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Gaelic broadcasting should fall under same provisions as S4C, says MP

Angus MacNeil has called for Gaelic broadcasting to be treated the same as Welsh (UK Parliament/PA)
Rhiannon James, PA Political Staff

Scottish Gaelic language programmes should receive the same provisions as Welsh language broadcaster S4C, an independent MP has said.

As MPs began the second reading of the Media Bill, Angus Brendan MacNeil, the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, called for BBC Alba to be safeguarded as part of the Bill.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the Government would be considering funding for minority languages, including Gaelic, at the next BBC Charter Review.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr MacNeil said: “While it makes provision and mentions S4C, Gaelic broadcasting seems to be omitted and I’m sure that’s just an oversight and I’m sure at later stages we will see safeguarding in place for Gaelic broadcasting, BBC Alba in particular as well.”

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Lucy Frazer said the Government was considering funding for minority languages (Lucy North/PA)

In response, Ms Frazer said: “I recognise the great contribution that is provided for Gaelic speakers and we’ve agreed that we would, in the first instance, bring the BBC and Scottish Government officials to discuss the co-ordination of funding decision for the Gaelic language production, between the two organisations.

“We’ve also considered funding arrangements for minority language broadcasting, including programming for the Gaelic language, at the previous charter review and these arrangements will be considered again at the next charter review.”

Later in the debate, the former SNP MP intervened again to say: “Just to be absolutely sure, I think what we’re looking for in Scotland is a provision similar to S4C that can be voted on as things progress, it would be gratefully welcomed.

“The final point I would make is that Gaelic broadcasting pre and post devolution has enjoyed tremendous cross-party support in Scotland and I think she should bear that in mind, as well.”

Ms Frazer said: “Alba is not in the same position as S4C because it is a programmer rather than a channel and in that way it has a relationship with the BBC and that is how its funding arrangement is determined.”

Mr MacNeil later asked Labour if they would support a Media Bill amendment designed to give “protection” to Gaelic broadcasting.

Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire replied: “I can’t say whether I’d support an amendment until I have seen it.

“However, I can say that despite an explicit mention of Gaelic in the King’s Speech, it doesn’t seem that there’s any mention of protecting Gaelic broadcasting in this Bill and that does give me cause for concern.”

SNP former Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, also gave his backing for extra protections for Gaelic television, telling the Commons: “We are facing an existential threat to the survival of Gaelic broadcasting.”

He also said: “I hope that there would be a consensus right across the House… in the recognition of the importance of the Gaelic language and that there is an amendment that should be supported across the House to make sure the Gaelic language is protected.”

SNP frontbencher Kirsty Blackman also weighed in, telling MPs: “There is a requirement for there to be a quota of at least 10 hours a week of Welsh language programming but there is not a requiremrmnet for a similar quota in relation to Gaelic programming. I am concerned by that.”

Jamie Stone, the Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, meanwhile warned the Gaelic language was in a “vulnerable situation” and needed support.

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