The contribution of BBC ALBA to Gaelic: a social and economic review

Douglas Chalmers, Mike Danson, Alison Lang, Lindsay Milligan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)


After it was launched in September 2008, BBC ALBA stands out as a significant milestone for Gaelic language and culture; it is the fi rst dedicated Gaelic-medium television channel in history. The channel is a BBC-licensed service that is operated as a partnership between the BBC and the MG ALBA. It combines three media (television, radio and internet), an annual content budget of £14 million and targets a weekly viewership of 250,000 persons. This means that the channel is expected to be attracting more viewers to Gaelic television than there are people who understand the language in Scotland, since only 78,402 people aged above 3 years were reported to understand Gaelic in the 2001 census (GROS, 2005). In achieving this goal, the channel functions on a budget that is signifi cantly lower than those for minoritised languages in Wales (£104 million for S4C in 2010) and Ireland (€55 million for TG4). Nevertheless, since its launch BBC ALBA has gone from strength to strength and achieves an average weekly viewing reach of 220,000. In this chapter, we will discuss the channel’s position and contribution to the contemporary use of Gaelic in Scotland, beginning with a brief discussion of the policy framework out of which the channel arises, the kinds of economic impacts it is making, and fi nally discussing its social importance. The media have previously been critiqued in terms of their importance to the reversing of language shift for minoritised languages (see Fishman, 1991), but more recent criticism suggests that the advent of Web 2.0 means that media provision that is able to connect to its audience through multiple platforms (e.g. BBC ALBA) may, in fact, be a strong contributor to a language’s present and future linguistic vitality (see the contributions of Cormack and Jones to this volume). While the chapter will ultimately applaud the channel’s contribution to Gaelic development in Scotland, especially around its economic impact (Chalmers & Danson, 2009), it will pose questions about the potential limits of media in terms of their ability to foster the acquisition and usage of minoritised languages.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial Media and Minority Languages: Convergence and the Creative Industries
EditorsElin Haf Gruffydd Jones, Enrique Uribe-Jongbloed
PublisherMultilingual Matters & Channel View Publications
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781847699053
ISBN (Print)9781847699046
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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