Bha oidhche shoirbheicheil dha-rìribh aig e-Sgoil Diardaoin 2mh den t-Samhain agus Òraid Cuimhneachaidh Aonghais MhicLeòid 2017 ga lìbhrigeadh le Donalda NicFhionghain, Stiùiriche a’ BhBC ann an Alba. Bhruidhinn i mu shuidheachadh a’ BhBC agus craoladh san fharsaingeachd, na dùbhlain a tha roimhpe agus dè na h-amasan a th’ aice airson an àm ri teachd. Thug Donalda iomradh air cuspairean doirbh a leithid call earbsa anns na meadhanan, nach eil daoine òga cho dualtach for a thoirt dhan BhBC ’s a b’ àbhaist agus gum feumar smaoineachadh air prògraman a fhreagras ùidh an luchd-èisteachd nas fheàrr. Thog i cuideachd puingean na bu dòchasaiche a leithid prògram naidheachdan Albannach, fad uair a thìde, a bhios ri fhaighinn bhon ath-bhliadhna agus an t-amas barrachd phrògraman Gàidhlig a thabhann an dà chuid air Radio nan Gàidheal agus BBCAlba a dh’aindeoin ’s cho teann ’s a tha maoineachadh an-dràsta. Lean còmradh beachdail le ceistean inntinneach is freagairtean smaoineachail. (Gheibh sibh briathran na h-òraid air fad gu h-ìseal.)
Ged a bha òraid Dhonalda aig cridhe na h-oidhche, bha iomadh rud inntinneach eile ri fhaicinn ’s ri chluinntinn. Chunnacas dealbhan bho thasglann Aonghais MhicLeòid anns a’ Phàirc agus thug Ealasaid Nic a’ Ghobhainn, nighean Aonghais, cunntas drùidhteach seachad mu bheatha a h-athar. Bha Anna Mhoireach, Oifigear Leasachaidh nan Ealan Ghàidhlig aig Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, air fonn a chur ri pìos bàrdachd a rinn an t-Ollamh Dòmhnall Meek mu Aonghas MacLeòid agus ghabh i an t-òran airson a’ chiad uair air beulaibh dhaoine. B’ e Aonghas MacIllinnein, Ceannard e-Sgoil, a chùm rian air an tachartas, a’ dol eadar luchd-labhairt is àiteachan gu sgileil le measgachadh de dh’fhiosrachadh is àbhachdas. Thàinig an oidhche gu crìch le seinn sailm fo stiùir Mhurchaidh MhicLeòid agus ceòl-bogsa bho Graham MacIllinnein.
B’ e seo an 14mh turas a chaidh òraid a chumail mar chuimhne air Aonghas ‘Ease’ MacLeòid. B’ àbhaist an cumail aig Sgoil na Pàirce le Comunn Eachdraidh na Pàirce agus Urras Leabhraichean nan Eilean agus b’ e seo a’ chiad uair a bha an òraid aig e-Sgoil ann an Steòrnabhagh. Le bhith a’ cleachdadh teicneolais ùir chaidh againn air an òraid a leudachadh a-mach gu luchd-èisteachd fada agus farsaing – gu dearbh, bha daoine ag èisteachd ann an Iapan! – agus thàinig daoine cruinn-còmhla ann an trì eileanan. Bha buidhnean ann an Sgoil na Pàirce (fo stiùir Comunn Eachdraidh na Pàirce agus Urras Lebhraichean nan Eilean), Sgoil Lìonail (Comunn Eachdraidh Nis), Brù (Comunn Eachdraidh Bharabhais agus Bhrù), Càirinis ann an Uibhist a Tuath (e-Sgoil Chairinis) agus aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig san Eilean Sgitheanach. Bha e cuideachd comasach an òraid a choimhead beò ann an àite sam bith le bhith dol air-loidhne agus ghabh còrr is ceud neach an cothrom sin.
B’ e oidhche thlachdmhor a bh’ ann dhan a h-uile duine a bha an sàs agus na dhearbhadh air an co-obrachadh eadar àiteachan is buidhnean anns na h-eileanan.
