BBC ALBA to focus on drama and children’s programmes

BBC ALBA will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year with ‘great pride’ and a deep commitment to develop its range of original programming with a focus on drama and children.

MG ALBA, which operates BBC ALBA in partnership with the BBC, published its annual report today.

Maggie Cunningham, chairperson of MG ALBA, said: “BBC ALBA has been an undisputed success since it started broadcasting five years ago in September 2008. The channel can take great pride in its achievements and we must ensure that this progress continues.

“We are committed to developing children’s programming and multi-media resources and these areas stand side by side with drama as priorities for the channel.

“We have been inspired by and admire the global success achieved by Danish dramas Borgen and The Killing, and, looking ahead, we will continue to share experiences with our fellow minority language broadcasters such as S4C and TG4 to inspire our commissioning and funding strategies. While indigenous language crime programmes have been a success we will be looking at all options for developing drama for the channel.”

Funding for programmes remains a challenge but MG ALBA had been boosted by the injection of an extra £1 million of funding from 2015/16, as announced by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, in last week’s UK Government Spending Round.

Ms Cunningham also thanked the Scottish Government for their ongoing support and signalled that “MG ALBA will continue to engage with the BBC and the BBC Trust to leverage support for the channel and provide an even more valuable service for viewers”.

Ms Cunningham maintained that MG ALBA would not “sit on its hands” following this announcement and would strive to further develop creative funding initiatives which have already started, such as programme makers playing their part in raising finance. “We have to make our own good fortune. We need to continue to imaginatively use our existing resources,” she said.

Ms Cunningham said BBC ALBA had matured as a channel and its coverage of the Independence referendum will demonstrate its value as a Scottish broadcaster.

Donald Campbell, MG ALBA Chief Executive, said plans are in place to develop drama for BBC ALBA and also to build on the music and arts programming on the channel which has proved to be particularly popular with both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speaking audiences. “We would like to see it grow into a go-to channel for these genres”, he said.

Mr Campbell added: “2012-13 was the best ever year for audiences for BBC ALBA. Weekly reach Scotland-wide grew from 10.6% (436,000) to 15.6% (637,000). Interest in Gaelic-speaking communities also grew and the average reach of 79% in Quarter 4 was the highest recorded reach since the launch of the channel in 2008.

“This was also a record year for iPlayer viewing of BBC ALBA content with 4.1 million views of our programming, almost double the amount of viewing we received in 2011-12. This year also saw a significant shift from traditional PCs to mobile devices as a popular way to access iPlayer content, especially for younger audiences.”