A new Gaelic language digital television channel could launch in Scotland as early as 2007 in a deal agreed between Scottish Media Group, owners of the Scottish and Grampian channel 3 licences in Scotland, and OFCOM, the communications regulator.

SMG have agreed to part fund the channel in exchange for the release of primetime public service commitments. The remainder of the funding is expected to come from the BBC and Scottish Executive.

The decision follows the public criticism of the government, by Western Isles MP Calum McDonald, over the level of funding for Gaelic programming. Funding of the Gaelic Media Service is now expected to double to £16 Million. It is presently unclear how the current Gaelic digital television channel, Tele-G, fits into the agreement. Tele-G broadcasts for just one hour per day, 6pm-7pm in Scotland. The new digital channel is expected to greatly increase hours throughout primetime.

Publicly, Gaelic groups in Scotland have broadly welcomed the plans whilst privately there is some criticism and anger that fewer Gaelic programming is to be available on “mainstream Scottish television”. However, Gaelic programming will not be reduced until the new digital channel has been broadcasting for at least 12 months. Currently, two thirds of the population receive digital television and Scotland will be amongst the first to totally convert to digital transmissions between 2008 and 2010. As a result, Gaelic programming should receive more airtime rather than less.

The Celtic and Irish Cultural Society supports the establishment of a new digital channel for Scottish Gaelic speakers and hopes that coverage will be made to as wide an area as possible, throughout the United Kingdom.

[TELE-G][BBC News][Digital Spy Article]

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