The Role of the BBC in an Ever Changing Global Communications Industry’, reflecting on how recent political, social, and technical developments have affected the environment in which the BBC works and its future role, with particular reference to broadcasting in Scotland.
A mhnathan, a dhaoin’ uaisle/ a chàirdean. Tha e na urram mhòr dhomh a bhith nur cuideachd a nochd airson na h-òraid seo a thoirt seachad agus gu dearbh’ tha mi fada nur comain airson a thighinn a-mach air oidhche chiùin Geamhraidh agus tha mi’n dòchas, aig deireadh na h-oidhche, nach bi sibh a’gabhail aithreachais nach do dh’fhuirich sibh aig na cagailtean a’coimhead an telebhisein. Tha e math a bhith air ais anns an togalach seo far an robh clasaichean Eachdraidh gan teagasg ‘s mi nam sgoilear bho chionn iomadh bliadhn’air ais agus bliadhnaicheann as dèidh sin, ‘sann do Sgoil Mhic Neacail a thìll mi is mi aig ceann mo chiad chosnaidh nam neach teagaisg. Se urram air leth a th’ann cuideachd a bhith cuimhneachadh Aonghais MhicLeòid a rinn obair cho ion-mholta na bheatha , a’fàgail dìleab phrìseil dha choimhearsnachd fhèin, do dh’oileanaich agus dhuinn uile leis na chruinnich e. Agus tha sin air a bhith na bhuannachd mhòr dhuinne aig a’BhBC agus sinn air iomadh uair a thìde de sgeulachdan agus de eachdraidh a chraobh-sgaoileadh a’togail air a’ bheairteas a dh’fhàg e againn.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be in your company tonight and a real honour to be invited to give this year’s Angus Macleod Memorial Lecture, here in partnership with the new Comhairle nan Eilean Siar e-Sgoil. Rather like opening up the microphone on the airwaves, I extend a hand of friendship not just to all here in the room, but to those joining from elsewhere via these new links with the e-Sgoil. It was also nice to reconnect with this building whose doors I walked through many times as a pupil. It was also here to the Nicolson that I returned as anewly qualified teacher. I was a peripatetic teacher - I say peripatetic in that I didn’t have a class-room of my own and had to move from building to building to teach. Lugging lots of books and jotters meant that I was pretty pathetic by the end of each week. And what a far cry from the fabulous new Nicolson campus and e-Sgoil, now equipped with the latest modern technology.
My lecture this evening is on the subject of “The Role of the BBC in an Ever Changing Global Communications Industry”. I’ve just described reconnecting there and I suppose if there is a recurring theme underpinning what I say this evening and one that I think the BBC and Angus’ work have in common, it might be in the essence of what we do in addressing our abiding need as human beings to connect with one another, with our past and our present and to engage and influence our future through story-telling of one form or another. Change is constant and the pace of change accelerates as decades unfurl but connecting, sharing and participation through stories – familiar and unfamiliar have always been part of the human condition.
In the Angus Macleod archive, I found his reminiscences on ever-changing times. He says:
As I was born in August 1916 I lived through almost the whole of the 20th century – and there have been more changes in the world in the 20th century than in all the previous centuries taken together. It would take me a long time to refer to all the changes that I saw during my lifetime. Here are a few:
I do not think there were any cars in Lewis when I was born in 1916.
Messages were transmitted across the Minch for the first time on the cable that was laid by the ship S.S. La Plata on 28th June 1872. That cable remained in service until 1933.
Telegraphic communication came to Lochs in 1896, first to Crossbost, then subsequently to Balallan, Keose and Gravir.
Television only became available in Lewis in the 1960s.
There were only 20 telephone subscribers in Stornoway in 1929, and none available outside Stornoway except the post offices. Nowadays everybody, even schoolchildren, carry a phone in his or her pocket.
