Objective 9: High quality broadcast services through the medium of Irish will be ensured, especially through the continuous development of RTÉ, Raidió na Gaeltachta and TG4.
The Irish language in the twenty-first century is already charting its course in new directions. The traditional sectors of education, community, arts, and media are no longer discrete domains in which separate individual policies can be formulated and implemented. Languages which were previously disadvantaged by their dispersed community base are now well-positioned to benefit from opportunities for innovation through new communications and media technologies. These developments have immense potential for resource building in the arts and education and open up new channels for individuals and communities to increase their knowledge and regular use of Irish.
Reading, Writing and Speech
Building ability in reading and writing Irish requires new thinking beyond the limitations of the printed word reproduced on paper. Future policy must take account of the opportunities for linking developments in the arts, media, technology and education, as well as building on the traditional models of creating and disseminating content. Opportunities for reading and writing in Irish, which includes the production of all print media and literature in the language, and its application in education, culture and leisure, need to be exploited by a combination of traditional and innovative means. This includes those modes of communication that make little use of written language. New media and technologies should also be employed to increase public participation in reading and writing Irish in new ways and places.
Traditional products like printed newspapers, magazines and books will continue to be produced and supported where effective distribution channels and reasonable sales can be established and verified. Support limited mainly to production of these single-media materials is ineffective without distribution and marketing supports, and a reasonable threshold of public demand. Easy public access to printed materials in Irish in newsagents, bookshops and on the internet is essential if literature and print journalism are to be sustainable into the future.
As technologies and marketing techniques are continually evolving, the most effective strategy for developing reading and writing in Irish is likely to change significantly in the coming years and will need to be constantly reviewed. The reading and writing of Irish will be supported through CDs, DVDs, audio books and print media in the short- to medium-term through:
- development of literary events and activities in public libraries throughout the year (and not only during Seachtain na Gaeilge) - author-readings, launches, reading and listening clubs, and literary programmes for schools;
- guided reading programmes in schools at specific points of intervention (e.g. 5th class in primary school, transition year in post-primary and in Irish Summer Colleges, where listening to and reading of books and other materials in Irish would be led by an author or critic to support development of individual reading habits);
- prominent display of new materials in Irish in selected designated leading bookstores, with suitable promotional materials, stands, bookmarks, promotional events, window-displays and author presence (with collaboration and support of relevant public agencies if necessary);
- development of a modern on-line stock and order management system, managed by the main distribution agency for CDs/DVDs/books in Irish, where orders can be placed electronically 24/7, and tracked by booksellers, Irish-language publishers and individual purchasers awaiting orders;
- development of an attractive on-line store for Irish materials, showcasing new titles, authors, reviews, blogs and other resources, which could also be used in schools and classes for adult learners;
- promotion and development of book clubs in Irish as a priority in local community language initiatives, and provision of appropriate on-line support for book clubs;
- development of at least one physical literary Irish-language venue or space in Dublin, including a CD/DVD/bookshop, a programme of literary events, and facilities like a coffee-shop, where individuals and families could enjoy meeting;
- development of a literary promotion brief by RTÉ and TG4, with a key role in literary awards, book programmes, profiling of authors and contributing to their visibility and media status, and cultivation of stronger links between writing for the media and for book publication as ‘complementary’ activities; and
- development of initiatives to encourage writing in Irish by young people in a range of media - journalism, blogging, creative writing, drama and film scripts.
RTÉ, as the national public service broadcaster, will normalise the use of Irish and English in their broadcasts, building on the success of Seachtain na Gaeilge. RTÉ will continue to support and develop Raidió na Gaeltachta so that a broad spectrum of high standard programmes will be delivered to those communities that listen to this service.
A youth-focussed radio to target young people will be developed using both the internet and conventional radio broadcasting.
TG4 will be further supported to provide television services through Irish. TG4 now has a new target of a six-hour daily Irish language schedule, up from a current level of approximately 4.4 hours. Sufficient funding is vital for TG4 to carry out its statutory remit and to retain its market share in an increasingly competitive environment as an independent statutory body.
The continued development of TG4 will also ensure that the independent production sector in the Gaeltacht continues to provide varied employment opportunities.
The Broadcasting Act 2009 sets a framework for both RTÉ and TG4 in the coming years.
Section 25 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 imposes an obligation on the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to endeavour to ensure:
that the number and categories of broadcasting services made available in the State by virtue of this Act best serve the needs of the people of the island of Ireland, bearing in mind their languages and traditions and their religious, ethical and cultural diversity,
and an obligation to:
promote and stimulate the development of Irish language programming and broadcasting services.
A number of detailed changes in that framework enhance the position of the Irish language through the activities of the public service broadcasters. These include:
- allowing more favourable charges, terms and conditions in respect of archive schemes by public service broadcasters for the purpose of Irish language broadcasts;
- increase in the allocation of licence fee money away from RTÉ to the Broadcast Fund (from 5% to 7%), of which TG4 is a main beneficiary;
- continuation of a 'free hour' of Irish language television from RTÉ to TG4 (valued around €10m);
- deepening RTÉ's remit in relation to the Irish language;
- language programmes now free from 'peak hours' restriction in case of Broadcast Fund funding;
- TG4 has been given specific powers to provide on-line non-linear services in Irish;
- Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to consider multi-annual funding requirements of TG4.
Subtitling options will be substantially increased in order to offer the option to have subtitles in Irish, English, or both, or no subtitles, thus significantly reinforcing the accessibility of TG4 to learners and non-proficient users of Irish as well as fluent speakers.
The Good Friday Agreement provided that the British Government would work with the relevant British and Irish broadcasting authorities to make TG4 more ‘widely available’ in Northern Ireland. The Government will continue to work with the relevant British authorities to ensure that this will be achieved in the context of the switchover to digital television by 2012.
All Irish language initiatives with a specific arts remit, to include drama and traditional arts, will be planned and developed as part of an integral arts strategy between the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in tandem with the Arts Council.
Information and Communication Technology
The Government will request the inclusion of Irish in all EU-developed ICT programmes. It will also actively engage with major IT suppliers to license and distribute Irish-medium. An IT strategy will be developed, to include IT terminology and lexicographical resources; localisation and open source applications; switchability of interface and language attributes; additional content creation aids to supplement spellcheckers and computerised dictionaries; diacritic markers; multilingual web pages; translation and terminology for computer-aided translation; multilingual content/document management systems; language technology issues and corpora; speech technology, speech synthesis, speech recognition, adaptive technology and embedding issues; capacity building for end users and technology specialists; e-learning and the Irish language; call centre software; back end databases and bi/multilingualism; metadata; mobile devices; optical character recognition; and handwriting recognition.
Such IT developments need also to be embedded in educational, social and work-related practices to become effective means of enhanced communication.