Committee on Finance. - Vote 55—Wireless Broadcasting.

I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £287,000 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957, for salaries and other expenses in connection with Wireless Broadcasting (No. 45 of 1926), including public concerts.

This is the annual stocktaking of the broadcasting service. I say annual advisedly, because members of all Parties in the House have continued to observe the gentlemen's agreement entered into in connection with the reorganisation of Radio Éireann in 1953 to refrain from putting down questions about details of broadcasting activities, and to confine their inquiries to matters of substance or general policy. In 1953-54 there were 34 parliamentary questions about broadcasting. In 1955-56 there were only 11. This did not prevent Deputies from getting any information they wanted from the Director, but the absence of Party sniping about sins of commission or omission in the news bulletins or in other speech programmes has had a tremendously good effect on the standard of Radio Éireann. It enabled news bulletins and talks to be prepared and broadcast quite objectively without the fear that they would be held to be supporting one Party or the other. I hope Deputies will say that they agree with me on that point.

Turning to the Estimate, in accordance with normal arrangements the amount voted for the working operations of Radio Éireann corresponds to the estimated amount of receipts from licence and sponsored programme fees, with some smaller additional receipts from such sources as concerts. The anticipated licence receipts in the current financial year are £411,000 and from sponsored programmes and miscellaneous receipts £93,400. The total in sub-head A of the Estimate is £510,900 which approximates to the sum of the receipts. The subsidy for equipment in sub-head B is £13,000. The sponsored programmes are keeping at a very steady level. All the time permitted for these programmes has been constantly filled except for short breaks while new contracts were being prepared. Of course the Hospitals' Trust, which broadcasts for half an hour each night of the week, provides the largest single contribution to sponsored programme revenue.

The licence receipts are still increasing, the estimated number for this year being 470,000; that is 15,000 higher than the estimate for 1955-56. The bulk of listeners pay the licence fee promptly without any special pressure, but I must again complain about a fairly substantial minority. I am not referring to the people who forget to take out their annual licence in time. That will happen to anybody, and reminders are sent. I am speaking of the people who deliberately decline to take out any licence. In a special campaign taken in 1948, there were 70,000 people who had radio sets, but ignored their responsibility for the small fee. In another campaign in 1952, 30,000 people were found without licences. One would have thought that the "pirate" situation would have been cleared up in these two special drives and in the ordinary inspections which are taking place every year.

As a result of the last special campaign which took place early this year a further 16,000 new licences were taken out. My Department has no patience with people who deliberately flout their obligation for the sake of 4d. a week, which they would pay for a single Sunday newspaper, and prosecutions have to follow discovery in such cases. Early this year the Oireachtas passed an Act amending the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, in order to remove doubts which had been raised about the powers to issue licences and collect licence fees in respect of wireless sets in vehicles.

There are one or two general matters with which I would like to deal before I refer to programme activities. A proper broadcasting headquarters is, of course, still a major need, but the heavy cost of providing it will, I am afraid, defer the matter for some time further. In the meantime, we are carrying out such improvements as are possible in the existing accommodation. A continuity suite has been provided in the G.P.O. and has been in operation for a few months. All programmes from the 11 studios in the G.P.O., from outside studios in Dublin, and from programme sources anywhere in Ireland or abroad now go to the transmitters through that control point. A continuity announcer has been provided to watch the programmes in transmission, to fill any gaps that may occur owing to underruns, programme failures, emergencies, etc. This new suite has enabled both the technical and announcer staff to supervise the current and following programmes in a way that was not possible before.

A scheme of improvements in the Phoenix Hall Orchestral Studio has been completed except for the installation of equipment in the Control and Announcer's booths. It has been found necessary, however, to exclude audiences from the hall for what I hope will be only a temporary period. Within the past year or two a couple of rather serious fires occurred in premises in the vicinity of the hall, and the Radio Éireann officials are now examining the position, in consultation with the Dublin Corporation and the Office of Public Works, to see to what extent it will be safe to permit the public to be present at concerts.

The broadcasting studios in Cork, which are incorporated in the new School of Music, are nearing completion so far as the building work is concerned, but it will take some months to lay internal cables for the broadcasting equipment and to install the equipment itself. We hope, however, that the studios will be ready to open at least by the end of the present financial year. I shall now say a few words about the main programme activities.