The memories there of Angus Macleod. And although I was born 44 years after Angus, at the end of 1960, I too have seen exponential change in my own life-time. I remember well gathering, with quite a few other contemporaries to watch television in the very few house-holds in Tarbert where a TV set was owned. (I often reflect on how generous and hospitable those neighbours were, not to mention, enormously patient at the never-ending stream of excited youngsters walking through their doors..). The radio was a constant in most homes although an entire radio service in Gaelic would be some years hence. These were my first connections with the BBC – listening to the dance music show on a Saturday night or listening to Gaelic News on the radio and watching BBC One in our neighbour’s house (as that was all there was available to viewers in Harris at the time). When I took up my first role as a Head of Department in BBC Scotland, it was as Head of Gaelic broadcasting. I brought what had been at that time, two separate departments together – Gaelic Radio and Gaelic Television and, it was then that the internet was establishing itself as a platform of increasing relevance. I do think that in 1996, we were one of the few truly multi-platform departments and as money was scarce (as it was then, in relative terms) we could see the potential that connecting teams and taking multi-platform approaches could afford. Se ìnnleachd a ni treabhadh – necessity is the mother of Invention goes the adage. I have to say that I take none of the credit for that and lay it all at the feet of the very talented people who were around me, who succeeded me and who have continued to be pioneers in the BBC and have taken Gaelic media, in partnership with MG ALBA to new heights in so many ways.
John Birt, in his last speech as Director General, predicted that the future would be one of on-demand TV services, that great power would be held by those who would control the ‘gateways’ into the digital world, that the BBC’s audiences would want services on demand and on the move. But even well before that era, in the 1920s, the BBC’s first Chief Engineer, Peter Eckersley, was predicting the future in an extraordinary way and I quote his words:
‘I have a dream about the future. I see the interior of a living room…the conditioned air is fresh and warm. Old-fashioned people would feel uncomfortable without the fire and fireplace, others might miss the raucous brown box we used to call the “wireless”. But flush against the wall there is a translucent screen with numbered strips of lettering running across it. The lettering spells out titles which read like newspaper headlines. These are the titles describing the many different “broadcasting” programmes which can be heard by just pressing the corresponding button…there is an advertising group that offers me “The Tale of the Little Red Drum” (Tobacco Hour), and Horlick’s Current Affairs Debate…Television programmes are set apart. I can, if I like, see the repeat of an old favourite, “The Importance of Being Ernest” or “Centre Court Men’s Semi-finals, Wimbledon.” Not bad for a summer evening at six o’clock… Of course, it is only a dream, but not so completely fantastic as some might imagine. It could all be done using wires rather than wireless to distribute programmes. Let a cable, no thicker than a man’s finger, be laid along the street, outside the houses, and the main part of the installation is completed. The cable would only contain two or three conductors and tappings would be made onto these for branch feeders to bring the service into the houses. The branch ends in the houses would be connected to house receivers. The street cables would be taken to transmitters which would inject programmes into them.” Peter Eckersley in the late 1920s, well before the advent of television was predicting the fully connected world we have today.
Certainly, these feel like rapidly shifting times. On all fronts – social, political, and technological – the environment in which BBC Scotland exists has fundamentally altered, in a media marketplace with a mix of challenges and opportunities. But – change surely must be embraced. It has been said that “70% of businesses which change, fail; but 100% of businesses which don’t change, fail”. A changing landscape can be an exciting landscape, however uncertain and I believe that these are exciting times at BBC Scotland with some key new developments to our offer being planned and due next year with the proposed launch of a new television channel to sit alongside and complement its older sister – BBC ALBA. It will also have to have its own digital expression and the planning for all that is underway.
