Thursday, October 25, 2007

Minority Report

News that the BBC are to spend £18m on a Gaelic language channel to serve the remaining 70,000 Scots who still speak their native language (Polish is the second tongue in Scotland) at a time when the corporation has been met with derision by the English press.

But, surely, this is what public broadcasting should be about - filling the non-commercial gaps.

It's impossible to explain to someone from a majority language what it is like to grow up in a minority culture, especially when it has been subsumed into a 'foreign' language, as the indigenous British languages have by Latin, Germanic and Frankish influences.

The Welsh language was banned from schools and the workplace and for eight hundred years the English systematically tried to wipe it out. Two things saved it - the translation of the bible into Welsh by William Morgan and the establishment of a Welsh television channel, S4C.

Welsh is amongst the oldest and poetic languages in the world and its rich culture has spilled over to enrich other cultures - look at the influence of Dylan Thomas on English literature.

In a world where more money can be spent on changing the plan for a bypass to save a handful of crested newts, I draw two conclusions from this.

Television can make a positive contribution to culture and the money spent by the BBC trying to save what is left of one of an ancient and neglected language is well worthwhile.

Internet TV promises much, but in this instance a traditional TV approach is essential in the more remote reaches of the country where the Gaelic is still a living language.

No comments: