The BBC's Gaelic-language channel, BBC Alba, has seen its audience drop by a third since launch, with further drops expected as Scottish politicians desperately try to be seen doing something about the death of Gaelic. The channel started four months ago, with more than 600,000 viewers, a total that has already dropped to 400, …
Hang on a mo...
...wouldn't the beeb be better off trying to promote the use of English on TV?
Getting well and truly tits'd off with all the bloody Mockney being spoken on TV these days.
Statistics or damn lies?
No channel just says "we have X000 viewers" - the figure is meaningless! How many viewers does each programme get, that's the important figure. Do they get 200,000 constantly? No, of course not - as Bill Ray points out, that's probably just the figure for the football, I'd be surprised if the rest of the output had even 50,000 viewers.
The government massaging the figures? Surely not!
Viva BBC Alba!
Hey, I love BBC Alba - and I don't speak Gaelic. One of the best channels on telly. The programmes are a hell of a lot better than the rubbish on 99% of the other channels on satellite. £60 a head is a bargain. Face it, even Gaelic soaps with subtitles are better than seeing the same episode of Friends/Poirot/2 Pints of Lager for the 53rd time in a month.
Of course, we could all watch their excellent programmes that teach Gaelic and then it wouldn't be a threatened language. (Interestingly, I believe there are more people speaking Gaelic on a daily basis than speak Irish - which is an official EU language. )
I've no doubt
that the sports viewers will be indulging in their own version of simulcast, with a radio commentary from an English speaking radio station being played while a muted TV is watched. Gaelic programming, and BBC Scotland's pissing about with schedules has been the bane of the viewing public's life in Scotland for decades. If it isn't about sport or politics (Scottish politics, mind you) then it can't be important. AS a qualifier on the sports statement the only sport recognized by the west coast dominated BBC Scotland is Fitba' or anything that England has been beaten in, so of the 30 minute Reporting Scotland 10-15 minutes is given over to sport, in reality 10-15 minutes is given over to football.
Someone with money?
Big demand for Chinese language in the highlands then.
According to Neil Oliver's excellent documentary series on the history of Scotland, around the time of James the First (of Scotland) the split was about 50/50 Gaelic/Scots, so why isn't there nearly as much fuss made about preserving the Scots language? I suppose there's all the Burns societies, but he was just one Scots speaker amongst many.
Wrong metric? Definitely wrong target
I'm afraid you're mistaken as to the mandate of the BBC. That's the reason why we have a licence fee in the UK, so that minority interests can be properly represented on TV and radio. By the standards you judge this channel on, how many other BBC productions lose money 'per head'? I'd bet that cash cows like Doctor Who are keeping large bits of the empire going at the moment.
If we judge the value of culture by pure profit and loss, when profit isn't the main driver and the system is already set up to carry that loss, then you end up with a non-argument like this.
And I'd also bet that this £15 million is a drop in the ocean compared to some of the other crap the BBC churns out. Isn't that Jonathan Ross' wage bill for a year? How much does Lily Allen get paid for 'Lily and Friends'? Do I have to go on?
PS - I wouldn't put much value on a report from the Times on anything from North of the Border. Jock bashing is a favourite hobby of News International, in particular the "benefit dependency" myth.
If they talk to TnaG here in Ireland...
maybe they'll sell them the gaelic dubbed versions of Spongebob Squarepants and Southpark.
Not exacty a surprise
I can remember working at the beeb up here about 5 years ago and a large chunk of the senior management in scotland were pretty much all from the western isles.
they didnt half get upset when you asked why they didnt do pogrammes in urdu, more people in scotland list that as a language thy can speak ;-)
More people speak Hindi in Glasgow than there are Gaelic speakers in the whole of Scotland.
Where's their publically-subsidised TV channel? I'd love to see more Kabadi on the telly, anyway...
It's ridiculous job fabricating efforts like this which justify my refusal to own and operate a device for the reception and interpretation of analogue television broadcasts.
Gaelic and neo-pagan druidism should be left alone, on the isle of Skye where they cant hurt anyone.
Gaelic is only slightly more pointless than...
/runs for cover
"PC gone mad"
I'm with Stewart Lee on this one.
We have something similar in Ireland for the promotion of the Irish language, I think the biggest draw for viewers is ladies gaelic football and a soap called Ros na Run. Also get some quite bizarre european films shown late at night.
