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Gaelic Broadcasting

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 20 October 2022

2. What recent discussions she has had with representatives of MG Alba on the future of Gaelic broadcasting. (901739)

The UK Government have a strong record of demonstrating our commitment to minority language broadcasting, to make sure that our broadcasters serve all audiences of the UK nations and regions. My hon. Friend will recall that during his previous role at the Scotland Office we both met MG Alba’s CEO earlier this year. I am grateful to the chief executive for raising the issues of the sustainability of Gaelic language broadcasting and for providing detailed proposals for change. My officials have since been in regular contact with the organisation and I am continuing to talk to counterparts at the Scotland Office. I will have further discussions with MG Alba in due course.

I am grateful for that answer. Gaelic broadcasting is not just vital culturally and socially, but delivers a positive economic impact. Its future strength, however, requires public sector broadcast status in legislation, akin to that enjoyed by Welsh language broadcasters. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that the forthcoming Media Bill will be an ideal opportunity to provide that.

I entirely appreciate that certainty of future funding and particularly a strong partnership with the BBC are important for MG Alba to deliver for Gaelic speakers. It has legitimate concerns, and I have been examining its proposals in detail. Together with my officials, I am trying to decide whether the forthcoming Media Bill is the best mechanism to address those concerns, or whether the issues are better addressed through the future funding review of the BBC and the subsequent BBC charter review. I assure my hon. Friend that I am very engaged in these issues and want to get to a good solution.

There was a time when Gaelic was spoken in much of my far-flung constituency; that is not the case today. I regard Gaelic as not just a Scottish but a United Kingdom treasure. I respectfully suggest to the Minister that she might benefit from coming to the Gàidhealtachd, where Gaelic is spoken in the Western Isles, perhaps in parts of my constituency, to see what needs to be done to help it.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind invitation, and for highlighting the importance of Gaelic not just as a language but as a cultural asset for our country that we should be proud of. I hope that he feels assured that I have been listening to the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) about MG Alba and wish to ensure that it has a sustainable future.