BBC Alba to be shown on Freeview
- 21 December 2010
- From the section Highlands & Islands
The Gaelic language service BBC Alba will be available on Freeview in Scotland following a review by the BBC Trust.
Programmes are currently available on Sky, Freesat and live on the BBC iPlayer.
Scottish politicians and local authorities had called for the channel to be shown on Freeview.
The BBC Trust said the service run by the BBC and MG Alba was performing well and meeting its aims.
It has served Gaelic speakers well and was attracting more than four non-Gaelic speakers for every viewer who uses the language, according to the review.
The channel has a target of drawing 250,000 viewers.
The trust has approved the BBC Executive's proposal to remove the BBC's thirteen radio stations from Freeview, in Scotland only, during the hours BBC Alba is broadcasting.
The executive said this was the most technically and financially viable way of enabling BBC Alba to be carried on Freeview.
BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said making the it available on Freeview met the BBC's commitment to giving audiences convenient access to services.
National Trustee for Scotland Jeremy Peat said: "It's very encouraging to see that BBC Alba is performing well and is appreciated by Gaelic speakers and learners.
"Carrying Alba on Freeview will bring the service to a much wider audience across Scotland - it's been clear from our review that there are strong views about the future of the service and this has not been a straightforward decision, but we believe that it's the option that really offers the most benefit for licence fee payers in Scotland."
The Scottish government has welcomed the decision.
Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said: "This is the right decision by the BBC Trust and fitting recognition of the achievements and progress made by BBC Alba.
"BBC Alba has secured its position as a major player in Scotland's broadcasting sector.
"The channel has given the industry a welcome boost creating jobs, retaining skills and becoming responsible for more than half of the content commissioned from Scotland's independent producers."
MG Alba chairman Alasdair Morrison said until now less than 50% of households in Scotland had access to the channel.
He said: "Over the last two years BBC Alba has done everything that was asked of it and we have created a raft of home-grown programmes appealing to both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers which has made a very positive contribution to Scottish broadcasting and the country's creative industries.
"The viewers like what they see and viewing figures have remained steady around 220,000 per week which compares very favourably with other digital channels in Scotland."
Liberal Democrat MSP Iain Smith said it was right to make BBC Alba available on Freeview, but it should not be at the loss of radio stations.
He said: "I am glad that BBC Alba will be available to a wider audience through Freeview television.
"However, the BBC Trust have made the wrong decision to deprive Scottish listeners of access to BBC radio stations on Freeview."
Mr Smith said Welsh and Irish language channels could be accessed in Wales and Northern Ireland without switching off BBC radio stations.
Industry experts said the Welsh channel S4C and the Irish language channel TG4 were not BBC services.
S4C is broadcast on Freeview in Wales using reserved capacity in place of one of the commercial channels.
The BBC ruled out hiring space from a commercial operator.