Ciamar a tha sibh, Rhupairt a seo. Bheil steisean agaibh ri reic?
News this morning that BSkyB has bought Virgin Media could be an exciting development for the Gaelic broadcaster BBC Alba.
It leaves me asking the question is Rupert Murdoch going to be the saviour of Gaelic television, because there is little sign that the BBC Trust is going to be?
The joint ITC/BBC funded Gaelic language channel is currently only available on Free Sat or on Sky platforms meaning that it is unavailable to the majority of it's core audience.
Attempts to persuade the BBC Trust that this BBC branded television channel should be available on Freeview have been stonewalled for over three years.
The latest stumbling block is that the BBC Trust has to be persuaded to remove BBC radio channels from Freeview in the evenings to give space to the Gaelic channel.
You would think the argument is a bit of a no-brainer as a television channel needs a television platform to be seen and radio channels are available on several other formats - FM, online and DAB.
I understand the latest analysis shows that as few as 300 Freeview radio listeners in Scotland would be affected by the change. In contrast BBC Alba would be accessible to thousands of new viewers.
Anecdotally, there are hundreds of potential viewers in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh who cannot access BBC Alba because they live in conservation areas that do not allow satellite dishes to be installed.
But as part of the £105m buy-out deal by Sky, Virgin Media, which is provided to many of these areas on cable "has secured new long-term carriage agreements for its cable TV network for wholesale distribution of Sky's basic subscription channels".
If I understand that properly (it turns out I don't - see the update below) then Virgin Media subscribers will soon have access to Sky's basic platform which includes BBC Alba on Sky channel 168.
This could be great news for people like my sister in Glasgow and her Gaelic-speaking family who have not seen any of the BBC Alba content since the channel was launched two years ago. Will they have to wait another two years or more for the BBC to provide the channel on Freeview or will it be Rupert Murdoch coming up their street to rescue Gaelic broadcasting?
Ross MacLean has tweeted and posted to tell me that the Sky-Virgin Media deal will have no impact on BBC Alba. Here's his comment below, which seems to be disappointing news. However, if Virgin is going to be part of Sky then maybe the BBC Alba deal will apply, and if not, why not do a deal with Virgin too?
Ross MacLean said...
I'm afraid not, Tormod. BBC Alba is available on Sky because Sky has an agreement with the BBC to provide this channel to its customers. If BBC Alba is to appear on Virgin Media, then Virgin Media needs to reach an agreement with the BBC to provide this channel.
Today's news has nothing to do with BBC Alba. The basic channels in the Virgin Media/Sky deal refers to Sky's own channels (Sky1, Sky2, Sky3, Sky News, Sky Arts and Sky Real Lives).