Viewing figures for the first week of a new digital TV channel, dedicated to Gaelic language programming, are being hailed as a success.
More than 600,000 viewers – including one in four (23 per cent) of viewers in the Highlands and Islands – tuned into BBC Alba during its first week of broadcasting, following the channel’s launch on the 19th of last month.
Throughout Scotland, an average 15 per cent of the population has watched the channel, which is available only on Sky and Freesat.
According to research carried out by TNS System Three, the channel – a joint partnership between the BBC and Scottish government-backed MG ALBA – is known about by 57 per cent of Scots.
Some 82 per cent of Gaelic speakers with access to the service had watched the channel over the first week. Of those viewers, 87 per cent watched for more than two hours.
Says BBC Alba’s head of service, Margaret Mary Murray: “We are delighted with the reaction to the channel. It has been a huge team effort for the partnership and for our producers and suppliers.
“Our service strategy was to create attractively different programmes which would serve the Gaelic communities but also appeal to a broad national audience.
“People seem to be drawn in by the freshness and originality of the channel’s approach and we will work hard to maintain their interest.”
Adds MG Alba head of content, Alan Esslemont: “There would appear to be an appetite for quality distinctive Scottish programming in prime time and BBC Alba is trying to cater for part of that demand. It is especially encouraging that a very high ratio of non-Gaelic speakers have discovered the station.
“Being carried solely on satellite means that only one person in three in Scotland has access to BBC Alba and the largest single impediment to the growth of the channel is the lack of universal carriage. Within Scotland there is both a willing audience and the talent to produce.”
BBC Alba is available on Sky satellite channel 168 and Freesat 110.