A broadcasting service which is adequately organised and efficiently run must be able to meet the demands both of the ordinary day-to-day programme and the extraordinary festival or anniversary. Radio Éireann meets the festivals and the anniversaries in the course of its work and comes, I think, rather well out of the test. There were, in the year of broadcasting on which I am looking back, tests of this sort in the very different fields of religious observance, national commemoration and tourist effort, and it is a reasonable claim that they were met by Radio Éireann with professional competance and flexibility. I am thinking, as Deputies will probably have guessed, of the Holy Week programmes, of those commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Rising of 1916, and of those in which the Tóstal was mirrored on the one hand and given a broadcasting expression on the other.

Perhaps I might linger for just another minute on this point, since few things demonstrate the advance which we may say Radio Éireann continues to make, better than the response it makes to special calls upon its ingenuity. The Pageant of Cúchulainn in Croke Park was, this year, as was the Pageant of Saint Patrick last year, remodelled from an open-air visual entertainment into a pure broadcasting show. The international events in Cork—foreign choirs and film festival—were covered in newsbulletins and feature programmes; the Currach Races in Galway were highlighted on the air: in a word, Radio Éireann bound together the Tóstal events of the four provinces.

I am suggesting here that one of the great advances made by Radio Éireann in the past few years has been in the gaining of additional mobility—and I would ask Deputies who think that Dublin gets too big a slice of the broadcasting cake to note this carefully. Apart altogether from the fact that the number of local correspondents contributing news-stories has been greatly increased in recent years, the mobility of the headquarters staff is now such that not a week passes without the representatives of Radio Éireann appearing in a dozen towns and villages of Ireland. Many of the Deputies will have had personal experience of these "flying columns of modern Ireland" and I need not, therefore, go into details about their work. I may just mention as one development, however, the quite extraordinary revival of traditional music which is going on at present: and it is freely conceded that the regular broadcasts from Radio Éireann's special recordings constitute a primary factor in the revival.

Traditional music is, by and large, an entertainment for and by the countryman; and there was a time, before broadcasting, when variety or music-hall—or, as the Americans call it, vaudeville, was a cityman's amusement. Possibly it still is more a townsman's than a countryman's pleasure; but the countryman among our listeners has shown that, provided his special tastes are given due consideration, he will respond as cordially as the programme-planners could wish.

As I said last year, Deputies, or many of them, will know as much about programmes as I do, since I have followed my principle of nonintervention in the daily affairs of Radio Éireann: so you are aware that in this very important sphere of popular entertainment Radio Éireann attempts many different things. I will mention only two, selecting them because Deputies will have a special interest in them. I mean that an effort is made to enable professional artistes to earn a due reward for their talents, and, at the other end of the scale, that an effort is continuously made to come upon every grain of talent among the young. From Jimmy O'Dea in "Meet the Mulligans!" or Din Joe or Joe Lynch on their respective platforms, from these to the young soprano or accordion-player in "Beginners Please" is a far cry: but, "Beginners Please" is going to Galway and Cork and Drogheda and so on, seeking and finding talent, and in this way it is, like the show built entirely on professionals, doing a national job.

A national job of a very different sort is done in the Thomas Davis Lectures, with which many of you will be familiar. The steadily-growing attention which is given to these broadcasts, with their always serious and often difficult matter, is most gratifying. The newspapers are now beginning to compete for permission to print certain of the lectures, though their length is somewhat greater than newspapers usually handle. The recent series, on "The Shaping of Modern Ireland" had, of course, many special points of interest, and this series has had a particular success.

I do not think I need specify in any great detail what Radio Éireann is doing for music: last year's debate showed that Deputies were well aware of the activities of the music department—the symphony concerts, proms and tours included; the assistance to opera companies and festival promoters; the development of such groups as the Radio Éireann Singers and the like.

I might just mention one prolonged series which shows how resources are concentrated for an important purpose. In "Round the Counties" we have had, every week for well over a year, the songs and music of one county after another talked about, sung and played. Only those who engage in such a task will know the difficulties; but those who listen must know that they would not readily find such matter elsewhere. The Radio Éireann Choral Society, a voluntary group of about 80 singers, supplemented as required by the staff singers, did a number of excellent broadcasts during the year, including Mozart's Mass in C Minor which was not previously done in this country for a long time—if ever.

I might add a word at this point about the recruitment of professional instrumentalists. There are at present 65 Irish players (including temporary players) and 32 continental players in the two Radio Éireann orchestras. If highly qualified musicians cannot be got for the orchestras at home they must be got elsewhere. The availability of suitable Irish players is a teaching problem. It is not a Radio Éireann job to teach but, of course, the Director of Broadcasting is very interested in the teaching facilities provided. I am glad to say that because of steps taken in recent years in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and the Municipal School of Music, the situation has improved very much, particularly as regards violin and viola teaching. During the past five years Radio Éireann employed 27 players, mostly young string students of the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Municipal School of Music, either in a full-time capacity, or part-time for students who were still completing their studies. The number employed included, however, a small number of wind players, mainly men who had been members of the Army School of Music.

