The BBC Trust has launched its public value test (PVT) into BBC management's plans for a Gaelic Digital Service. At the same time, media regulator Ofcom has started its market impact assessment (MIA) into plans for the digital channel, which will broadcast for up to seven hours each day, seven days a week, and include 1.5 hours of original programming.
The Gaelic channel will be run as a joint venture between BBC Scotland and Seirbheis nam Meadhanan Gàidhlig (the Gaelic Media Service). Depending on the regulatory probes, the channel could be on air by March 2008.
Jeremy Peat, the BBC National Trustee for Scotland, said the probes would be "rigorous". "The Trust is responsible for ensuring that licence fee payers receive value for money from distinctive and high quality BBC services. In considering the proposal for a new Gaelic Digital Service the Trust will listen to a wide range of voices across our audiences, seeking to understand all opinions and expectations.
"The PVT will be based in Scotland and the views passed to us through the consultation periods will inform our judgement."
Ofcom said the Gaelic Digital Service would be the BBC's first UK public service to be substantially funded by a party external to the BBC. "Its £17.9m annual running cost will be made up of £10.1m from the Gaelic Media Service and £7.8m from the BBC. £2.5m of the BBC spend is new expenditure on Gaelic," said Ofcom.
SMG, which owns the two ITV franchises in Scotland, will promote the channel and provide some programming. Ofcom said the Gaelic Media Service had purchased SMG's entire archive of Gaelic programmes for the new channel.
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