Alba bosses happy with Freeview viewer increase

  • But operating losses for MG Alba increase

One year after its inclusion on the digital terrestrial platform Freeview in Scotland, Gaelic channel BBC Alba has enjoyed record viewing figures, according to the annual report of MG Alba, the organisation who together with the BBC run the Gaelic service on digital TV.

In MG Alba's annual report, published today, it stated that four out of five Gaelic speakers in Scotland now watch the channel. The average 15+ minute weekly reach for BBC Alba increased from 180,000 in 2010/11 to 436,000 in 2011/12, with values for the 3rd quarter (Oct-Dec) exceeding half a million.

Popular content on the channel included coverage of Scottish football matches.

Viewings of BBC Alba content on BBC iPlayer increased from 1.56 million to 2.2 million per year.

In its annual report, MG Alba's Chief executive Donald Campbell wrote:
With BBC ALBA being available universally in Scotland from June 2011, the subsequent performance of the channel and its online catch-up service proved that Gaelic television programmes are valued not just by Gaelic speakers and learners, for whom the channel is a core proposition, but also by the wider Scottish community who are now getting used to fnding accessible, enjoyable and educational content that is not available elsewhere.

At the end of the 2011/12 financial year, MG Alba had an operating deficit after taxation of £382,247, up from last year's deficit of £102,457.

While the channel's viewing boost has been welcomed in some quarters, some Scottish viewers with Freeview are unhappy at the loss of BBC Radio during the times it's on air to accomodate the extra service on channel 8. In particular, BBC Radio Scotland, who simulcast their medium wave service on Freeview can't be received on digital terrestrial during the evenings, when medium wave reception in some parts of Scotland can be at its worst. This a time of day when BBC Radio Scotland sometimes splits its FM and MW schedules.
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