TG4's Director-General Alan Esslemont has called on the Irish Government to provide more funding and support to the broadcaster in order to promote the growth of the Irish language. 

Speaking at the launch of TG4's autumn schedule on August 21, Esslemont told IrishCentral that the Irish-language broadcaster is "massively underfunded" compared to other minority-language broadcasters in Europe. 

TG4 received just over €48 million in public funding for 2023, which Esslemont noted is just half of the €96 million that Welsh-language broadcaster SC4 received in 2022. 

Esslemont stated that the lack of public funding for TG4 had a variety of "negative impacts."

"For one, it lowers the status of the Irish language, so the English language is seen as by far the most important in the state," Esslemont told IrishCentral. 

"It has also created an imbalance in the ecosystem of public service broadcasting. You have a huge RTÉ, which is very monolithic and behaves as it will behave and then you have TG4, which has historically been tiny."

He praised Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin for her support of TG4 but said the Government has not shown the same support for the Irish-language broadcaster. 

"I just don't think that the state itself really values the Irish language or really values TG4.

"We have exactly the same remit as RTÉ more or less and the Irish language is the first national language. Things have to change, but I'm worried that the state won't let things change." 

In a speech at the launch of TG4's autumn schedule, Esslemont also called for a change in attitude toward the Irish language and TG4. 

"A week ago, TG4 celebrated with the LGFA their 50th Senior Ladies Final. But until the 60s and 70s the ‘thinking’ on women’s football followed this expression of mentality: 'The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged'.

"There is a phrase in Irish I like. Athrú meoin. It is said that the world cannot change without us changing our thinking." 

Esslemont, who was born in Scotland, noted that it is now 40 years since he arrived in Ireland and recalled a conversation that he had with a Welsh colleague at the University of Galway during the 1980s shortly after arriving in Ireland. 

"Ireland’s lack of investment in all aspects of the Irish language sphere was a source of consternation for my Welsh friend in the 1980s and, four decades later, continues to be a source of consternation for me, both personally and professionally." 

He said he trusts the "comprehensive review" being undertaken by Coimisiún na Meán - Ireland's new commission for regulating broadcasters and online media - and also trusts in the "vision" of Catherine Martin.

However, he added that he is not convinced that the Irish State is prepared to learn a "new way of thinking."

He urged the Government to consider TG4 for its societal, cultural, and linguistic values as well as its commercial value. 

Esslemont stated that TG4 brings "much-needed change" to Ireland's "monolithic" public service ecosystem, adding that it also brings status to the Irish language, helping it to grow nationally. 

He also stated that TG4 focuses on regional development and creates projects outside Dublin. 

"These are some of the reasons why Ireland needs a strong, properly invested-in TG4. Together in the coming years, we have to make our voices heard to ensure that we begin to achieve this," Esslemont said at the launch.