Concerns on politicisation in new Russell ideas on Gaelic broadcasting

Addressing the Celtic Media Festival in Inverness on Thursday, which he founded 35 years ago, Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell is calling for BBC Alba to embrace changes in the media landscape in post-referendum Scotland.

Highlighting the resurgence of community activism and grassroots campaigns, combined with increasingly sophisticated digital technologies, Mr Russell will argue that widening the existing remit of BBC Alba, to include community-produced content and information programming, could revolutionise Gaelic broadcasting and nurture creative talent in Scotland.

Drawing on his experiences as the Director of Cinema Sgire [Community Cinema], a community film and audio-visual project which ran in the Western Isles in the late 1970s, Mr Russell says: ‘Scotland’s renewed democracy, and the thirst for information and radical perspectives, creates a good chance of an even more successful repositioning for BBC Alba, if it chose to take it.

‘It would create a new platform for those who may never be mainstream broadcasters but who are experimenting in the visual media.   I am sure all of those who spent hours in dark, analogue edit suites in the 80s are astonished, but excited in equal measure, by the ease by which broadcast quality video can be put together today on a laptop, with the aid of a mobile phone camera.

‘That material dominates the Internet, and the fusion of a conventional channel, with community produced material of such provenance that is driven by social and community imperatives, could create an exciting new dynamic in broadcasting for Scotland. It would be a fulfilment, in a sense, of the Cinema Sgire dream.

‘It would also build and nurture talent that arises out of our traditions, but which can go truly global.

‘For that potential is also one of the big changes of the past three decades. In 1980 we were looking to fulfil what we believed were the unfulfilled demands of domestic Celtic language audiences, which were being denied contemporary media in their own languages.  That was a human rights issue as well as a broadcasting one.

‘Now, the challenge is different. We have the chance of serving, and being paid to serve, a worldwide audience to whom language need not be a barrier.  Our modern creators can also do so with a fraction of the investment that would have been required in the early days of this technology, and can supply content without even leaving their homes.

‘All they need is talent. And that is what many of them have – and moreover talent developed, informed and sustained by living between two cultures, something that is commonplace outside these islands and which produces just the mix and the vision that appeals to a vast number of our fellow global citizens furth of these shores.

‘We have the training courses for them, we have the market for what they do. What we need is a domestic channel that can champion them by creating a creative place where they can cut their teeth, build their skills, debate with their audience and in the by-and-by change their own communities and country.

‘A channel not only of language, but fully engaged with community and country.’

The underlying agenda and the risk to Gaelic

Alongside Mr Russell’s creative energy is an underlying strategy – which here is very much aligned nationalism and with former First Minister, Alex Salmond’s repeated interest in state control of the media.

BBC ALBA is state subsidised. Were it to be become more aligned to the only grassroots activism that exists in Scotland today, the question would have to arise about the propriety of the use of public funds to further the political interests of what is on the fast track to becoming a one-party-state.

This level of planned support and control is one of the evidences of the type of state the SNP Scottish Government is creating.

Today many – possibly the majority – will celebrate that, The wise will be concerned.

What has been refreshing about much of BBC ALBA’s programming in its early years has been the absence of the ghettoisation of Gaelic and the absence of hard wiring a language to a single political cause.

This has freed Gaelic into a much wider ‘ownership’ than it has previously had.

It would be very much against the interests of Gaelic were it to be deployed again as a cultural shibboleth and welded to the narrowness of nationalism.

So far, BBC ALBA has been wonderfully catholic and wide ranging in its interests and in the subjects which it has explored. It would be a real loss to many of us who are neither Gaelic speakers nor nationalists if BBC ALBA went native, so to speak.

The fact that it has spoken through the medium of Gaelic on an elevating eclecticism of topics, has been, so far, the unique signature of BBC ALBA, which we have welcomed.

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  • Ma tha Gàidhlig agad, ForArgyll, dh’fhaodadh tu suil a thoirt air na leanas. Tha leithid Tove Skutnabb-Kangas agus Robert Phillipson (Linguistic Imperialism) air an ainm a chur ris an litir:

    Litir fhosgailte – BBC ALBA 23/04/2015

    A chàirdean,

    BBC Alba: tha rathad nas fheàrr ann

    San latha an-diugh, tha na ceudan de shianalan telebhisean Beurla ann. Tha na meadhanan a’ cur thairis leotha agus tha an àireamh a’ fàs. Le tuigse air a seo, tha e tàmailteach gu bheil BBC Alba – an aon sianal Gàidhlig air an t-saoghal – a’ roghnachadh uiread Beurla a chleachdadh. Glè thric, gheibhear 70% Beurla ann am prògram, agus tha e ro fhurasta coire airson seo a chur air cumhachd na Beurla san fharsaingeachd. Feumar sùil a thoirt air poileasaidhean àrd-riaghladairean craolaidh.

    Tha sinne a’ moladh gum bi cleachdadh làitheil na Gàidhlig air BBC Alba ga leudachadh gu mòr, gus còirichean nan Gàidheal a shàsachadh. Sa bhad, feumar cur às don phoileasaidh a tha ag aobhrachadh fo-thiotalan Beurla loisgte. Ann am prògraman rugbaidh, ball-coise, ceòl, fiosrachadh is eile, tha aithrisean agus agallamhan Beurla gam piobrachadh a h-aona ghnothach. Feumaidh seo stad.