Strange thing is the channel is quite a boon for small production companies to get funding, it makes a good outlet for creative talents that would otherwise not get a look in to the bigger channels
... broadcast just in Edinburgh - I'm sure they'll get a lot of viewers then !
Where's the Scotiski, or Scotistani channels?
More people in Scotland speak Polish, Urdu, Italian, or indeed highschool level French or German...why aren't they being served?
Anyone seen the hilarious "Scots" version of wikipedia? Sparse beyond belief; rife with inconsistant, nay invented, spelling*; whilst the language is ideal for Burn's poetry and Oor Wullie, it doesn't work when describing technical concepts; many of which appear to be beyond the ken of the scribes involved.
*deliberately bastardised to make it "diferynt"
This bull sold to the populus by the Scottish government; an idea of some homogenius shortbread tin history where everyone wore kilts and spoke Gaelic; its akin to suggesting that every Englishman's ancestor spoke Cornish or morris danced. Still, that's politics for you, placating a vocal minority and tapping into easy veins of ill informed nationalism for votes.
The Gaelic gravy train
Labour and SNP are both fighting to give Gaelic large sums of money so that a few luvvies In Glasgow can earn vast sums of money reminiscing about an idyllic childhood in the islands that never existed. And the Tories were the ones who passed the bill setting this whole thing up in the first place.
I can't get foreign language lessons for my young children, but if I want them to be in Gaelic Medium education they are getting vast sums of money thrown at the language. Primary classes of 6 with two teachers!
No-one reads the Gaelic books, and our MSP's sole claim to (very) modest fame is that he has demanded that Harry Potter be translated in Gaelic.
It's a f'ing joke and they know it. But until the gravy train is derailed ......
Beyond the futile and poor-value attempts to 'promote' Gaelic (exactly what does it do so much better than English or German or French?), the decisions to show local Scottish variations in place of generally popular programmes make even less sense.
For example, rather than showing a documentary with broad appeal or perhaps a sports event such as snooker (what else does the BBC have these days), if there's a programme with a hint of Scottishness about it, BBC Scotland will slap that on instead despite the fact that if the 'variation' were to be shown purely on its merit as a programme, it'd have been axed.
Take River City. I dislike Eastenders as much as the next man, but are the Scots really so blinkered that they consider this pish to be better SIMPLY because it's not based in London? If it's so damn good, why's it not shown outside of Scotland. Because it's rubbish and is just there to fill the quotient of 'Scottish' programmes that's why.
Actually, in Gaelic, it's "Charlie is Lola" which reads like that car advert with the business Man holding up a sign behind a passing underground train - "At the weekends, my name is Mandy"...
Let it die
Gaelic is neither relevant nor usefull in a modern society, condem it to ren faire and quirky local traditions for good.
I have an idea
Given that it's the scots we're talking about here, I'd bet that all the gaelic speakers would rather have a £60 discount on the license fee, and no gaelic channel.
Perhaps the BBC could look at TG4 in Ireland and the success it has had, now seen very much as being independent of the national broadcaster here.
I for one am in favour....
Gaelic and Welsh are languages spoken within the UK, and as the national broadcaster, the BBC should do all it can to promote and sustain those languages. Through other income streams they promote the non-English languages through the BBC World Service; it should do all it can to maintain viewers or listeners in Welsh or Gaelic.
If the viewing figures are falling, I suspect they may return to broadcasting Gaelic programming within later night BBC Two programming.
Of course it would help if people could have actually received this without a subscription until recently in the Highlands (IE where most the Gaelic speakers are).
Certainly in where I was in Skye and Benbecula recently I couldn't get a single channel on freeview.
Sure FreeSat is free, but how many people have it yet?
This comes out on the same day as the Scottish Governments Gaelic Plan?
"anyone who does speak Gaelic is perfectly fluent in English too"
I suppose it depends on what you mean by "fluent". Or by "English", for that matter.
<duck for cover>
Even less popular than S4C
I never thought I would find something more pointless and less popular than S4C (Sianel Pedar Cymru). Even my Welsh speaking friends get fed up with S4C. Just because they can speak Welsh doesn't mean that they want to watch Pobol Y Cwm, Wedi 7 or Ffermio - which is blokes in sterotypical farmers clothes getting over excited about sheep.
In the brave new world of digital TV, why do they need a whole gaelic channel instead of just a selectable gaelic audio track for BBC1 Scotland?
The article and most of the comments are based on big language prejudice (English for everyone and bugger the rest) and total ignorance of linguistics, culture, minority rights, kids' language development, the effects of diversity in a society (the same as oxygenation and water filtering for rivers), erc.