Some of the young players have since left Radio Éireann, either to continue their studies abroad, or because they got married, but there is still a good number in the orchestras. Before that time Radio Éireann would have been lucky to get two or three players of sufficient standard for the orchestras in the five years' period. That is a remarkable change for the better. Five of the continental members of the Radio Éireann orchestras are employed as part-time teachers in the academy, and the Municipal School of Music, principally to teach wind instruments, and others are teaching privately. The situation about violin teaching is now, I think, on a firm foundation, although all the Radio Éireann vacancies cannot yet be filled at home, but the position as regards wind players can still only be described as bad. Radio Éireann cannot get suitable players in these instruments and must continue to engage them from abroad.

As I mentioned, this is a teaching problem, and I admit it is a difficult one, because in the ordinary course the number of students for wind instruments is very much smaller than for instruments like the violin which can be played as a solo instrument in the domestic circle. However, teachers are now available for most of the wind instruments in the music schools, and between Radio Éireann and the Army School of Music there should be a good "market" for the finished students. I earnestly hope the teaching institutions will be able to overcome the difficulties that exist about the maintenance of wind classes. Radio Éireann will be glad to co-operate in every way possible.

Last year Radio Éireann broadcast a series in the Irish language which was the longest continuous series of Gaeltacht broadcasts ever achieved. They were greatly relished by lovers of the language and, this year, I am glad to say, Radio Éireann is going one better. You will, I hope, forgive me for referring to programmes still to come, but I am anxious to illustrate further the idea that the increased mobility, and hence its coverage of the country, is the chief advance which has been made in broadcasting here in the past few years. For some weeks now, programme officers of Radio Éireann have been making their way to the islands of the Gaeltacht, accompanied by technicians and bringing with them recording equipment; and in another few weeks listeners may hear Aran, Tory, Clare Island, Cape Clear Island and other outposts of the language talking to the country through the tape-machines of Radio Éireann. That is a great step forward, and I need not argue about it.

I said on the Broadcasting Estimate last year that I proposed to have investigations made as to whether the use of V.H.F. transmitters would solve the problem of poor reception in certain parts of the country. Since then an experimental test transmitter has been obtained and transmission tests are being carried out from high hills in various parts of the country. These tests will, however, take a considerable time to complete as the shadows cast by almost every hill of any considerable size in the country will have to be taken into account in determining suitable transmitter locations. The advantages of placing transmitters on high mountains will have to be balanced against the cost of providing roads and power to such places.

Discussion of broadcasting inevitably raises the question of the establishment of a television service here. As I have indicated previously, my Department has been keeping in close touch with developments in television so that we may have a body of reliable information on the subject. Naturally, the possibility of having a television service of our own has been constantly in our minds. The major obstacle has been the costs involved. Apart from the heavy capital costs, there would be very heavy running costs for a number of years at least. Moreover, unless prohibitive expense were incurred in providing a national network from the start, only partial coverage from a station in or near Dublin could be given initially.

That was the position when there was no question of a shortage of capital moneys for essential and desirable capital requirements. To-day, when we are having the greatest difficulty in procuring money for housing, agricultural development, etc., we are even less favourably placed to entertain seriously considerable public expenditure on a television service. Moreover, the Government must have regard also in present conditions to the nature of the additional expenditure by the public which the establishment of a television station here would certainly encourage. A boom in television sales —which would inevitably follow the establishment of a local station—would mean increased imports of luxury goods, to the detriment of the national economy, and a reduction in personal savings on which a continuance of the capital programme for national development depends. For these reasons the Government has decided not to establish a television service while present financial difficulties persist.

The Government has also decided not to accede to certain proposals which have been received to set up commercial television stations here. At present the establishment of a commercial station would be open to the objections I have already mentioned of encouraging an undesirable kind of spending. Moreover, the Government is satisfied that any television service in this country should be one based on public ownership and management. In our circumstances any service established would, for obvious reasons, be a monopoly service, and apart from the general objection to entrusting any monopoly to private interests, there is a particular objection to doing so in such an important medium as television.

The position, therefore, is that there is no prospect at the moment of having a television service here—we simply cannot afford it. If and when television does come, it will be a public service of some kind, probably integrated with the present sound broadcasting organisation.