But in an increasingly divergent and competitive media world, some have called into question whether there is a need for the BBC at all. I would say that a time of change underscores the need for the BBC more than ever. Our core mission, established by John Reith, a Scot and founder Director General – to educate, to entertain and to inform still sit at the core of a relevant 21st century public service broadcaster. And what of the BBC’s early motto, first ascribed to its coat of arms in the 1920s? – “Nation shall speak peace unto nation” – is that any less admirable as a motto for a public service broadcaster in 2017 in a world where existential threat is a real concern through wars of words between hegemonies, terrorism and continuing wars on terror and despotic regimes? And as we continue to commemorate through our output across the BBC, the centenary of the Great War, I am reminded again of the inventiveness and passion for our public service vision expressed by our Gaelic services. And I am particularly proud of their ability to contribute so uniquely by adding to the broadcast offer other initiatives of enormous import by working with others to do so. I am thinking in this instance of the production of Cuimhneachan, a collection of all the Gaelic poetry of World War One, the only anthology of its kind. The poems, all 100 of them, some published for the first time are described by Trevor Royle, the eminent war historian, as ‘a timely and peerless literary response from Scotland’s Gaelic speaking community’. I am very proud of those who, inspired by the content we were making to commemorate the war, brought this anthology to life and am also hugely indebted to the many partnerships we forge with others in the name of public service and on this particular occasion, I wish to record my thanks to Comhairle nan Leabhraichean and to Acair (celebrating its 40th birthday this year). As I was leafing through my copy of Cuimhneachan recently, I was reminded just how close to the period marking the start of the BBC’s history much of the source material in the anthology was when peace had only recently been restored.
In Murdo Morrison’s An Cogadh, he reflects on the fragility of peace, saying:
Tha Sìth a-nis na fògarrach
‘S gun cheòl na h-àite-tamh
Tha trioblaidean is dòrainnean
Is bròn air dhol na h-àit’
O, Shìth, gur duilich, duilich leam
Thu ‘n-diugh a bhith cho tìnn
‘S gun d’ chailleadh fois do chadail
Nar bailtean anns na glinn. (*)
The BBC is approaching its centenary in 2022 and the decisions taken over the coming months will shape BBC Scotland for the next generation. How will this nation prepare, through its airwaves and online, to “speak peace” unto other nations? Certainly, we’re preparing to reform and thrive in the internet age. My hope is that our proposals for next year will lead to a more creative, more distinctive, more personalised BBC. They build on the BBC’s many strengths but remain true to our founding mission— to inform, to educate and to entertain. Critically, they also reflect the financial times in which we live, focused on an efficient BBC, producing the highest-quality programmes and delivering services which in turn offer the best value for money.
Sometimes though, I think that “value for money” is mistakenly equated with penury. I was asked recently if BBC Scotland would be taking a “Lord Mackay of Clashfern approach” to its future spending. I have to say, I hadn’t come across the story before – and it may be that this is something of an apocryphal tale – but in Edinburgh legal circles it is told that Lord Mackay was reportedly hosting a gathering for the Faculty of Advocates. Known for his frugality and his desire to protect the public purse, hungry lawyers arrived at his house to be served microscopic pieces of toast with an equally small pot of honey. (It would never happen in these islands of ours.) Eventually, one of those attending could stay silent no longer: he stared at the tiny honey-pot, and remarked: "I see your Lordship keeps a bee."
Actually, I think the right response to today’s challenges where we will have to make our new investment stretch, is to collaborate with others to do so. I passionately believe that Scotland can have a BBC that excels globally—a BBC that is a powerhouse for creative and economic growth for the whole of the nation. The BBC belongs to the public and we are stewards of an institution that they cherish. As I said on my first day as the new Director Scotland, I believe the BBC’s best days lie ahead, in an era when we can be Scottish, Bold and Creative but we will only do that by working collegiately and collaboratively with others.
So what of that global marketplace? It has been said in the past and recently in some commentary pieces that the BBC is “too big”, or is bloated. I completely accept that producing content from within a £5bn budget is to produce from a position of strength but, the nature of the ever-changing “global” marketplace is that it is now truly global. If the BBC is “too big”, this is compared to whom? The BBC’s £5bn must be viewed in both a UK and worldwide context, where the United Kingdom’s traditional broadcasters are up against giants on a different scale. Sky and BT each turnover more than double the BBC’s budget and globally, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are all reaching consumers of content every day with material backed by resources on a different planet relative to those of the BBC.
