A new four-year deal for the production of drama content on BBC ALBA has been agreed, it has been announced today.
Funded by MG ALBA, the Gaelic Media Service – one of the partners behind BBC ALBA – the new contract with Young Films secures the future of the channel’s drama series, Bannan and marks a significant investment in drama for the channel.
Filmed on the Isle of Skye, and produced by The Inbetweeners’ Chris Young, 23 episodes of Bannan have been produced since 2014, with five of those due to be aired on BBC ALBA in the autumn. The success of Bannan has led to an international deal being signed for the series with DRG, one of the leading independent distributors of programmes in the world.
The new contract, running until 2021, will lead to at least 20 episodes being produced for the channel. The announcement was made prior to a screening of Bannan at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and coincided with the launch of MG ALBA’s annual report for 2016/17.
Maggie Cunningham, chair of MG ALBA, said: “The development of drama was a key milestone for BBC ALBA and since it was first broadcast in 2014, Bannan has proved popular with both our core Gaelic audience and non-Gaelic speakers alike.
“We’re pleased to announce a four-year deal with Young Films, which will provide longer-term certainty for Bannan’s ongoing development. In recent years we have awarded a number of multi-year volume deals to producers for other genres and seen resulting cost savings and collaborations which in turn has allowed more new programmes to be made. Whilst drama production comes at a significantly higher cost than other genres, MG ALBA believes longer-term planning for Bannan can bring similar benefits and also, that such strategic investment in drama enables us to create a strong creative foundation that benefits the future of Gaelic on screen, by strengthening the skills vital to telling our stories.”
Chris Young, of Young Films, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we are entering into this new four year deal for Bannan. My dream was always to create a popular and successful long-running Gaelic language drama that works for Gaelic, national and international audiences. Thanks to support from MG ALBA, Creative Scotland and Scottish Government as well as the outstanding contribution from everyone in the Bannan team, this has now become a reality.
“With this new deal we have a unique opportunity to take our storylines and characters in unexpected and exciting directions. It also gives us scope to develop our training programme on a more strategic basis, continuing our ambition to create a new generation of Scottish and Gaelic film and television talent. We hope to do this in partnership with MG ALBA and agencies such as Skills Development Scotland, Creative Scotland, BBC, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and others. We look forward to providing exciting new TV drama over the next four years from Bannan’s growing team of talented new writers, directors and performers.”
Launching MG ALBA’s annual report, Ms Cunningham added that many of the challenges that faced BBC ALBA were still present in the wake of the Charter renewal process, and that MG ALBA was still pressing the case for more new content.
Maggie Cunningham continued: “A key tenet of MG ALBA’s strategy is to encourage international co-productions from our producers. This has involved significant work with our independent producers and we are now starting to see this work come to fruition, with £950,000 of added value for the channel already coming from current long-term deals as a result of collaboration. A fine example of this is Port, a musical series presented by Julie Fowlis that has enjoyed significant acclaim from audiences in Scotland and Ireland. With the advent of the new BBC Scotland channel, we will explore opportunities that this may give us.
“Whilst we are determined to ensure every pound we spend works as hard as it can for the BBC ALBA audience, it must be acknowledged that there is a limit to what can be achieved with our current budget and that more investment in programming is required.
“The BBC Charter has now been agreed for the next 11 years and whilst our ask of 10 hours of original programming per week for the channel has not been met, we have had some assurance that there will be progress towards this target over the next few years. The BBC has committed to weekend news bulletins on BBC ALBA from Autumn 2018 and we will continue to work closely in partnership with the BBC to ensure that there is continued investment in the channel.
“Our future work will also be particularly important in engaging younger viewers, with our research showing that BBC ALBA is being challenged by new digital platforms in much the same way UK network channels are also experiencing. It is vital that we are equipped to provide a service to our younger demographic in a way that is accessible and engaging, and we will be bringing forward new initiatives to address this over the coming months and years.”