated that a huge majority of bilingual Scots preferred to hear the news in Gaelic, and also that many learners of the language valued Gaelic broadcasts.[citation needed]

Early television and radio[edit]

Because few areas of the West Highlands and virtually none of the islands could receive television signals before the early 1960s, Gaelic TV was at first not an issue, though there had been coverage of the Mòd. As with radio, Gaelic TV broadcasting began with Gaelic songs introduced in English, such as Ceòl nan Gaidheal ('Music of the Gaels'), introduced by James Shaw Grant (1962). The first genuine Gaelic TV programme was in the light entertainment category: Se Ur Beatha ('You're welcome') in 1964. The first current affairs television series, Bonn Comhraidh, was launched in 1970. Gaelic schools programmes began in 1975. The first Gaelic children's TV programme, Cuir Car, was aired in 1977, followed by Bzzz in 1981, and the first programme for pre-school children, Mag is Mog, in 1982. The pre-school "classic" Dòtaman was broadcast from 1985.

In 1976, BBC Radio Highland began broadcasting from Inverness.

In 1979, BBC Radio nan Eilean opened in Stornoway with Radio nan Gaidheal starting in October 1985.

Modern Gaelic broadcasting[edit]


The Thatcher government increased the funding for Gaelic broadcasting, largely because of Scottish Secretary George Younger's personal enthusiasm for the Gaelic community.[2] With the funding the BBC were able to produced a small number of Children's Gaelic Programmes during term-time staring in October 1985, with Padraig Post , Dòtaman and Bzzz. BBC One Scotland broadcast the programmes in the morning usually before Children's BBC at 10.10am - 10.30am, before moving to 09.45 in October 1986 as part of new BBC Daytime line up. In 1993 it moved to lunchtime from 1994 - 1995 shortly afterwards it changed to mid-afternoon usually around 2.55pm from 1995.

In 1990 "Broadcasting Act" established a Gaelic Television Fund, administered by a Gaelic Television Committee (Comataidh Telebhisein Gàidhlig). The committee we given a £9 million budget,[3] which was given independent producers, BBC, Grampian and STV. Grampian was required to broadcast in Gaelic for nearly an hour a day on average and STV for half an hour, which included a weekly 30mins slot in peak time.[4] This was originally every weekday at 18.30 before programmes were spread out, to late night and weekends. Programmes included De Tha Seo? ( win Lose or Draw), Machair, Haggis Agus, Air A Charraig and more others. BBC introduced a new 2 hour Thursday evening Gaelic block on BBC Two, including De a nis, Gaelic comedy and current affairs Eòrpa.

The 1996 "Broadcasting Act" resulted in improved funding, and also renamed the funding body 'Gaelic Broadcasting Committee' (Comataidh Craolaidh Gàidhlig, CCG). In 1999 TeleG the first Gaelic language TV channel was launched, which broadcast daily for one hour (between 6 and 7 every evening) on Digital Freeview.

BBC One stopped showing Gaelic programmes in 2002 and they moved to BBC Two Scotland during CBeebies under the name CBeebies Alba until March 2013 following the removal of children's shows from the mainstream channels BBC One and Two after the completion of the digital switchover, Children's programmes along with other Gaelic programming can be seen every day on BBC ALBA at 5.00pm - 7.00pm. It broadcasts until 12.00am (sometimes 1.00am due to sports coverage). BBC Two also used to broadcast Gaelic programming on Thursdays from 6 - 8pm. The television channel TeleG was established in October 1999 as the first dedicated Gaelic TV channel in Scotland and provided a limited Gaelic service on Freeview until May 2011. Broadcasts were limited to an hour slot between the hours of 6:00pm and 7:00pm. The channel stopped broadcasting in May 2011 and was displaced by BBC Alba. BBC Alba is a joint venture channel between the BBC and MG Alba. It is the first channel to be delivered under a BBC licence by a partnership. It broadcasts for up to seven hours a day in the evening. BBC Alba is broadcast on Freeview as well as satellite and cable television providers.


BBC Radio nan Gàidheal is the most widely broadcast Scottish Gaelic radio station and is available on FM frequencies throughout Scotland; webcast on the BBC Website; and on cable and satellite channels in the United Kingdom. Gaelic language programmes are broadcast during the day from Monday to Saturday and the channel joins BBC Radio Scotland after closing transmission. Gaelic and bi-lingual programmes also feature on several north-west coast local radio stations, including Two Lochs Radio, Isles FM and Cuillin FM. A bi-lingual Scottish Pop Chart show, produced to commission by MFR (Moray Firth Radio) in Inverness is also broadcast each week on several of these stations.

Broadcasting for Gaelic learners[edit]

The broadcasting media have also carried Gaelic lessons for learners of the language. The first was a short radio series in 1934, six fortnightly Gaelic lessons in Gaelic by J. Nicolson. The weekly series Learning Gaelic by Edward Purcell with John M Bannerman and Archie Henry began in 1949.[5]

Among the early BBC TV courses for beginners' Gaelic was Can Seo (1979). The current series for beginners is Speaking our Language, which is now repeated regularly on BBC Alba.

With the spread of Gaelic-medium units in primary schools, attended also by children from English-speaking households, there was a need for education series aimed at children in the early stages of immersion-phase language-learning: Baile Mhuilinn (TV) and Fiream Faram (Radio) both appeared in 1998.


  • Mike Cormack, ‘Programming for Gaelic Digital Television: Problems and Possibilities’, in Towards Our Goals in Broadcasting, the Press, the Performing Arts and the Economy: Minority Languages in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland, ed. by John M. Kirk and Dónall P. Ó Baoill, 83-87. Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona, 2003.
  • Mike Cormack, ‘Gaelic in the Media’. Scottish Affairs, 46 (2004), 23-43.
  • Robert Dunbar, ‘Gaelic-medium Broadcasting: Reflections on the Legal Framework from a Sociolinguistic Perspective’, in Towards Our Goals in Broadcasting, the Press, the Performing Arts and the Economy: Minority Languages in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland, ed. by John M. Kirk and Dónall P. Ó Baoill, 73-82. Belfast: Cló Ollscoil na Banríona, 2003.
  • Roger Hutchinson, A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, 2005. ISBN 1-84018-794-8.
  • William Lamb, 'A Diachronic Account of Gaelic News-speak: The Development and Expansion of a Register', Scottish Gaelic Studies, 19 (1999), 141-171.


  1. ^ Summary of PVA Research - BBC Online on behalf of the BBC Trust.
  2. ^ Broadcasting Policies for Scotland - Robert Tatham, pp.13, 2008. retrieved from the website of the University of Edinburgh
  3. ^ Scottish Cinema Now edited by Jonathan Murray, Fidelma Farley, Rod Stoneman
  4. ^
  5. ^ BBC Alba - History Timeline from BBC Online

External links[edit]

See also[edit]