    Bu chòir do luchd-riaghlaidh atharraichean adhartach a chur an-sàs. Mar eisimpleir, ghabhadh thar-ghuthan Gàidhlig cleachdadh nuair a dh’fheumadh cànain eile a bhith air an riochdachadh (mar a rinneadh leis an sàr phrògram Eòrpa mar-thà).

    Tha rathad nas fheàrr ann. Gabhamaid an cothrom seirbheis telebhisean coileanta a thoirt do na Gàidheil.

    Leis gach deagh dhùrachd,

    1. Gwen Bowie, Srath Nàrann
    ’S e tidsear agus foillsichear Gàidhlig a th’ ann an Gwen Bowie. Tha i a’ teagasg tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig an Inbhir Nis.

    2. Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul, An Caol/Uibhist a Deas
    Tha Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul air iomadach duais a chosnadh mar bhàrd, nobhailiche, neach-naidheachd, craoladair agus cleasaiche.

    3. Ailean Dòmhnullach, Dùn Èideann/Gleann Uige
    ’S e sàr cheòladair a th’ ann an Ailean Dòmhnullach. Tha Gàidhlig aige bho thùs.

    4. Louise Edmonds, Glaschu
    Tha Louise Edmonds ag ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig agus tha i na parant ann am foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig, Tha i a’ creidsinn gu mòr ann am fo-thiotalan Gàidhlig ceangailte ri ionnsachadh agus daoine le duilighdeasan-claisneachd.

    5. Maureen Hammond, Farrais
    ’S e dealbhadair agus neach-rannsachaidh a th’ ann am Maureen Hammond. Tha i ag ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig agus ’s ann à Ceann a Ghiuthsaich a tha i.

    6. Alison Kinnaird, Dùn Èideann
    Tha còirichean dhaoine ceangailte ri dualchas agus an cuid cànain – ge brith cò às a tha an neach – dha-rìreabh cudromach do dh’Alison Kinnaird, tè-cunntasachd a tha ag ionnsachadh na Gàidhlig an Dùn Èideann.

    7. Ruairidh MacIomhair, Leòdhas
    Tha Ruairidh MacIomhair à Leòdhas agus tha e a’ dèanamh PhD an Oilthigh Ghlaschu.

    8. Robbie Anndra MacLeòid, Dùn Èideann/Gaillimh
    ‘S ann an Oilthigh Ghlaschu a tha Robbie Andrew MacLeòid cuideachd. Chaidh Robbie tro foghlam tro mheadhan na Gàidhlig, agus tha ceangal làidir aige ri Barraigh. Bidh e tric ri ceòl.

    9. Aonghas Dubh MacNeacail, Carlops
    Tha an Sgitheanach ainmeil Aonghas Dubh MacNeacail air iomadh duais a chosnadh airson a chuid sgrìobhaidh.

    10. Ishi NicIlleathain, Barraigh
    Tha Gàidhlig bho thùs aig Ishi NicIlleathain à Bàrraigh. Tha i gu math eòlach air saoghal craolaidh. Bidh i a’ sgrìobhadh cuideachd. ’S toigh leatha a bhith a’ dol gu duthchannan eadar-dhealaichte air feadh an t-saoghail ,nuair a gheibh i an cothrom.

    11. Morag NicLeòid, Scalpaigh
    Tha Morag NicLeòid, a b’ abhaist a bhith aig Sgoil Eòlais na h-Alba ann an Oilthigh Dhùn Eideann, na sàr eòlaiche air òrain Ghàidhlig.

    12. An t-àrd-Ollamh Robert Phillipson, Copenhagen
    Tha Robert Phillipson na eòlaiche air cùisean cànain agus tha uidh mhòr aige sa Roinn-Eòrpa, gu h-àraid an EU fhèin. ’S e esan a sgrìobh an leabhar ainmeil, Linguistic Imperialism. ’S iomadh leabhar agus pàipear eile a dh’fhoillsich e cuideachd.

    13. Des Scholes, Inbhir Narann
    Dh’ionnsaich Des Scholes a’ Ghàidhlig gu ìre fileantais – ged a bha e air a bhith mòran na b’ fhasa dha, tha e ag radh, nan robh fo-thiotalan Gàidhlig ann air telebhisean. Bidh e ri blogaichean agus tha e an-sàs ann an obair coimhearsnachd.

    14. Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Oilthigh Roskilde, An Danmhairg agus Åbo Akademi, University Vasa, Suomi
    ’S e sàr ùghdar eadar-nàiseanta a th’ ann an Tove Skutnabb-Kangas. Tha i mion-eòlach air gnothaichean ceangailte ri còirichean, foghlam agus leasachaidhean-cànain. Bhuannaich i duais UNESCO Linguapax ann an 2003.

    15. Lisa Storey, Inbhir Nis/Bhatarsaigh
    ’S e sgrìobhadair agus foillsichear Gàidhlig a th’ ann an Lisa Storey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Lisa Storey, Inbhir Nis, Alba April 24, 2015 7:35 pm Reply
  • I really don’t think you’ve got much to worry about. Neither MG Alba nor the BBC want what Russell is suggesting, both prefering to have a shoe-string version of mainstream broadcasting.
    It’s hardly a winning proposition anyway. The internet has already created perfectly serviceable outlets for community content, so who would be likely to tune in to BBC Alba for homemade stuff when they could just go to YouTube?
    Community TV broadcasting has been tried, and it doesn’t work.
    Now…

    It would be very much against the interests of Gaelic were it to be deployed again as a cultural shibboleth and welded to the narrowness of nationalism.

    What is with this word “again”? Gaelic has never been used in that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Niall April 24, 2015 8:24 pm Reply

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