BBC Northern Ireland announces additional funding for Irish and Ulster-Scots
BBC Northern Ireland today announced an enhancement of its programming in Irish and Ulster-Scots.
These plans will benefit from a funding allocation of approximately £3.9million over the next three years (this includes an increase of approximately £2million over the three year period compared to the 07/08 base) and follow approval by the BBC Trust and an extended consultation process led by the BBC Audience Council for Northern Ireland.
BBC Northern Ireland's investment in Irish and Ulster-Scots will facilitate the development of language programming across radio, television and online.
A key priority will be to maximise impact, value for money, audience reach and appeal and to make effective use of new technologies in developing the BBC's minority language services for local audiences.
BBC Northern Ireland will also be working to progress opportunities for joint-working with broadcast partners, including TG4 and BBC Scotland.
Additional funding secured as part of this new financial settlement will allow BBC Northern Ireland to better reflect the dynamism, diversity and cultural significance of Irish and Ulster-Scots and to explore how these languages might be made more accessible to a wider audience.
BBC Northern Ireland's plans will seek to build on the distinctiveness and success of its existing minority language services and to secure their continued relevance in a changing environment.
BBC Northern Ireland's strategy for local minority language services has been informed by extensive audience research. This has helped to identify development needs and opportunities.
Audience feedback and analysis will form part of the ongoing review of new BBC programming in this area.
BBC Northern Ireland's programming in Irish will seek to address the needs of language speakers and learners and will benefit from the further enhancement of associated online services.
It will include increased television commissions and output and will also make use of co-productions and acquired programming to optimise the impact and audience benefits of BBC Northern Ireland's investment in this area.
Irish language commitments over the next period include:
Expenditure of approximately £950,000 each year on Irish language output across radio, television and online
The creation of an effective weekly presence for Irish language output on BBC NI television – about 50% of which will be originations or acquisitions, and including programmes aimed at younger audiences
The further development of online resources in Irish and work to maintain and refresh the appeal of Irish language radio output.
BBC Northern Ireland's television programming in Irish benefits from the availability of financial support from the Irish Language Broadcast Fund.
BBC Northern Ireland's programming in Ulster-Scots will include language-specific and associated cultural programming.
It will be supported by enhanced radio production capacity and the development of new online resources.
Ulster-Scots language and culture will also be reflected on local television and through commissions which explore the historic and continuing links between Ulster and Scotland and their influence on different aspects of community life.
Our programme plans for Ulster-Scots reflect the priorities identified through recent audience research.
Commitments in this area over the next period will include:
Expenditure of approximately £400,000 each year on Ulster-Scots language and cultural programming across radio, television and online
The significant enhancement of online resources for Ulster-Scots, including work to develop an oral archive and associated learning materials
Work to extend community engagement and involvement with our Ulster-Scots output and to develop the range and appeal of our radio programming in this area
Peter Johnston, Controller, BBC Northern Ireland, said: "This announcement follows the conclusion of extensive research and consultation on local audience needs.
"It recognises the importance of indigenous minority languages and the BBC's role in this area.
"This additional investment will increase the range and volume of our output in Irish and Ulster-Scots and will allow us to explore new development opportunities.
"These plans have been approved at a time of wider financial constraints within the BBC.
"Our priority has been to ensure that additional funding for Irish and Ulster-Scots reflects and balances the needs of language speakers with those of the audience as a whole.
"We believe that this announcement represents a step-change in our language output and that it will allow us to better reflect key aspects of local diversity across radio, television and online."
Rotha Johnston, BBC Trustee for Northern Ireland, said: "The BBC Trust has approved this increased expenditure on the basis of extensive research into the level of demand from audiences in Northern Ireland as well as consideration of the wider market and funding context.
"Irish and Ulster-Scots are both an important part of life and the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland and we believe the proposed increases will increase the BBC's contribution to this.
"In the years ahead, the Trust and Audience Council Northern Ireland will monitor the impact of these proposals."
Notes to Editors
BBC Audience Council for Northern Ireland
The BBC's Audience Council for Northern Ireland represents the interests of local licence fee payers and provides advice to the BBC Trust on a range of issues affecting BBC services and audiences in Northern Ireland.
The Council initiated an extended consultation exercise on the scale, profile and future development on the BBC's services in Irish and Ulster-Scots in early 2007. This included meetings with key stakeholder organisations and contributed to work being undertaken by the BBC Trust (in fulfilment of requirements under the BBC's Framework Agreement with DCMS) to determine the level of "appropriate provision" in this area.
More detailed information about the Council's consultations, including its two submissions to the BBC Trust is available on its website, bbc.co.uk/ni/audiencecouncil.
Under the Royal Charter and Agreement, the BBC Trust has a duty to "have regard to the importance of appropriate provision in minority languages".
Following a submission by the Audience Council Northern Ireland the BBC Trust agreed a set of factors for determining an appropriate level of provision in Irish and Ulster-Scots.
The factors are:
Demand for services in minority languages from speakers, learners and those with an interest in the languages and culture (including non-speakers)
The level of indigenous language content provided by the BBC and the market as a whole, and when compared to other minority languages
The legal and public policy context
The overall funding context, including funding allocated to other minority languages, and value for money
The needs of those with knowledge or interest of minority languages balanced against the needs of licence fee payers generally.
In March 2008, on the basis of audience research and application of these factors to indigenous minority languages in Northern Ireland, the Trust approved BBC management's plans to increase its levels of provision of both Irish and Ulster-Scots.
BBC NI Audience Research
BBC NI undertook field-research (which was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers) in late 2007 to inform the development and prioritisation of its services in Irish and Ulster-Scots.
This involved a representative sample of 950 people in locations across the region.
The sample included large groups of respondents who associated themselves with Irish or Ulster-Scots culture, including a proportion with some understanding of Irish and Ulster-Scots.
Some key conclusions from the research were:
34% of the total sample cited language as an important part of their identity and 16% of those questioned agreed that there should be more local programmes about Irish and Ulster-Scots culture (this total was 55% amongst those with some knowledge of Irish and 28% for those with some knowledge of Ulster-Scots).
Approximately 25% of respondents felt that there should be more language programming on BBC NI television – this total was 51% amongst those with some knowledge of Irish and 25% for Ulster-Scots identifiers.
Across the population sample as a whole more people agreed that the amount of Irish on TV was "about right", but half of those with an interest in the language felt that there could be more. The amount of Irish on radio was more likely to be regarded as "about right" for those with an interest in the language.
33% of the survey sample stated that they were "happy with the amount of BBC NI programmes for my culture" – this net agreement score was 6% amongst those with some knowledge of Irish.
The amount of Ulster-Scots programming across the platforms is more likely to be considered "about right" for those with an interest.
A majority of all respondents agreed that minority language programmes on BBC NI television should carry subtitles.
Research commissioned and published by Ofcom as part of its current PSB Review states that: "In Northern Ireland, just under one-third of people thought that some programmes needed to be in Irish and 20% thought Ulster Scots was important." (Ipsos MORI research p56).
Irish Language Broadcast Fund
BBC NI television programming in Irish has benefited from the availability of financial support from the Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF) – estimated at £1.2million in 2008/09.
Such income will facilitate the growth of television output in this area in the current financial year and the percentage of new commissions as part of this output – with associated benefits for the local production sector.
ILBF funding has not been secured beyond April 2009 and it may be necessary for the BBC to look again at the level of its investment in Irish if Government support is withdrawn or reduced.
BBC Northern Ireland Press Office