Memorandum submitted by Highlands and
Islands Enterprise (HIE)
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) welcomes
the opportunity to contribute to the consultation process in regard
to the draft Communications Bill. HIE firmly believes that the
recent (and on-going changes) in broadcasting are revolutionary
and that policy frameworks have to evolve to respond to these
The present broadcasting environment is increasingly
consumer-led against a backdrop of highly competitive international
marketplace. In this type of environment it is essential that
legislative frameworks are put in place that secure a plurality
of voice and a diversity of services across broadcast media. This
is particularly true in the case of minority language broadcasting.
HIE therefore welcomes the two paragraphs on Gaelic broadcasting
outlined at 8.6.2 of the draft Bill.
We welcome the fact that the Government "are
committed to ensuring that public service broadcasting continues
to meet the needs of differing communities and cultural interests"
and that Gaelic broadcasting has an important part to play in
this. As such we look forward to the proposed announcement in
regard to the overall strategic direction for a modernised Gaelic
It is also to be welcomed that the draft Bill
acknowledges the general concern that current arrangements for
Gaelic broadcasting are not as effective as they could be in delivering
a service that meets the legitimate expectations of Gaelic speakers
(22.214.171.124). HIE agrees with this, believing that current provision
is fragmented and marginalised and, within current constraints,
is incapable of expansion to a level acceptable to the population.
This is particularly the case as the Gaelic-speaking population
(including learners) is scattered throughout Scotland (and indeed
elsewhere in the UK) and is interested in accessing a diverse
range of Gaelic broadcast material. We believe that Gaelic broadcasting
as presently configured and delivered is anomalous and that normalisation
within the statutory framework of UK broadcasting is a desirable
Although we reserve judgement until the announcement
on strategic direction and until we see the provisions to be included
in the final Bill, HIE broadly welcomes the outline proposals
at 126.96.36.199 to reform the current framework. Particularly welcome
is the proposed strengthening of the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee,
in particular the provision of powers to develop programming strategy
in collaboration with broadcasters. In addition to this HIE would
strongly urge that commissioning powers be placed with the Committee.
We consider this to be essential if strategic programming is to
be developed to help language retention/development and to build
audiences out with the "mainstream" mass audience normally
catered for through traditional broadcasting channels.
1. While HIE strongly supports the creation
of a dedicated Gaelic television channel we recognise that the
Bill will lead to an improved Gaelic broadcasting service. It
is our view, however, that the Bill should contain an enabling
provision so that such a channel might be established in future.
This would be consistent with the principles of social justice,
would make a major contribution to the future well-being of the
Gaelic language and its associated culture and that it would unlock
a significant pool of new creative talent.
In addition to the strategic level normalisation
that the proposals would bring, they also carry the potential
to create significant employment opportunities, both in the Hebrides
and in other parts of Scotland. A HIE-commissioned study (Economic
Impacts of Enhanced Funding for Gaelic Broadcasting) suggests
that annual expenditure of £44 million, as recommended by
the Gaelic Broadcasting Task Force, would result in a total employment
impact of 802 FTE in Scotland. Of these, 292 FTE would be anticipated
within the Western Isles. The research indicated that the potential
jobs created within the Western Isles would be direct, well paid-media
jobs, with the capacity to attract high calibre graduates. This
level of employment opportunity would have a significant, positive,
long-term effect on the economy and the cultural and social life
of the area. In contrast current arrangements act to create a
brain drain, taking creative people out of the Highlands and Islands
to Glasgow in particular.
2. It will be of the utmost importance that
the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee remains firmly located in the
Gaelic-speaking heartland of the Western Isles. We believe that
it will be of vital strategic and symbolic importance that these
powers are located within the Gaelic community.
3. Any emergent authority should be able
to display a high level of independence and autonomy to ensure
appropriate safeguards for Gaelic language development. Such autonomy
would also encourage economic development in the Highlands and
Islands, particularly in fragile, core Gaelic-speaking areas as
the Western Isles and Skye and Lochalsh.