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Stornoway media production company MacTV becomes employee owned

18 staff at Stornoway-based production company MacTV have been given a stake in the business after it became Scotland’s latest employee-owned business.

Established in 2001, award-winning MacTV is the largest independent TV company in the Highlands and Islands. Specialising in factual documentary, arts and music programmes in Gaelic and in English, the company is one of the biggest producers of programming for BBC ALBA, including the Gaelic language channel’s flagship documentary series Trusadh, which tells distinctive, and compelling stories from Scotland.

The company’s main production base is in the Hebrides, with staff also in the central belt, and in recent years the company has also been involved in a variety of international co-productions, working with companies in Canada, Ireland, Iceland and Wales. 

When managing director Bill Morrison began to look ahead to his retirement, there were a number of considerations, including a preference to try and ensure that the business remained based in Stornoway and that the company’s positive community ethos and culture remained at its core.

Bill identified employee ownership as a potentially ideal solution, and he subsequently got in touch with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to explore the option in more detail. From there, he was introduced to Co-operative Development Scotland, the arm of Scotland’s Enterprise Agencies that supports company growth through collaborative and employee ownership business models.

“In the 18 years since it was established, the hugely talented and hardworking team here at MacTV have helped build a highly regarded production company which is recognised at both a national and international level for producing important and compelling programming with Scotland’s unique spirit at its heart. With a workforce truly rooted in the community, the passion, skills and local knowledge of our staff is vital to the quality of our output.

 “A traditional trade sale may have seen us bought by a competitor, potentially risking job security and compromising our offering. Employee ownership ensures that the company is owned by and run for the benefit of those closest to it while providing ongoing economic benefit to the area by anchoring the work and jobs in the local community. Our new employee owners now have an increased stake in their own future, with a say in the business, empowering them to shape its direction and drive growth.”

An Employee Ownership Trust has been formed which will hold 90% of the shares on behalf of the employees. The process was managed by 4-consulting, with legal services provided by Blackadders and accountancy support from Mann Judd Gordon. 

Head of co-operative development Scotland, Clare Alexander, said, “It’s great to see that a business with such a distinct and important offering is handing over the reins to its staff. Companies in Scotland are increasingly recognising the many benefits that can be gained from employee ownership, such as its effectiveness at retaining skills and jobs locally. This is particularly crucial in areas like Stornoway, where small businesses are a key driver of employment and provide a significant contribution to the local economy. We wish MacTV every success and look forward to seeing how the workforce shapes its future.”

John Macdonald, account manager at HIE’s area team in Stornoway, said, “MacTV is a significant employer in Stornoway, and we are pleased to support them with a grant towards the process of the employee buyout.

Transferring ownership to employees is a great option for the business and is an effective way to drive business performance by boosting productivity, increase employee engagement and keep the company in the community. By making this move, the owners have secured these jobs and the long-term presence of the company on the island.”

Statistics demonstrate that employee-owned businesses consistently outperform their non-EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, increased productivity brought about by higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing, as well as improved business resilience during times of recession.

Within Scotland, there are now around 110 employee-owned companies operating, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million. 

Kate Shaw
Article by Kate Shaw
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