BBC ALBA's contributions to Gaelic language planning efforts for reversing language shift

Lindsay Dombrowski, Douglas Chalmers, Mike Danson, Alison Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


BBC ALBA is the first dedicated Gaelic-medium television channel in history. It launched in September 2008 and, in late 2010, announced that it would be carried on Freeview, in addition to Sky, Freesat, and BBC iPlayer, thereby widening access to Gaelic throughout Scotland. The channel is a BBC-licensed service that is presently operated as a partnership between the BBC and MG ALBA1. It combines three media (television, radio, and the internet) with an annual content budget of £14m while targeting a weekly viewership of 250,000 persons. In this article, we discuss the channel in the context of language planning for Gaelic in Scotland. We begin with a brief discussion of the policy framework out of which the channel arises, then analyse the kinds of economic impacts it is making, and finally consider its social importance for reversing language shift goals. The media have previously been critiqued in terms of their importance to the RLS for minoritised languages, 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. We argue that BBC ALBA is able to make a tangible economic contribution that is in line with broader RLS efforts for Gaelic in Scotland, but question the limits of media in terms of their ability to foster the acquisition and usage of minoritised languages, a key goal for language planning for minoritised languages.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)349-361
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Cite this