Broadcasting is an important part in any strategy for the promotion of a culture or language and Ulster-Scots is no exception. Unfortunately both Ulster-Scots culture and the Ulster-Scots language have been treated very poorly over the years by public service broadcasters, in terms of both radio and television. However there is evidence that things are starting to change.
The United Kingdom government has committed to fund a new Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund at £1million a year over the next five years from 2010 to 2015. This money comes directly from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London and will be handled by Northern Ireland Screen, which will establish an Ulster-Scots sub-committee to oversee the funding.
The Irish Language Broadcast Fund has done much for Irish language broadcasting and I have no doubt that this will result in much more Ulster-Scots broadcasting on both radio and television.
This is something that I have been campaigning about for several years and my predecessor, Gregory Campbell MP MLA, also pressed the Northern Ireland Office on this matter. In recent weeks I had the opportunity to speak about it directly to the Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, and I am delighted that he has acceded to the request for direct funding from London.
Some of the money will be directed towards Ulster-Scots language programmes but most of it will probably be directed towards programmes about Ulster-Scots culture and history. For example, we are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant, which was signed in 1912. It was the birth certificate of Northern Ireland and it was modelled on and inspired by the old Scottish covenants. Another example would be the Siege of Derry, when so many Ulster-Scots sought refuge behind the walls of the Maiden City.
This is an important development and an important element in the forthcoming strategy for Ulster-Scots, which is due to be completed by the end of March.