And it is in this market that we are increasingly judged. For a young people online this evening here in our island communities, there is a world of content at their disposal, stimulating learning as well as entertaining them at the click of a button. But how much of that content truly speaks of their lives, represents their world and reflects their experiences? Recently, the Scottish MP Marion Fellows was in conversation with a colleague of mine, as she prepared to campaign in parliament for greater commitments to children’s television broadcasting. Mrs Fellows recognised the huge amount of children’s content produced by the BBC – much of it in Scotland – and indeed in our latest annual plan, we announced an additional £34 million investment across the UK for children’s content, in the 3 years to 2019/20. But one of Mrs Fellows’ prime motivations in raising the issue was this point of children seeing themselves on screen: she no longer wanted to hear her grandchildren and their friends “talking like Sponge Bob Square Pants”.
And this is not an uncommon tale. Last year, a small team from BBC Scotland, looking at social media change and our engagement with younger audiences, began a project talking to young people in schools about how they related to traditional broadcasters. It pained us to hear young Scots able to describe the distinction between a Bronx accent and a Queens accent, but not able to differentiate the Doric dialect from the Orcadian. Our audiences tell us that younger role models who look and sound like they live in contemporary Scotland were hard to find but desperately sought – and that in the UK-wide media, a Scottish person was either “shooting grouse or shooting up.” I think that analysis is exaggerated and a little extreme but from this feedback was born a new online offering from BBC Scotland called The Social.
This new social media service has enabled young film makers from around Scotland to bring some amazing experiences to a much wider audience while fulfilling those key BBC values to entertain, educate and inform. We’ve seen videos explaining the use of a red and white cane in a film made by a deaf and blind contributor; we’ve watched the low-down on the Shetland comedy scene; a guide to living with ADHD; and yes, the kilted yoga video, which has now been viewed many million times. You may also have seen the films on wild swimming, made by Gaelic-speaking Calum Maclean (a journalist with An Là at the time, whose hobby this was. From his success with these online films as part of BBC The Social, he’s since been commissioned to make Dhan Uisge for BBC ALBA, with his efforts to explore new places now finding a wider audience on our TV screens. And it hasn’t stopped there – Calum has also now featured as a guest presenter on BBC One’s Landward. This really excites me – if we can continue to answer the challenges of representing all of Scotland’s people, and not just via online platforms, but through all of our existing services too, we’ll ensure that BBC Scotland will be in the habit of reflecting the country to itself and to the world. BBC ALBA by its existence and by affording access through its content to non-Gaelic-speakers has raised awareness of the language and, I believe, instilled a greater sense of self confidence and pride among speakers.
There are challenges beyond quantity however and as we all know, our audiences, particularly the young, are drowning in content but what of the quality? Audiences consistently see quality as their no 1 priority and although attracting and retaining younger audiences present some of our greatest challenge, they are fundamentally not that different in terms of expectation. A recent Ofcom annual public broadcasting report found that young people want public service broadcasting as much as anyone else. 80% of those aged 16 to 24 wanted well-made, high-quality public service programmes compared to 82% of all adults. What about having programmes with new ideas and different approaches? 73% of all adults – and 73% of all those aged 16 to 24. And showing new programmes, made in the UK? 74% of all adults – and yes, 74% of all those aged 16 to 24. And who supplies this content to the audience? Despite this ever-changing world people look to the BBC with particular expectation – rightly so.
So how should the BBC meet this audience need and demand? The new Charter offers great opportunities – and a few challenges – as we aim to make great content that reflects Scotland’s diversity and distinctiveness for audiences here, across the UK and the world. I know there’s a wealth of talent and creativity in BBC Scotland, in the wider sector and in partner organisations. Working brilliantly together, I’m confident we can make compelling and enthralling programmes that entertain and inform all of our audiences. From autumn of next year, providing approval is granted from the BBC’s regulator, OFCOM, as I said earlier, the BBC will launch a new TV channel. It will broadcast every evening, providing a wide range of content. Further, it will work in close partnership with the creative sector, national institutions and other broadcasters to produce and acquire material. And alongside colleagues across the BBC we want to reinvent the BBC for a new generation working across Radio Scotland, Radio nan Gàidheal, BBC ALBA, BBC ONE Scotland, the iPlayer and all our other online and digital outlets.
