A look behind the scenes at BBC ALBA’s referendum coverage

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With the Scottish Independence Referendum dominating the news agenda, we take a closer look at what is actually involved in the production of Gaelic referendum programme output and outline some of the biggest issues being covered by the Gaelic team.

Produced by BBC Gàidhlig and led by Gaelic News editor Norrie Maclennan, regular half hour programmes are created for BBC ALBA and Radio nan Gàidheal by an experienced team of broadcasters and reporters all with a strong track record in politics.

Norrie Maclennan said: “Our dedicated team presents reports on the most topical issues of the referendum being covered from a Gaelic perspective, with dedicated programmes examining areas including defence, the economy, energy, the reaction to independence from the rest of the UK, as well as examining the youth perspective on the subject.

“With experienced reporters located throughout the country we are able to offer a unique package of programming with insight into local opinions as we hear from experts on the areas of the referendum that would most affect local communities.”

In the first of the energy specials ‘Rathad an Referendum: Ola is Gas’ on Wednesday May 28th, at 9pm, Michael MacNeil examines the debate around oil and gas resources, speaking to experts and politicians in Scotland, London and Norway and looking at the Scottish Government’s desire to set up an oil fund in the event of independence. The second energy programme ‘Rathad an Referendum: Ath-nuadhachail’ on Wednesday June 4th, at 9pm, explores the future for the renewables industry in Scotland whilst visiting large scale and community ventures in Lewis, Barra and Orkney to assess the benefits and challenges involved in harnessing Scotland’s natural resources.

Referendum stories are also featured within BBC ALBA’s An Là news programme, on Radio nan Gàidheal and online. Special referendum coverage will analyse the results as they are declared with live overnight radio coverage on the 18th of September and on BBC ALBA on 19th September.

The core of the BBC’s Gàelic referendum team are experienced broadcast journalists based between Glasgow and Edinburgh, all utilising video journalism and relying on solo-working where the reporter carries out all the filming, editing, reporting for TV and radio themselves. However, the referendum documentaries are mainly filmed by full-time camera operators.

BBC ALBA launched a new weekly Sunday night programme offering a close look at the referendum story with a special emphasis on the Gaelic community. The programme offers a local and national perspective and visits different parts of the country from Ness to Islay to Edinburgh reflecting the issues that matter to these communities.

Inverness is the hub for most of the Gaelic news and referendum production. The main TV news programme, An La, is produced and presented from Inverness and played out through the BBC’s headquarters in Glasgow, with the Sunday evening referendum programme being produced, presented and played out from Inverness.

The Team

Iona Macritchie oversees the majority of the Referendum output. Iona hails from Lewis but was brought up in Inverness where she went through Gaelic medium education. She likes to travel in her spare time experiencing different cultures from around the world including South America and East Asia.

Niall O’Gallagher is a great enthusiast for Celtic literature and politics. Niall is also based in the central belt covering Glasgow and Edinburgh and is a well regarded political pundit who has worked extensively across BBC Scotland and UK-wide political programmes.

Michael MacNeil is from Barra and has been covering politics for over 12 years for the BBC’s Gaelic services. Given his community roots, Michael is keen on investigating local angles on the national stories.

Darren Laing is from North Uist and is a well kent face on BBC ALBA, being a reporter on the acclaimed Eòrpa series. Like Michael, Darren is keen to bring the national agenda to a more community level.

Calum Maclean is one of a number of young reporters in the team looking at the referendum from a youth perspective. Calum’s Gaelic roots go back to his grandfather who was a Gaelic speaker born in Applecross and later emigrated to Australia. His father is a noted Gaelic-language expert who returned to live in Scotland with his Australian wife. Calum was educated through the medium of Gaelic in Inverness and is still based in the city.

Given the scale of the referendum coverage, all BBC Gaelic news staff feed into the output to some extent including Shona Macdonald in Uist, Roddy Munro, Catriona Maclean and Angus MacDonald in Stornoway, Coinneach Smith from Inverness and Andreas Wolff from Oban, offering expert localised knowledge from communities across the country.