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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 7 Dec 1926

Vol. 17 No. 7


The Dáil went into Committee on Finance.

I move:—

Go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a údarú go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas gach costas chun aon Acht do chur in éifeacht a rithfar sa tSiosón so chun socrú do dhéanamh chun radio-thelegrafaíocht ar tír, ar muir, agus san aer, do regleáil agus do stiúrú, agus chun saghasanna áirithe stáisiún comharthaíochta radhairc agus fuama do regleáil agus do stiúrú, agus chun Stáislúin Fhoirleatha leis an Stát do bhunú agus do chimeád i dtreó, agus chun socrú do dhéanamh i gcóir nithe eile a bhaineas le Radio-Thelegrafaíocht, le Radio-Chomharthaíocht agus le Fóirleatha fé seach.

That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas of all the expenses of carrying into effect any Act of the present Session to make provision for the regulation and control of wireless telegraphy on land, at sea, and in the air, and for the regulation and control of certain classes of visual and sound signalling stations, and for the establishment and maintenance of State Broadcasting Stations, and to provide for other matters relating to Wireless Telegraphy, Signalling and Broadcasting respectively.

The main expense in connection with broadcasting will, of course, arise from the establishment and maintenance of broadcasting stations. Other expenses of a more or less trivial nature will arise from the collection of licence fees and from various headquarters expenses, but they will be very small. In general, we may say that the expenses to be borne under this Bill will be in connection with the carrying on of broadcasting stations. The amount of this will, of course, depend on the number of stations and on the class of station that is in existence at any particular time. It is anticipated that the licence fees, and such other revenues as may be obtained as, for instance, from the tax on wireless instruments, should suffice, or very nearly suffice, to pay the whole expense of maintaining the broadcasting service, and that contributions from the general taxpayer, if any at all, should be small.

I am not resisting the proposal of the Minister that it is expedient to get money for the control of wireless—that is, with regard to the maintenance of the broadcasting stations, but the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs conveyed very little information to us. They gave us no outline of what this scheme is going to cost the country. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, speaking in the Dáil on 30th November, stated: "It would surprise me if from fees alone we should not reach a sum of £20,000 during the current financial year. That sum, plus a lesser sum which we expect to get from import duties, will place us in a sound financial position." We would be very glad to get some information from the Minister for Finance as to what sums have been collected to date from the import duties. What sum do they expect, in the light of their recent experience, will accrue to the Exchequer under the Finance Act of 1926? I confess that I find it difficult at this time of great financial stringency to approve of the policy of imposing a charge on the taxpayer in respect of broadcasting. I think it is not a fair thing to do. Even though the Minister may say it is a small sum; yet, after all, it is not a wise course. You are really imposing duties on the public at large, those who want wireless to the extent of £20,000. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs stated that he was going to erect a wireless station for the Gaeltacht. I confess that I have the feeling that if the Government could give bread to the people there it would be better than giving them a wireless station. We have no information; no figures have been put before us as to what the charge will be on the taxpayer. I do not think it is right that, at present, any money, even one penny, should be expended in respect of this service, which places an additional burden on the taxpayer.

The reason why the Bill is necessary is that powers must be obtained to ensure that those who are in a position to get benefit out of broadcasting shall pay. If it were possible without this Bill to collect the licence fees it would not be so urgently necessary to have it. Certain expenditure has been authorised by the Dáil in the Estimates of the present year and in the Appropriation Bill.

That is an Estimate of practically £30,000?

That does not arise at the moment. The object of the present Bill is simply to secure that the whole or the great bulk of the charge shall not fall on the general taxpayer. The amount of money that broadcasting will cost will depend upon the number of broadcasting stations that are established, on the class of the broadcasting stations, and on the sort of programme that is given, but it is not possible at this stage on a general Broadcasting Bill to give an estimate of all the developments that will take place in the future.

The Minister states that it is not possible in a general estimate to give an outline of what will occur in the future, but at the same time let me point out that, in fact, he is making provision, and in effect he asks us to give him carte blanche for his expenditure. He has no right to ask that. The Estimate for this year was something in the neighbourhood of £30,000. I believe the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs said that he had received about £4,000 in fees. I asked the Minister in my opening statement: What sum had accrued to the Exchequer from the import duties on wireless apparatus. He has not given us these figures, and I think that he should give them. He has surely got them. When he comes down here asking us to provide the money, surely he must have his case prepared. He must know the net sum he is asking us for, and he has not given us that information.

I am not asking the Deputy for any sum. That will come when the Estimates are put before the House. As regards the revenue to be obtained from instruments imported, the estimate, I think, I gave was £20,000 per year. There is no reason to depart from that estimate.

Motion put and agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Resolution reported.
Question—"That the Dáil agree with the Committee in the said Resolution"—put and agreed to.