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Radio 4 bumped off Freeview by Gaelic TV

Scots lose Voice of Middle England, gain Urban beats

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Radio 4 and Radio Scotland will get bumped off Freeview North of the border when BBC Alba arrives in digital later this year, though the BBC has found space for 1 Extra and 6 Music.

It was feared that as many as 13 radio stations would have to be switched off in the afternoons to make space for BBC Alba, which broadcasts television in the Gaelic language following lunch, but now that TeleG is being shut down only Radio 4 and Radio Scotland need to be bumped off the afternoon schedules.

TeleG broadcasts an hour of Gaelic-language TV each evening, and has been doing so for more than a decade thanks to a clause in the local broadcaster's licence. But BBC Alba is much better funded, and now it's moving onto the Freeview platform there's no room for TeleG any more.

BBC Alba continues to spend money like recession is something that happens to other (English-speaking?) people. Deadline News reckons the station spends about £150 per viewer, down from its peak of more than £250 but still more than the £145 a viewer spends on a (household) TV licence.

The Scottish government is tipping £12.4m into the service this year, while BBC Scotland chips in around £10m to run the station and then spends more money on vital projects such as dubbing Charlie and Lola into Gaelic for the two per cent of Scots who understand a word of it.

How many people tune into BBC Alba isn't clear - the channel doesn't use the normal method of counting viewers (run by BARB) as it's claimed not to represent the Highlands and Islands properly. Instead TNS System Three phones people up and asks them if they watch the channel, and even then finds that fewer than 200,000 people do.

The BBC proudly proclaims that the channel is watched by more people than speak Gaelic (around 92,000 have some understanding, according to the last census). The BBC claims this demonstrates a wide interest in the language, but in fact it demonstrates a wide interest in football, as screened by the channel on a Saturday evening (generally viewed with the volume down).

We'd not question that "Heat from the streets and the freshest beats, hiphop, garage, dancehall, rnb and drum and bass" (as provided by 1 Extra) is more important than the dulcet tones of Radio 4 - as illustrated by the recent explosion of red-haired, tartan-clad rap groups storming the charts - but you'll notice that not many of those groups are singing in Gaelic despite all the money we're spending to encourage them to do so. ®

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