I have already informed the House that the Government have been looking into the question of whether Radio Éireann should be set up as a fully statutory public service broadcasting organisation. At present I can only say that the matter is still under consideration.

To conclude my statement I wish to thank the members of Comhairle Radio Éireann for the close attention they have given during the year to matters of policy, and the director and his staff for carrying out this exacting, practically non-stop service without any serious hitches.

I should like to add a word of commendation to the director and council of Radio Éireann for the many pleasant programmes they have produced during the past year. The improvement has been so great that one's standard of criticism also increases. I hope that everything will be done to improve still further the programmes in the coming year.

I should like to make a comment to the Minister in relation to the persons who now form the council. When I obtained the consent of my colleagues for the establishment of the council, I made it very clear, both in this House and to the persons concerned, that it would not be one of those perpetual councils. Every member of the council understood that, if he was replaced at the end of two years, it would be no reflection against him. I made it absolutely clear in two successive speeches that, whatever other councils existed in this State and no matter how frozen the members thereof were, there would be some innovation in this connection.

In a service like Radio Éireann where innovation, new ideas, speculative ideas, are the life and soul of the whole business, I think the council should be one whose members could frequently be changed, however good they might be. So far as I know, all the members of the council have done extremely well. They have been of very great service to the director. They have all worked harmoniously. The council consist of persons of widely different views, ideas and standpoints. Nevertheless, I think there ought to be an element of innovation.

The Minister ought to take his courage into his hands and carry out what were my original wishes, namely, that the members of the council would change from time to time. The Minister could make a commendation whenever there was a change. He could refer to the good service of the person who was replaced. I am quite sure that all the members of the present council clearly understood from me that they were not there for a long period and that what was needed was innovation, imagination, changes of ideas, with the object of helping the director and his officers. I hope it will not be taken that I have any criticism to make of the council. In connection with this service, something different from the ordinary is needed. Directors continue to be renewed in the case of certain State companies. Political nominees are frequently replaced only for political reasons by successive Governments. I do not mean anything of that kind. I am sure the Minister will continue to show them the impartiality of which he is capable in any new selections he makes.

So far as the development of Radio Éireann is concerned, I wish the Minister would be able to think along the lines of increasing the educational service of Radio Éireann. We have just concluded a debate on education, on which the Council of Education reported that the present primary school programme is insufficient for the people. We had a report from a large number of primary pupils who were not able to complete the primary course of education. We have the Commission on the Institute of Agriculture, consisting of farmers, professors and others, who insist that there should be far more adult education in relation to country life and farm life and the development of agricultural production. The committee that made that proposal was a very representative one.

On all sides we hear demands for more and more education. No one ever contests the statement I make, and no one contested it in the course of the Estimate just passed, that we have the worst technical education and post-primary education of any country in Northern Europe at the present time. We have the fewest facilities, fewest number of teachers, fewest number of buildings and the fewest number of pupils. The very good efforts made by certain trade unions for the extension of education for their workers is only a drop in the ocean compared with what is given to people in Denmark, Holland, Belgium and so forth.

Radio Éireann offers an extensive field for that purpose. I know there have been some broadcasts of an educational character, but there is an immense opportunity there, and I venture to say that providing a proper series of educational broadcasts would be cheaper than providing the teachers and buildings for them, even with all the difficulties of having to instruct existing teachers to educate pupils through radio educational teaching. Nevertheless, the project is worthy of consideration. If the Minister for Education has to increase educational expenses, as I am perfectly certain he has, regardless of what that may mean financially, I think the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs should encourage Radio Éireann to enter more into the picture.

I know the deficiencies of broadcasting education. Nevertheless, it has succeeded in many countries. Education by television and broadcasting has extended enormously in the United States and a great number of universities and colleges have their own completely independent broadcasting system—in some cases paid for by wealthy sponsors and in other cases by State funds. It is a new and inevitable means of education that is going ahead and we need to have far more done about it in this country.

That is my principal criticism. I was unable to succeed in making any change in my time any more than the Minister has up to now, but I hope the Minister, with this tremendous pressure for education from all sides, will succeed where I did not, in extending and promoting the educational services of Radio Éireann.

We have too little history taught to our people and very little appreciation of the country's needs. In every other country, the young people are getting basic training in the agricultural needs of the country, the agri cultural productivity of the country and of what country life should be and all the ideals of a good, rural civilisation. The whole of that is taught as a regular subject in a great number of countries which compete with us on the foreign market. There is a very good moral reason for this rural teaching, quite apart from any other trade reasons, as the Minister knows.