Put you lot in a classroom where maths or chemistry (or any foreign language at all) was being taught through the medium of Chinese or Hindi and you'd be moaning and screaming blue murder.
(Paris cos her moaning and screaming would mean something good was going on... ;-)
It may surprise some of you to learn that there are parts of Scotland where it is quite normal to encounter individuals who primarily speak gaelic, and who do not have a comprehensive grasp of the English language.
I was lucky in that most schools on the North-West coast were offering English lessons in primary school by the time I was four years old. Even now there are some primary schools that do not offer quality tuition on the English language and students of those primary schools have to rely on TV for English education until they reach secondary school.
It is easy to presume that everyone speaks English fairly well, but while gaelic is the primary language in many of the rural areas of Scotland it will always be the case that some individuals will have difficulty picking up a second language - in this case, English.
The sooner we all speak the same language...
The sooner we will stop killing each other over misunderstandings.
Of course we will still kill each over over other things...
And how much is this costing us?
This costs the license fee payer a bloody fortune for no one to watch. Typical beeb pissing away money yet again. Kill the crap! Alba, BBC4, most of BBC3, and the other trash. Not needed, not wanted, and its not watched!
You'd be on life support too if you'd been stabbed, kicked, punched and beaten as much as Gaelic has.
" So the Scottish Parliament, and the BBC, instead spend money promoting a language hardly anyone speaks, while forgetting that anyone who does speak Gaelic is perfectly fluent in English too "
Wrong. They're not promoting a language -- they're delivering a service to a minority in their own language, much as they do with the deaf community. Signed programs are not an attempt to "promote" BSL after all. The deaf population are all perfectly fluent in written English (as available on Ceefax page 888) but prefer to view TV in their own language (BSL -- British Sign Language). And several major channels are happy to deliver that service to them.
Cultural impoverishment via language death
Numerically, Scottish Gaelic is on a par with Abkhazian, which is spoken by about 50,000 Abkhaz (half the population of Abkhazia). The difference is that the Abkhaz quite correctly see their language as defining their status as a distinct people and nation, whereas Scots Gaels do not.
Fifty-thousand speakers is certainly enough of a nucleus to keep a language alive, but only if there's the will to do so, which seems to be lacking in Scotland.
Clearly the methods used to encourage use of Gaelic in Scotland are ineffective. I wonder what would happen if anyone turning 18 years old who could speak and understand Gaelic fluently got a reward of, say, £10,000? I'm referring here to the true fluency which only results when a language is learned at a very early age and which permits one to form and understand utterances such as "Would that she had been going to dig the parsnips!"
That level of fluency is very difficult to learn, if not impossible for most people, after the age of six or seven.
The current system trying to assist Gaelic strikes me as politically motivated without any real feeling for the tragedy of the death of a language. It's your usual heartless, PC, bean-counting approach to a matter that demands heart and (dare I use the word on El Reg?) love. When Gaelic dies in Scotland, the entire world will have lost a valuable heirloom that can never be brought back.
These remarks apply equally to all the small languages of the world. Here on Vancouver Island, various Indian bands are in a desperate race against time to teach their languages to children before the tiny handful of fluent speakers, in many cases no more than half a dozen or so people 80 y.o. or older, die off. Perhaps most readers of El Reg will think "who cares about a bunch of former savages?" but it is sad to see the once astounding linguistic diversity of the place fade into nothingness.
ObIT: if you are building any application with user input, make sure it works with every language and every script known. This is one area where Microsoft deserves a great deal of credit, with their Uniscribe system that effectively uses OpenType layout tables to render all sorts of strange and wondrous writing systems.
He who pays loses
Thankfully I've never given the BBC a penny in 19yrs and never will. I can't stand the socialists bias and waste that they stand for.
At least s4c has a bit of rugby on now and then
even though the english commentary is in welsh.
Beats watching english rugby players dance badly.
Oh hang on it starts again on Saturday!
I suspect the number of Gaelic speakers from the census is an exaggeration, many people will have ticked the box but their knowledge of Gaelic is probably limited to Sláinte.
Sales of Gaelic books and newspapers might be a better test.
"Ffermio - which is blokes in sterotypical farmers clothes getting over excited about sheep."
Sounds very naughty...
If the BBC cared about old languages ...
... they would not have made Pogue Mahone (póg mo thóin) change their name to The Pogues.
