Ulster-Scots/Irish Language Broadcast Funds

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Arts and Leisure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 22 June 2015.

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Photo of Nelson McCausland Nelson McCausland DUP 3:00, 22 June 2015

6. Mr McCausland asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what methodology was used in assessing the relative need for future funding for the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund and the Irish Language Broadcast Fund. (AQO 8451/11-15)

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his question. The most urgent need at the moment is to get a commitment from Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, to continue both funds beyond 2016 and up to 2021 at least. Following the formation of the new British Government, I wrote to Mr Vaizey to request a renewed and increased commitment to the broadcast funds. I will be arguing for relative funding levels and uplifts to that amount on the basis of need as these discussions develop.

Photo of Nelson McCausland Nelson McCausland DUP

I asked how the Minister would assess relative need, which is the core issue of the question. I remind her that, on a previous occasion, reference was made to viewing figures as one of the factors that would be taken into account in measuring relative need. What are the factors?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

I am happy to provide the Member with details, but viewing figures are one aspect and we would need to be careful about them. Some of the criticisms that the Member and other Members, particularly in his party, have made about the content of some of the programmes would not be a good parameter to use, particularly if you are using viewing figures. That would not reflect the needs in the community. It is one measurement, but there are others. Demand is another aspect when it comes, for example, to the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund. I know that, when it comes to the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, demand for new funding, if it is realised, is already there. Apprenticeships and training are already there, as are local commissioning producers, for both funds.

I will provide the Member with details about how we assess need, but I would urge him not to use viewing figures as the main way to determine need because that will not ensure that the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund will get the funding that the Member feels it needs.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

The Minister is aware that I have asked her a number of questions about funding for Ulster-Scots radio broadcasts, especially on fUSe FM 107·5 in Ballymoney. Is any equivalent funding available? Foras na Gaeilge has the community Irish language radio scheme; would there be any similar funding for an Ulster-Scots-based radio station?

Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin

The money from Foras na Gaeilge and through the broadcast fund is primarily for the development, enhancement and protection of the Irish language. It covers apprenticeships, training and sustainability. It is important that even through the Ulster-Scots community and 107·5 FM, the people in the Member's constituency come forward with plans and open discussions with the Ulster-Scots Agency, which, I believe, has been and will be instrumental in shaping the way in which Ulster-Scots funding is developed in future, and that includes broadcast funds as well.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

The time for listed questions is up, and we now move on to topical questions.