We have a proud history of delivering quality content from Scotland for network radio, Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the digital radio networks. We have also been making major investments in Scottish programming across the BBC’s Network TV output, with a particular focus on the commissioning of Drama and Factual programmes. Compared to 2015/16, this means we will be investing over £20m more, per year, over the three years to March 2019, enabling the development, creation and delivery of more content from Scotland to the BBC’s networks. And we have formalised our commitment to another £1.2 million into BBC ALBA – which takes the total new investment in Scotland to an additional £40 million by 2020.
A share of our investment reflects the new political reality. As the pace of devolution quickens—and as the UK changes more quickly than in recent history—we need to adapt our services to ensure they fully reflect and report the increasingly divergent politics of the UK. The BBC, in principle, should neither lead nor lag behind constitutional changes in the United Kingdom. Our priority around the country is to ensure we arm citizens in all four Nations with the information they need to make sense of their world and help hold those in power to account. In a more devolved UK, news in some parts of the country simply does not apply in others. The politics and economics of the country is becoming more varied, the business of reporting it more complicated. The BBC has a responsibility to ensure it is informing the audience in the most effective and relevant way. We believe the time has come for us to strike a better balance between the delivery of pan-UK news and news tailored to the distinctive needs and agenda of the devolved Nations of the UK.
After devolution, the 2014 independence referendum and in a world where large aspects of public policy are devolved in the Nations, there is now a much stronger case for providing a different balance in how we serve audiences with the most relevant BBC News and current affairs. As part of our recent announcements, we confirmed our ambition to launch a new Scottish hour-long integrated news programme, edited and presented from Scotland. This will feature 60 minutes of news and comment from around the world, around the UK and around the Nation, reported through a distinctly Scottish prism as we continue to neither lag nor lead the devolution process. Our developments with the news offering will include the extension of our Gaelic news service, providing weekend coverage for the first time on Radio nan Gàidheal and on BBC ALBA.
And robust news coverage from a Scottish public broadcaster is now more vital than ever. In a digital world, one increasingly filled with user-generated content, it can be difficult to determine what is real and what is not. There are hundreds of millions of Facebook profiles – but amongst those it is estimated, by Facebook itself, that multiple millions could be fake. The BBC defines Fake News as false information deliberately circulated by hoax news sites to misinform, usually for political or commercial purposes. Social media, and particularly Facebook, amplify these stories and can enable their authors to make large sums from online advertising. The role of social media in this phenomenon means that the audiences for Fake News tend to be younger than users of traditional news output. In accordance with the BBC’s editorial guidelines we are committed to achieving the highest standards of accuracy and impartiality and to being rigorous in establishing the truth of the story. We strive at all times to avoid knowingly misleading our audiences.
BBC News does not publish stories it knows to be false and goes to great lengths to check the provenance and accuracy of all stories. More than a decade ago, the BBC established a User Generated Content Hub as the first dedicated eye witness verification unit in a newsroom. Over time we have adopted a number of forensic techniques for scrutinising contributions from members of the public (pictures, video and audio) and have self-help guides and training for BBC journalists. In recent years the team's focus has shifted towards an examination of contributions and stories found on social-media platforms using open source geolocation software and third-party tools.
And you may have seen the work of the BBC’s principal fact-checking service on air – Reality Check – which runs on TV, on the website and via social media. This service challenges news stories and statements from public figures which may be false or misleading and presents the verifiable facts instead. Beyond the BBC, Fake News has highlighted the difficulties of platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter which have tended to provide unmediated access for large audiences to this material. In his recent letter about the future of Facebook, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg conceded that Fake News, polarised views and "filter bubbles" were damaging common understanding and committed his platform to play its part in resisting this trend. I’m sure we all know that on the web, everything is not always what it seems, Wikipedia isn’t always wholly accurate and we should tread warily when offered news or information from sites in which we are not necessarily 100% confident. It is for that reason, more than any other, I contend that the need for sources of information in which we can trust, in particular, for authoritative, impartial and independent journalism is as paramount today as it has ever been and arguably more so. BBC Scotland’s news teams – via our existing strands and our new programmes coming next year – will continue to play their key part in delivering this trusted source.