I should like to ask the Minister to think about the use of television and of radio for educational purposes. Tastes differ very greatly and there are a lot of people who object to the sponsored programmes because of the music played in them. I made it clear that the sponsored programmes would have to be more varied. I should like to congratulate the Director of Radio Éireann, through the Minister, on the greater variety of sponsored programmes. We no longer have two hours of Tin-Pan Alley raucous jazz as we had one time. There is now a great variety of programmes and I should like to hope that the Minister would encourage the director to go still further. The longer the waiting list for the sponsored programmes, the more pressure can the director exercise to insist on variety programmes, imaginative ideas producing the programmes so that we can get away from continuous jazz which, I think, eventually becomes boring even to those who love to hear jazz. There has been an improvement and I hope it will continue even still further.

With regard to Irish music, I noted during the year the number of programmes giving traditional music, and I note in the Minister's statement the plans for the future. I still think that not nearly enough is being done to popularise Irish music amongst those who are beginning to be even ignorant of its nature.

We have a number of associations encouraging traditional music and one of them has had considerable success at various concerts throughout the country. There is a whole group of people in this modern age who do not entirely appreciate songs sung in a traditional way. A great many more arrangements could be made in respect of Irish traditional music and song. I do not mean arrangements of a vulgar character, but arrangements which can be appreciated by the ordinary young person.

Irish music will continue to lose interest among our community and I think Radio Éireann should spend still more money on preparing arrangements of folk songs of every type— arrangements for voice, trios, quartets, light popular orchestras and arrangements of every kind, with a view to popularising Irish music among the younger generation. A great many of the young people do not want to listen to music sung in its original form. That may be wrong, but there it is.

There are still volumes of melodies and traditional songs in the Irish manuscripts of the Folklore Commission's archives which ought to be brought out and popularised, so that not 20 per cent. but 100 per cent. of the young generation will appreciate them. I am afraid it is true to say that traditional music and songs are more appreciated in countries like Germany and Italy and other such countries than they are here because of the tremendous Anglo-American movement here, with its influences. I suppose we cannot prevent that, but in these countries there were a great number of arrangers of these tunes. Composers like Strauss, Lehar, and a great many others too numerous to mention, popularised and perpetuated the folk rhythm music of these countries. We have to do that here.

I do not simply mean the nineteenth century Irish type of song which is being very much overdone, songs such as the "Rose of Tralee" which, though very pleasant, have a very limited field from the point of view of real traditional music. I mean all sorts of songs and music which are rarely heard. I hope that work will continue.

I should like to hope that the Radio Éireann Choir would travel more. The orchestra travelled very successfully. The light orchestra, so far as I can gather, has ceased to travel and the Radio Éireann Choir either travels very little, or not at all. I would hope that the radio choir would travel because Radio Éireann cannot only use the broadcasting medium—it has to advertise itself by appearing, so to speak, at events where the players themselves perform. That is inevitable in a small country like ours where we will have such difficulty in preserving our native culture and where our development of a free country is of very recent date.

I should like to hope that the radio choir would therefore travel more frequently than it does. I have not seen it in my constituency at all. I should like to think that the choir might be broken up into various sections which would sing different kinds of songs, always with the emphasis on well arranged Irish music with plenty of gaiety and plenty of innovations, music that is not heard by people at every benefit concert and of which the people have become so tired. If the Minister goes to the Folklore Commission and listens to the records there, he would know what an immense amount of work has to be done. The people do not want to listen to the seanachaí type of folk music but to something a little more akin to that to which the modern ear is accustomed, retaining at the same time all the melody and atmosphere which our own music has.

I should like to say a few words about political debates and I shall speak absolutely frankly, without any political feeling whatever. I think it is an appalling thing that the political debate idea has died down in Radio Éireann, simply because members of this House cannot be brought to the debates. I understand that certain restrictions have been placed by the heads of Parties on both sides. I do not know who started it—it may have been either side—but it seems these restrictions were laid down by committees in control of Parties who are terrified that T.D.s on the air might say something which would be construed as the official policy of the Party. I hope the director will consult T.D.s from all Parties and that he will get agreement that if a member of any Party appears to say something that might not be in accordance with the policy of the Party, that the opposite Party will not then hurry around the country, saying: "That is their official policy." Are we a collection of school children or are we adults? Are we to continue to be the only Parliament in this position in the whole of Europe, where there are not constant political debates over broadcasting systems of every kind? I understand that the Radio Éireann Director found the greatest difficulty in getting members of the Dáil on either side to take part in these debates. Broadcasting is inevitably going to become a far more important medium for conveying political information and giving political views.