TG4 is the Irish television channel devoted to Gaelic and is doing quite well for itself. It seems that early on they realised that anyone who might have even a passing interest in the language is also the kind of person likely to be interested in shows of a historical, cultural or artistic bent.
They cut down heavily on the whole 'take a popular show and redub it in Gaelic' thing (with the exception of dubbed South Park which is hilarious when you know the episodes well enough not to need English). Instead they focused on providing shows about Irish history, culture, local sports, documentaries from far-flung corners of the world and foreign 'arthouse' movies.
Most of their content is still spoken or dubbed in Gaelic with English subtitles but by branching out into areas that are poorly covered by mainstream channels they've picked up a respectable and loyal share of the market, including many people who don't speak Gaelic. Maybe even a few of the non-Gaelic speakers have even picked up an interest in the language because of this.
If/when the BBC start to provide an Ulster-Scots channel for Northern Ireland, then we will have something worthy of derision.
/Paris could teach the Beeb a thing or two about cunning linguists.
Re: Let it die...
"The only thing we need keep is a dictionary for prosperity."
I think you'll find that the word is "posterity". Some advice: try to demonstrate a reasonable grasp of the language (or, one might hope, languages) you already profess to know before taking a dump on someone else's language and culture.
To the guy who reckoned that the number of Gaelic speakers was far fewer than the 50-odd thousand responding to the 2001 census, you obviously haven't been to the Western Isles lately. As the article refers to 'going up the A9' and expecting to see Scotland from that as a vantage point, it's hardly surprising...
It's perfectly normal to nip into the co-op either in Daliburgh in South Uist or just over the causeway in Benbecula and hear mother and infant nattering away in Gaelic. There, bilingualism meant the recent addition of **English** to the Gaelic-only roadsigns I remember from the holidays in the 70s and 80s back when I was a wee nipper.
What place does Gaelic have in the world today? You might better ask what place does English have in a world where American displaced it at least a decade ago. Having lived for the last 20 years 'down south' where Mockney, dumbing-down and grocers apostrophe's long ago replaced any real, joined-up language, I can confirm that what used to be referred to as the Queen's English is currently making its last stand somewhere in the Netherlands.
I'm in two minds about the thumbs up given by a previous commentator to Neil Oliver's 'History of Scotland'; it's too simple a story, trying to bash together into a single narrative what was in reality at least three separate stories, that just happened to take place at the same point in history and accidentally result in the Scotland that all we exiles love. And big ones too (usual joke).
It's not a justification for the per-head extra cost of the BBC Alba service, but then that's trying to give an answer to the wrong question; the Gaels have faced down rampant attempts to exterminate their language in the past, and the simple indifference being expressed in these comments they will be able to brush aside as if they weren't there.
Fact is, the language comes out of the different outlook and lifestyle of the people and as long as these survive Gaelic will survive. BBC Alba, Freesat etc etc are nice to have add-ons, but not essential for the survival of either language or people.
Remember too that Gaelic is not a language whose appeal has dropped and has withered away. The hated english conducted genocidal pogroms and made the language illegal. As with so many atrocities funnily enough it's not in english history books. tsk
Only sixty quid each? So what's the BBC doing with the rest of these licence payers' money?
I read the register every day and in all the years that I have read this site I have never come across an article that I have taken an exception to and insult from. While it is true that Gaidhlig isn't exactly the most widely spoken language in the world it is still something worth fighting for! We have already lost Manx and Cornish isn't looking that great but is having a bit of a resurgence. Would the author be happy to see nothing but English spoken in all parts of the UK?
Rach thu agus a' sgaoil am leathar de bhur paithar!
Well interestingly Wales is trying to implement a new law requiring private employers to use Welsh and there are efforts to make Irish an official and equal language to English (ie rights based so that courts and the NI Assembly etc have to use Irish) in Northern Ireland - re someone mentioned Scots..perhaps the Scottish Government has neglected it but the Ulster-Scots Agency in Northern Ireland does a good job (brought to Ulster during the Ulster Plantations by Scottish settlers)
What about Yorkshire ?
Tha thinks tha's gor it bad - wiv only got Last o t' summer wine and bluddy 'Merdale an thees neigh on 6million or us!
Maybe viewers were disappointed....
That they tuned in to BBC Alba and instead of Jessica Alba they got a couple Scots yammering away in some language that manages to use the same vowel twice in each word?
Paris, because if we can't have Alba we will always have Paris....
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