"That a supplementary sum not exceeding £3,862 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1943, for Salaries and other Expenses in connection with Wireless Broadcasting (No. 45 of 1926).
When presenting the Estimate for Wireless Broadcasting for the current financial year to the Dáil in June last, I intimated that while I regarded the programme of Radio Eireann as of satisfactory standard taking existing broadcasting resources into account, I considered that the standard fell below what might reasonably be expected from the national station. Taking the view, with which there will be no disagreement, that the programmes should reflect the national culture at its highest, I said that it would be in the best interests of the country that, consistent with national finances, the broadcasting service should have at its disposal resources sufficient to enable it to function on a level worthy of Irish cultural tradition, presenting programmes of good standard, varied, educative and entertaining, reflective of the best and most characteristic of the national activities. I indicated certain aspects which I considered reasonably called for improvement and said that when the examination of a scheme for the purpose, on which I was at the time engaged, had been completed, I hoped again to approach the Dáil for approval of such additional financial provision as might be involved.
A scheme of programme improvements estimated to cost £11,150 in a full year has been prepared and the Supplementary Estimate which I am now submitting represents the cost up to the end of the current financial year, March, 1943—estimated at £3,862. The additional expenditure falls wholly under sub-heads A and B, and the following are the details:—
The additional outlay under sub-head A, representing an increase of £1,265, will be wholly on the orchestra. The present orchestra consists of 28 members, a combination which is inadequate for all round programme work. I am proposing an increase of 12, i.e., to 40 members, which I regard as the minimum necessary to secure an adequate standard of per formance. I would like indeed to see an even larger augmentation, but at present circumstances do not admit of the proper utilisation of an orchestra of greater size in general programme work. In time I hope it may be possible for broadcasting to have a full symphony orchestra of 60 members regularly engaged. With such a combination the status of Irish broadcasting would be immensely raised and, through the influence of the highly artistic and varied broadcasts which would become practicable, national musical effort and appreciation would be materially stimulated. Meantime the lesser augmentation from 28 to 40 which is proposed will effect a marked and most desirable improvement.
With the object of utilising the enlarged orchestra to the utmost advantage and, incidentally, of effecting a reduction in the time now occupied by gramophone records it is proposed to increase the attendance of the members for the purpose of both rehearsals and broadcasts by about 20 or 25 per cent. Improved rates of pay for existing personnel are also contemplated, viz., £6 a week for men (instead of £5); £5 a week for women (instead of £4). For new entrants the existing rates of £5 a week (men), and £4 a week (women), would be operative during a probationary period of not less than a year, after which, if their services were being retained, they would be allowed the higher rates. The remuneration of the leader of the orchestra, under the new conditions, will be £8 a week for a man, and £7 a week for a woman. In addition to their remuneration as ordinary members the deputy leader and the leading strings will receive an extra 10/- a week, and the leading wood wind and brass 5/- a week.
Under sub-head B, representing an increase of £2,597 an important item of this provision is the contemplated setting up of a radio chorus. The production of opera from the studios at suitable intervals is an extremely desirable feature, and it will be necessary to have a chorus available for the purpose, as well as for part-singing and general choir work. I have in mind a chorus of 24 members whose remuneration will be on an engagement basis. Very careful selection will be necessary, as it is of the utmost importance that the most suitable voices available be secured.
Funds are also being provided to enable improved fees to be paid to "outside" artists—musicians, authors, actors, etc. What I have in mind is not that the increased funds shall, automatically, mean increased fees for all broadcasting artists, but that the prospect of larger fees than we have been hitherto able to afford will attract to broadcasting people of particular competence who have heretofore felt that the fees paid were not commensurate with their professional standing and have consequently kept aloof. It is, of course, our intention also to pay better fees to certain artists who, more or less, frequently participate in the performances and who, on account of the high standard of their work, are not adequately remunerated under the present scale of fees.
In submitting the Broadcasting Estimate for the current year, I mentioned that the innovation of presenting the Abbey Players and Longford Productions in representative plays on Sunday evenings had proved particularly popular; and that these, alternating with the station production of important original plays and the dramatisations of such works as Knocknagow, etc., had produced a marked increase of public interest in radio plays. The extra expenditure incurred by the broadcasting of these plays and dramatisations in the year 1941-42 was made possible only by economies effected through the extension of the use of recorded programmes during the summer months. It is hoped, with the increased funds which will now be available, that we shall be able to extend still further the presentation of plays and dramatisations on these lines without interfering in any way with our plans for the improvement of the programmes generally.
I am most anxious to encourage the development of musical activities in the provinces and, with that object, broadcasting will be prepared to take relays and to contribute to the cost of a limited number of good class concerts in various provincial centres where there are musical societies of standing—subject, of course, to the director being satisfied as to the general standard of the concert programmes. The acting music director has already made contacts in this connection, and seven concerts which have been taken on the new basis have proved reasonably successful.
In view of its great national importance the development of Irish music will in future receive special attention. While there has been a certain revival in respect of Irish compositions and arrangements to meet requirements in recent years, it has been inconsiderable in volume and too restricted in scope. There is a considerable amount of national music which is practically unknown. The great bulk of the people are only acquainted with Irish music through the traditional fiddle, piano accordeon, choirs and ceilidhe bands. Arrangements for orchestral and small string and wind combinations are badly needed, and funds for the purpose are being provided experimentally in the hope and expectation that very useful results will be achieved.
The public symphony concerts held fortnightly in the Mansion House are this season again proving most successful and popular. These performances were undertaken as an experiment and with a certain amount of misgiving, and their success is clear proof that there is a definite and increasing public demand for what is best in music. A most gratifying feature of the concerts is, as I mentioned in June last, that the audiences are for the most part composed of young people, indicating the existence of a widespread cultural trend amongst our younger generation, which in their own and in the general interests should be encouraged to the utmost. I trust that the improved broadcasting programmes in the studios and before the public, which I hope to provide under the financial authority I am now seeking from the Dáil, may prove to be a helpful factor.