Let’s be clear though – I do believe that we already have a successful base on which to build. We’ve had a great year bringing the best of Scotland to the world. Over this past summer, the finest Scottish talent has been woven throughout the BBC’s output. In July, it was a privilege to see the National Youth Choir of Scotland sing so movingly at ceremonies in Ypres at the Menin Gate and at Tyne Cot cemetery, broadcast live on BBC One, BBC Two and on the news channel. This marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. Seachdain ‘s a’ Chogadh on Radio nan Gàidheal has been an amazing source of the most poignant moments of the war.
In August, we had Jim Naughtie’s radio documentary, Nothing Short of a Miracle (made in association with the Scottish Documentary Institute) told the story of how The Edinburgh Festival was founded 70 years ago in the aftermath of World War Two. Let’s not forget too how moved audiences were, seeing Billy Connolly reflect on his life and career around his 75th birthday, as he sat for portraits with three Scottish artists in our BBC2 programme. Meanwhile, I couldn’t quite believe it had been 30 years since I first heard “Lochaber no more, Sutherland no more, Lewis no more, Skye no more” in the Proclaimers’ Letter from America – and I shared David Tennant’s excitement in his BBC Scotland documentary as he marked those 30 years since that pivotal Scottish album. And what a great year for Bannan on BBC ALBA – filmed of course across the water in Skye – with Young Films not only securing a commission for four more years of the series, but also now selling this drama to overseas broadcasters too. If these great examples of “Scotland to the world” are already possible within our current structures, imagine the impact a new Scotland service can have in this space, adding to our portfolio in Scotland.
If I may quote from the Deputy First Minister’s speech at this very lecture last year, what he said about Scotland’s languages also has parallels for the nurturing of our creative industries here. Last year, John Swinney reflected “I want us to frame a dynamic agenda for economic growth and development in the use of the language and to see the opportunities to ensure the language can generate to create wealth, employment and opportunities in Scotland. Harnessing the energy of the Gaelic movement, combining it with the unlimited potential of digital technology, I believe we have an unrivalled opportunity to create a much stronger footprint of economic activity from Gaelic than at any time in our history.” So much of this applies to the work of the creative industries, of harnessing the fantastic talents and skills which already exist in this nation, learning from experience and ensuring we provide the platforms for fantastic new Scottish content to be seen and heard. With a new channel, sitting alongside our other services, I believe that BBC Scotland will be an enabler for growth in the sector, while further underlining – especially in these times – the need for a strong, public-service broadcaster to meet the 21st Century challenges and to continue to serve our audiences with the very best.
In that James Naughtie radio programme on the birth of the Edinburgh Festival, he concluded by saying “A chance was seized – that was all – and what consequences flowed from that moment”. It’s my mission to ensure that with BBC Scotland’s future, at the beginning of this new Charter period that a chance is absolutely seized connecting with, engaging with and enabling audiences and partners – and that the consequences flowing from that moment will indeed be profound, not just for broadcasting, but for the whole of Scotland’s creative landscape. ‘And audiences will remain firmly at the heart of what we do as we rely on them to remain our critics, our contributors and our constant companions. And whatever further change lies ahead alongside technological developments that we can barely imagine now, there remains the certainty of which I spoke at the beginning of this lecture. We will still wish to connect with our past, present and future through great story-telling.
Just as Angus Ease Macleod seized his chances to record, collect and connect with people in his own community and across the Highlands to leave the richest legacy of their stories and moments in history, my enduring hope is that with communities and individuals telling their stories and connecting with us, I and my colleagues will follow in Angus’ footsteps to leave a legacy upon which the future of the BBC is secure, long after we are gone.
Mo mhìle taing airson èisteachd agus airson ur cuideachd an nochd.