Boosting Our Economy - Celebrating Our Culture - Enhancing Our Children's Education

Boosting Our Economy - Celebrating Our Culture - Enhancing Our Children's Education

Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund



Northern Ireland Screen is pleased to announce the next television application call date for the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund (“USBF”).

Call dates:

  • Closing date: Friday 5th January 2024
  • Decisions to be made: Tuesday 23rd January 2024

The USBF Committee seeks programmes that reflect the current editorial interests and priorities as detailed in the USBF Programme Commissioning Guidelines.

Applicants to the fund must provide a treatment outlining the programme or series, including an overview of the Ulster-Scots content. Potential applicants must engage with Ulster-Scots consultants who can provide the level of understanding of the Ulster-Scots themes required. For more information, please refer to our Ulster-Scots Consultant Engagement Guidelines.

Please note that the funding of television programmes by the USBF is dependent on a broadcaster having indicated that it wishes to broadcast the programme proposed. Applications are encouraged with support from all broadcasters with significant reach in Northern Ireland and, where possible, to the global Ulster-Scots diaspora.

Given that successful projects require support from both a broadcaster and the USBF, we encourage early dialogue with both the Fund and the relevant broadcaster.

In order to access the online application form please email USBF Executive Heidi McAlpin at [email protected].



The Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund (USBF) is seeking digital content projects that reflect aspects of Ulster-Scots such as language, culture and heritage. These projects will be delivered online and may include interactive elements, gaming and podcasts. Proposals for projects intended for a range of audiences will be considered. These might include adults of all ages, school-based audiences (any Key Stage) and young people not in a school learning environment.

Proposals for digital productions should be distinctly different from those intended for linear broadcast and producers should consider how the benefits of the digital medium can be maximised. For example, short films could be used as elements of a broader project that includes web-based content that augments the film(s).

It is the responsibility of producers to consider (and produce) all elements of a digital project.

Specific guidance on the type of projects envisaged is detailed below.


Registered independent companies with a permanent agency in Northern Ireland.

The USBF will accept co-production arrangements where the co-producer does not have a permanent agency in Northern Ireland provided the project and the co-production clearly fulfil all of the stated criteria and the project, in the view of the Investment Committee, contributes more significantly to the aims of the USBF than a similar project without the co-production arrangement.


The USBF is looking for digital content projects that will contribute to the promotion and understanding of Ulster-Scots heritage, culture and language.

The USBF is looking for the following type of digital content projects via this call:

  • Projects that will appeal to and/or have links with the local Ulster-Scots community and/or wider Ulster-Scots diaspora;
  • Projects that encourage active learning through engagement with content including interactive elements;
  • Digital or online content that has an association with radio or television content;
  • Tourism-related content;
  • Projects that reflect significant Ulster-Scots anniversaries;
  • Projects intended for school-based audiences. These projects should help support teachers embed aspects of Ulster-Scots in Northern Ireland Curriculum-based learning;
  • Content capable of being hosted on – or linked to – existing portals or platforms.


There are 2 key challenges for these types of project. Firstly, the need to explain how a digital content project will reach its target audience. This requires the producer to be explicit about how maximum reach/audience can be achieved. This may involve partnerships with third parties such as recognised interest groups, local councils or organisations responsible for promoting tourism. The second is to evidence the necessary quality of the project without the benefit of a television broadcaster both ensuring and endorsing the standard of the content.


The applicant must include a social media marketing plan to demonstrate how it plans to promote its content and reach an online audience. This could be demonstrated by:

  • Hosting on or linking to an online portal that already reaches an identified audience; evidence should be included in applications for funding (i.e. quantitative evidence of views of the intended publishing platform);
  • A dynamic marketing strategy that can help awareness of the project spread in a viral manner (e.g. collaboration with partners such as councils, tourism bodies and social media influencers);
  • With formal education content, a commitment from CCEA to make the materials available and distribute content to all interested schools;
  • Digital or web-based content that has an association with long running radio or television content has the potential to reach a substantial audience utilising cross-promotion where, for example, the web address is trailing on the end of the television programme or read out on the radio programme.

Substantial Audience

There is no fixed definition of a ‘substantial audience’ although for general audience content there is some guidance in noting that the success criteria for a television production broadcast is 40,000 viewers. Digital content delivered online is capable of reaching comparable audiences.

Smaller audiences may be acceptable where the audience is highly engaged – evidenced through the interaction. For example, a content proposal that could evidence that it would be made available to every primary school in Northern Ireland and had reason to expect that a significant number of primary schools would actively engage with the content, would be extremely compelling despite the fact that this audience number would be approximately 11,000.

In all instances, there will be two aspects to assessing the substantial audience criteria; that is, the level of availability of the content, and the actual number of people likely to be reached. Once again, the availability test will be assessed on rather more than the content’s presence on a website but rather the extent to which an audience can be evidenced to be clearly made aware of the content.


For a digital content-related application to the USBF to be successful, it must provide compelling evidence that the quality of the project or content will be of the highest level.

The following list may provide some guidance;

  • The experience of the team involved in the project is an important factor;
  • Endorsement by other experienced assessors of the relevant content might also address this issue;
  • In formal education, programming endorsement by CCEA that the content was directly relevant to the curriculum in a manner consistent with the general priorities of the Fund would be helpful.


The use of suitably experienced/qualified consultants is essential. The nature of the project will determine the experience/expertise of the consultant(s) required.


The State Aid limitation in connection with USBF funding requires that all projects include 25% of match funding. This can be as company or outside agency cash or ‘in kind’ equivalent.


© 2023 Northern Ireland Screen. All Rights Reserved