Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund

Broadcasting is an important part in any strategy for the promotion of a culture or language and Ulster-Scots is no exception.  Unfortunately both Ulster-Scots culture and the Ulster-Scots language have been treated very poorly over the years by public service broadcasters, in terms of both radio and television.  However there is evidence that things are starting to change.

The United Kingdom government has committed to fund a new Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund at £1million a year over the next five years from 2010 to 2015.  This money comes directly from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London and will be handled by Northern Ireland Screen, which will establish an Ulster-Scots sub-committee to oversee the funding.

The Irish Language Broadcast Fund has done much for Irish language broadcasting and I have no doubt that this will result in much more Ulster-Scots broadcasting on both radio and television. 

This is something that I have been campaigning about for several years and my predecessor, Gregory Campbell MP MLA, also pressed the Northern Ireland Office on this matter. In recent weeks I had the opportunity to speak about it directly to the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, and I am delighted that he has acceded to the request for direct funding from London.

Some of the money will be directed towards  Ulster-Scots language programmes but most of it will probably be directed towards programmes about Ulster-Scots culture and history.  For example, we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant, which was signed in 1912.  It was the birth certificate of Northern Ireland and it was modelled on and inspired by the old Scottish covenants.  Another example would be the Siege of Derry, when so many Ulster-Scots sought refuge behind the walls of the Maiden City.

This is an important development and an important element in the forthcoming strategy for Ulster-Scots, which is due to be completed by the end of March.


  1. I am all for the Ulster Scots tongue being promoted. Family back in the Glens of Antrim speak with this brogue.

    On the Irish language:
    Will there be a strategy also for the Irish language? What will this involve (in terms of Irish and Ulster Scots)?

    I am a Unionist and an Irish Language Speaker and am very interested in seeing the Irish Language being depoliticised in the same way that the Welsh language has been- after all the Irish language in Northern Ireland saw revival through Protestant speakers and activists (e.g. the women group in Cushendall).

    The language has been a very important strand in the cultural tapestry of Northern Ireland since 4 AD. There needs to be a joint effort in this to promote the language as having had a significant part in the lives of ALL our ancestors at one time whether having being part of Unionist or Nationalist backgrounds.

    The language spoken and taught in Northern Ireland is from the Ulster dialect, quite different from those in the Republic

    Interestingly to quote another Irish speaking Unionist:
    "The language actually defends the unionist position as it links us with Scotland, Wales and Cornwall and actually England too. England is as Celtic a nation as we are. I would see the language as linking us with Celtic peoples (and therefore British people)..."

    Please don't let the Irish Language of Northern Ireland simply be exclusive to one section of the community- let it be available for all, for everyone to embrace if they so choose.

    Thank you,

    Anton Thompson

  2. Anton
    The strategy for the Irish language and the strategy for the Ulster-Scots language and culture will be the two parts of a Minority Languages Strategy, which is due for completion by the end of March.
    One of the principles behind the strategy will be the promotion of a 'shared and better future'and that has to include the depoliticisation of the Irish language. I am keen therefore to look at opportunities for sharing and overlap between the two strands of the overall strategy.
    Some of the Gaelic revivalists were indeed Protestants althout most of them were also nationalists eg Douglas Hyde. However there were a few of the Protestant activists who were also unionists.
    As regards the word Celtic I regard this as a linguistic term and I am therefore rather uncomfortable with the terms 'Celtic people' or 'Celtic nation'. Nowadays there is a lot of rethinking among academics about the whole story of the Celts.
    I look on Scotland as the closest parallel, with two minority languages, both of which are sister languages to the minority languages in Ulster, and I met with a number of Scottish academics last year to see what insights they could give to the process.
    This is something that needs to be taken seriously by government and it will be.

  3. I am delighted to see that £1m a year is coming the Ulster Scots way. But it is a pittance compared to the monies promised to the Irish Language. I also see that most of the money is to go to Ulster Scots History projects. As usual the Ullans/Ulster Scots Language programmes are bottom of the pile. God knows they are thin enough on the ground with the content of some of those that do exist little to do with the Hamely Tongue. Mainly people talking about the history of the Ulster Scots and the like. All very necessary and commendable but I think Ulster Scots History merits its own programme. Ulster Scots Language progammes should be just that 'Language programmes'.