When I left office in between general elections I understood there were to be stated political Party broadcasts in the winter months such as take place in very nearly every civilised democracy in the world. I understand that those stated political broadcasts have not taken place because the director feels there is a general lack of interest and difficulties of all kinds were raised in regard to the matter. I am quite sure, speaking on behalf of my own Party, that if the director starts again, if he would send a report to the heads of the Parties as regards the programme and asks for co-operation, or if he meets the heads of the Parties, some kind of an agreement can be threshed out for the coming winter. We can forget about the autumn season when harvesting is going on and the Dáil is not in session. I believe that, by asking the heads of the Parties or representatives of the heads of Parties to thresh out some form of agreement on this matter, he should be able to get it. I can hardly believe that members of the Parties forming the Government would be so reluctant that they would reject that idea.

Let the director do as the director of the B.B.C. does. Let him invite these people to a pleasant dinner at the Gresham Hotel. He has expense money, and he can do it. Let the whole matter be threshed out and some agreement reached. I understand that all Parties in the House have behaved like school children on this whole question of political broadcasts and political debates.

Finally, I should like to say that the Minister's views about television seem to be grimly pessimistic. I do not know whether the Government will stop some new type of motor car from coming into the country on the grounds that it is too modern for us to be able to afford it. It seems to me that television is inevitable and the pessimism of the Government, apparently, is reflected in the present Minister's statement that the country cannot afford the luxury of television. The Minister knows that we would be very lucky if any proper sort of television service could be set up, within three years from the time plans were commenced. If the country, three years from now, cannot afford to import television sets, we would be in a pretty poor way. I wonder whether the Minister reflects that rather vague sort of negative ineffective pessimism of all his colleagues on the present financial situation. Three years from now, we shall be the only country probably in the world without television. Apparently we shall not be able to afford it even then.

I suppose there is no use in my suggesting that television is not a luxury from the point of view of the balance of payments? The importation of television sets is undoubtedly a luxury at the moment and it can only be regarded as not a luxury, if one of the Minister's major objectives in promoting it was for educational purposes, in order to overcome the appalling scarcity of teachers, classrooms and courses of instruction. I know very well that the B.B.C. regret that television did not start soon enough for them to provide instruction by television rather than by sound broadcasting to classes up to 100 who can see television on a wide screen. I believe they are making plans to extend the television educational service. It might even be the least expensive means in the long run of extending the whole sphere of general education in this country. I have not worked out the costs and how they could be compared with all the costs of buildings and recruiting of teachers, who are difficult to recruit, but I suppose if the Minister feels he cannot include education in the idea of television, he may consider it an expensive luxury in regard to our balance of payments.

In my view, the Minister is going to find it very difficult to afford a complete State television service within the next five years. He may be forced to look for some alternative, and I do not believe the Minister will have to provide the capital for a television station, if he sets about it the right way. I do not believe the State would have to find the capital and there still could be a very satisfactory television service here, with Irish programmes and everything else, without the balance of payments being involved in its promotion. Nothing can really happen for about two or three years in any event, and if, by that time, we are still to be deprived altogether of something as inevitable as the new satellite which will circle the world, well, the outlook is grim and the Minister and his colleagues evidently do not seem to have much feeling of optimism in promoting increased exports or increasing production by which we could afford this inevitable development.

May I also point out to the Minister that this will not prevent people from receiving foreign programmes? The commercial programme in Britain is to be extended and, as far as I understand, more of it will be seen. The B.B.C. programme is already being viewed in a very large part of the northern part of this country. The sale of television sets to see purely English programmes continues to grow. The programme is very satisfactory from the Irish point of view, for the most part, but it is in a purely English connotation. That television service is about to extend, and long range television is now in the experimental stage, television which could be beamed 150 miles away. That may affect this country, but it is simply putting off the day when the Minister has to face the necessity of having some kind of television service, if it is to be attuned to our own ideals, our own culture and our own way of life.

As I have said, any decision made by the Government now will involve the Government in possibly no expense for nearly two or three years from the time the whole thing starts. The Government will not be making a decision for 1956. They are making it for 1959 or 1960. The public should be aware of that. It is only in those years that the balance of payments will be affected by increased importation of television sets, which, of course, should be manufactured here and would be manufactured here where there would at least be the labour element involved in making them, and so forth.

