By Duncan Ferguson, first chairman of Bòrd na Gàidhlig

IN a world dominated by media the importance of broadcasting cannot be overemphasised in efforts to revive lesser used languages and so the 10th anniversary of the establishment of BBC Alba – launched on September 19, 2008 – is cause for celebration for all committed to the survival and advancement of the Gaelic language. That it was set up under the aegis of the BBC was a crucial achievement especially in the context of that year’s global financial crisis and the inevitable questions around the licence fee, charter renewal and the like. Therefore, to have our Scottish Gaelic channel on the first screen of the BBC iPlayer – located between the Parliament channel and S4C (the Welsh language channel) – remains a source of pleasure to language activists.

Indeed the creation of a dedicated Gaelic channel is now acknowledged as one of the key cultural developments of the new millennium in Scotland (cf National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee V & A) and crucially complements Gaelic-medium education; and arguably, in terms of impact, more significant than the Gaelic Language Act (2005).

The channel continues to enjoy a viewership far in excess of the 60,000 speakers of the language thanks to its full range of programming including news, children’s programmes, an impressive range of documentaries, DIY to gardening, Alleluia to sheepdog trials, and the much acclaimed drama series Bannan (aka – among TV drama aficionados – Cold Feet in the Hebrides or Last Tango in Toravaig) and, through sub-titling, is accessible to all.

Its coverage of football, including welcome coverage of the women’s game, excellent profiles of stars like Jimmy Johnstone, Jim Baxter et al, and regular live rugby union in addition to shinty has clearly enhanced viewing figures; but it is surely apocryphal that some Milngavie viewers thought Rugbaidh Beò (live rugby) was about Edinburgh players who did not shower after matches!

The channel has built on well-established radio broadcasting in the language, and television output over the years on both BBC and STV, and the daily news bulletin An Là which can move seamlessly from Tiree crofters to Brexit and from results in the Lewis and Harris leagues to a live update on Barcelona v Real Madrid will surely be a model for news coverage on the new BBC Scotland channel.

As with the radio news programmes, there is an impressive cohort of correspondents and contacts including an expert on the Middle East based in Belfast and a cycling guru resident in Applecross in addition to well-informed political commentators in both Holyrood and Westminster. Eòrpa, which long predated the Gaelic channel, has insightful pan-European coverage and is compulsory viewing for all interested in the EU and our continent generally.

In the realm of traditional music the channel has helped promote what is agreed to be a golden age for that genre nationally and the joint productions with RTE covering both Scottish and Irish musicians have been much appreciated in both Celtic nations; and more collaboration in arts and sport with the national broadcaster in Ireland should be encouraged in the years ahead. The channel continues to give wide coverage of the Royal National Mod and there are no plans to change the format of the nightly highlights by re-branding as The Great Gaelic Sing-off or Strictly Come Ceilidhing with Cathy.

So as we mark 10 years of our dedicated Gaelic channel let us pick up our and raise a glass to all at BBC Alba: slàinte mhath.