  4. Charlie
    The Irish Language Broadcast Fund was started quite a few years ago under direct rule and is still funded directly from London at the same figure of £3m a year. This built on previous work by the BBC to develop Irish language broadcasting. Their current funding is up to 2011 and the additional £12 for the ILBF will take it through to 2015.
    As regards Ulster-Scots broadcasting, both language and culture,we do not have the same background and that is largely due to years of neglect by the BBC, which is the public service broadcaster. It is an issue I have been lobbying about for many years and I can remember going into the BBC more than ten years ago, along with your son, to press for some Ulster-Scots broadcasting because at that time there was none at all.
    The BBC has its own budget for Ulster-Scots, just as it has its own budget for Irish, and the additional £1m a year from London will be on top of this. The money is no longer the issue but rather the commitment of the BBC to deliver both language and cultural programmes.
    As regards the allocation of money to language and culture, that will be determined by applications from producers and broadcasters, and I was merely indicating that I think there will be more applications for culture than language, certainly at this point, but there is no reason why NI Screen could not set a quota for language programmes.
    There are two matters that the BBC will have to address and the first is its obligation as a public service broadcaster under the Council of Europe Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The second is the forthcoming Ulster-Scots strategy, which is due for completion by the end of March. Broadcasting and education are key elements in any linguistic or cultural strategy and the strategy will place a strong emphasis on delivery by the BBC on its language obligations.
    The key issue for me is that we have established the case for an Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund. That argument is over and we have won it and we now have a basis on which we can build.
    Finally, this is not the end of the story and there will be other developments for Ulster-Scots language and culture in the near future.

  5. I have no problem people wanting to leanrn and speak Irish Language.I failed at Age 5 to manage it and never regreatted it However how should it be funded?

    broadcasting schools

  6. I feel anything that gets us to think and move forward should be congratulated. I produced a film called Kings. That film although mainly in Irish focused on homeless men in London, something not particular to religion or politics. The film could be understood by Irish speakers and was subtitled for those who could not. Northern Ireland Screen did a great job in helping make and promoting Kings. It won many awards throughout the world. Surely award winning films could be made in Ulster Scots too. My only fear would be that programmes would be about Ulster Scots and not in it.

  7. I think that there will probably be a mixture of programmes in the Ulster-Scots language, programmes baout the Ulster-Scots language and programmes about aspects of Ulster-Scots history and culture. There will also, I am sure, be a mixture of factual, fiction and entertainment programmes. There will be opportunity for the Ulster-Scots sub-committee in Northern Ireland Screen to set appropriate criteria but ultimately we will have to wait and see and time will tell.

  8. "I look on Scotland as the closest parallel, with two minority languages, both of which are sister languages to the minority languages in Ulster, and I met with a number of Scottish academics last year to see what insights they could give to the process."

    With respect, I doubt very much whether you were able to find a single academic in Scotland of the view that Ulster Scots is not the same language as Scots; if you did, please provide their names. The language of Burns is closer to that of Ulster than it is to Northern or Insular Scots, yet few people claim these more differentiated varieties as languages.

  9. Scots Anorak - you have made your point many times and it is becoming a bit repetitive but the fact remains that the United Kingdom government, at the time of ratifying the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, recognised Scots as a minority language in Scotland and Ulster-Scots as a minority language in Northern Ireland and there the matter rests. I am more interested in the encouragement of Ulster-Scots and in that regard the new Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund and other forthcoming developments are postive and welcome.
    Finally I do find it rather strange conversing with an anorak. Perhaps you might care to take down the hood of the anorak and say who you are?

  10. I suppose Scots and Ulster-Scots are sister languages just like English and American-English.
    For example:

    English: I'll organise the defence of the colour of my carburettor.
    American-English: I'll organize the defense of the color of my carburetor.

    There are unfortunately some ill-informed cynics who think that just because Americans speak with a different accent and spell things differently than Brits it doesn't make American-English a different language. Fools, the lot of them, what's worse they just call them both English.

  11. Hi Nelson.

    My name is humbulani Rambau, writing to you from South Africa. I write on www.humbulanirambau.blogspot.com. Kindly forward me weblinks of the following organisation Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund and Irish Language Broadcasting Fund and any other documents related to the establishment of the above funds, I am conducting research on how these funds are constituted and administered.

    Hope to receive your invaluable inputs.
    Humbulani Rambau
    email: humbulani@doc.gov.za

  12. The Irish Language Broadcast Fund is administered by Northern Ireland Screen, which has a sub-committee to deal with Irish language broadcasting and the chair of the sub-committee is a member of the main board. You will find information about the ILBF on their website www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk

    The Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund is a new development and will be administered in the same way by Northern Ireland Screen, with an Ulster-Scots sub-committee. The fund is not yet in place but will be fairly soon.