I should like also to say to the Minister, without any reason of being accused of being personally prejudiced, because I am associated with the radio industry, that he had better face this situation that the saturation in the production of domestic radio is gradually increasing. In addition to that, as the Minister knows, there are emergency levies upon domestic radios and television sets. All this is bound to have a repercussion on an industry which, in the main, has been very economic, in that the price of radio sets produced by a number of firms has been the same as the English price, a very rare thing in Irish industry. This industry is associated with exports. Some of the traders export up to 50 per cent. of their production. The exports naturally depend on the home market and so the Minister's decision is not making it easy for the few companies in Ireland who do this, to face the future. They fear they will have to play a particularly important part in the general campaign to reduce imports, although they are an industry which is associated with exports. My objection is that the Minister's pessimism extends to two or three years from now.

Finally, I want to say a word about the incorporation of Radio Éireann. Radio Éireann has been so successful under its new direction that incorporation seems to me to be inevitable. There have been virtually no complaints from this side of the House about political partiality and there have been only fugitive complaints of the character of the Minister's in other respects. Therefore, will the Minister say why he will not make arrangements for incorporating Radio Éireann? I have a suspicion it is because he still wants to keep his finger on broadcasting, that he thinks perhaps we are not sufficiently adult in this country to have an independent broadcasting service, that he thinks that there are still elements in the community which make it difficult for us to have an independent broadcasting unit in the same way as other countries have.

I should like the Minister to dispel that idea. There is no reason why the incorporation of Radio Éireann should be still further delayed. Does he not believe that an independent broadcasting service would not be competently conducted, provided always the Minister had exactly the same vetoes as the British Postmaster-General or the Belgian Minister of Communications has, vetoes of an ordinary common-sense type, where he could intervene at other times than on the renewal of the licence to the corporation, for special reasons to insist on political impartiality, to insist on a given proportion of the Irish language in the programme or to insist in cases where some foreign country is being offended by broadcasts? I think these are the principal reservations.

Is the Minister satisfied in his own mind that there is any special reason for delaying the incorporation of Radio Éireann, as I would hate to feel he would think we were not sufficiently adult in this country to have a service of that kind? He knows how well the present makeshift arrangement has operated and how impartial the service has been. The present principle on which Radio Éireann operates is in some ways a hypocritical one, in that the Minister delegates powers which in fact he cannot legally delegate, without a Bill being passed through the Dáil. It is one of those curious examples of some unconstitutional acts by a Government which succeed very admirably and work very well. Is there anything at the back of the Minister's mind about that or is it simply the pressure of business in the Government? Is it the administrative diffities of incorporation, the difficulty of changing over staff and giving such of them as must have it the transfer of their Civil Service rights to an independent corporation? Or is there any difficulty about paying pensions in incorporated institutions which surely would be the desire in respect of the permanent staff of Radio Éireann for persons like the deputy director and his staff, who have given magnificent service and who are going out without any pension when they reach the retiring age, unless incorporation is effected? Is it the financial difficulty? Is it the difficulty of accumulating in advance the sum that will be required to pay pensions? If they have only been incorporated for a short time, the paid up value of the insurance which would be prescribed for members of the incorporated body would be very low by the time these people retire.

I hope the Minister will give a very frank answer about this, because I would hate to feel that they were purely political or personal reasons, or reasons whereby he wishes to retain some control that is not retained by, for example, the Belgian Minister for Communications.

Not having the opportunity of hearing many programmes on Radio Éireann or elsewhere, I may be in a difficult position in speaking on this Estimate, but there are a few points to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention. While I agree with many of the remarks made by Deputy Childers, there are other points on which I would disagree.

When speaking on this Estimate a few years ago, I said that radio is, as it were, the shop window of the nation and I think it is right for me to congratulate the announcers of Radio Éireann. Each and every one of them is, not only to me but to many people down the country, a typical example of a well educated, well spoken Irishman and Irishwoman. It is something to know that whoever may tune in to Radio Éireann, from North or South or from across the water, we can let them see that, as well as putting over a good programme, our officers can do it in an admirable fashion.

One item not touched on by Deputy Childers, because probably it does not affect people in the east, is the question of reception. Deputy Childers talks about television, but the complaint of the people down in the South is that, although they are paying 17/6 for a radio licence, after 8 p.m. they cannot hear the programme from Radio Éireann at all. It has been the complaint, year in year out, in this House in relation to our programmes that in the South and South-West the reception is very poor. In spite of these complaints, and in spite of whatever attempts have been made to make an improvement, the same dissatisfaction is being experienced. In his statement the Minister mentioned the pirates who refuse to pay their radio licences. I should like to tell him about the people who have been consistently paying their licences and who have been consistently making complaints about bad reception. These people are entitled to better reception. The reception is not so bad during the lunchtime programmes and again in the evening from before 6 o'clock up to 8 o'clock. At other times, however, they might as well switch off Radio Éireann.

Deputy Childers raised the point about using the radio for educational purposes. I am afraid there are very many difficulties in relation to that suggestion which it will be very hard to get over. Our people at the moment have a desire to get as close as possible to the subject of the broadcasts; they want to know whether a broadcast on a subject is given by a lecturer on educational subjects from the schools' viewpoint or otherwise. I would suggest that the Minister and his Department should seek the cooperation of rural organisations like Muintir na Tíre and Macra na Feirme in arranging these lectures. These organisations have many branches throughout the country. If they are in a position to provide a panel of speakers on subjects which affect the people of the country, I think the Minister should avail of that panel, if he found it suitable. The local branches of the organisation from which a speaker was picked could listen to the lecture and, in their spare time, hold discussions on the subject they had heard on the radio. Such discussions would help to brighten the social side of rural Ireland and might arouse amongst rural communities an appreciation of the use that could be made of information disseminated through the radio.

Deputy Childers did not agree with the Minister on his statement about television. I am now speaking about television as an individual and not as a member of a political Party. I believe that our problems in rural Ireland—I do not know about Dublin— do not include the question of the provision of television at the present time. While I have always appreciated the views of Deputy Childers as a person who is very conversant with such subjects, I should like to know if he read a report of a group of Americans on the reactions of television on the American people. These people thought Americans would be much better off without it, that the children do not know what it is to enjoy God's fresh air because of it and that adults seem to have their eyes glued to the sets.

I believe that this is the least of the problems of our rural community at the present time. May I say to the Minister that if he had come out this evening with an announcement in favour of television it would not gain a single vote for him in the forthcoming Cork bye-election. We have many more important problems in rural Ireland having regard to the present cost-of-living position.

I was interested in Deputy Childers' point about political debates on the wireless. I agree with him but I should like to say that the Labour Party was not consulted, as a Party, about such debates. I am speaking now as a member of the Labour Party. Perhaps such suggestions were made to individuals but, as a Party, we never discussed it. I think it would be disgraceful for any political Party to try to gag its members in this way. I agree with Deputy Childers that statements by individual political speakers during such radio debates, cannot be taken as being the views of the Party; I agree also it would be disgraceful if another Party tried to make use of such points for political purposes. I believe Deputy Childers was justified when he said that our reason for being afraid to express such views over the wireless is that we are immature. This matter should be treated in such a way that no matter what points a member of a Party might make over the wireless, they would be taken as his views only and not as that of his Party.

The last point I should like to make was also the last point made by the Minister and by Deputy Childers. I do not, however, agree with Deputy Childers when he asks for the speeding up of the incorporation of Radio Éireann. People tell us that it would be a great success but I should like to tell the Minister that many people look with grave suspicion on the suggestion that Radio Éireann should be incorporated. Advocates of incorporation have spoken about the desirability of having Radio Éireann turned into an independent body but I do not think it would be a good idea to have our Radio authority divorced, if you like to put it that way, from the Minister and this House. People talk of incorporation of the radio as a desirable experiment in this country and very often these people try to make a case by pointing to the great success of other semi-State bodies such as the Sugar Company, C.I.E.—if that is so successful—Bord na Móna, and other bodies.

As far as I am concerned, it is not a case of insisting that the Minister should keep a grip on radio, but we consider it our inherent right that this House should have a firm grip on the radio. That is where we differ. Deputy Briscoe may consider that the Minister, irrespective of what Government may be in power, may be anxious to hold the reins. I do not agree. The Minister might agree with the policy formulated by this body and at times might not exert pressure where it was needed. I do not want to indulge in any criticism in relation to this Vote, because I appreciate the approach of the announcers and all concerned, but I must tell the Minister that, whether it is Roche's bird that tells us or not, it is common knowledge through rural Ireland that there is picking and choosing in relation to the artistes employed in Radio Éireann. If we were to give the Minister more freedom of action, it would be a very unsatisfactory hour's work for a Minister or a Government to agree to that. I am not satisfied with the present policy, but I do not intend to wash dirty linen in public. I believe it is my duty to say to the Minister that, in turn, it is essential that he should check on how the policy of Radio Éireann is being operated in relation to artistes, musical or otherwise. I want the Minister to understand that the people in rural Ireland believe that there is a small circle, which it is very hard to enter, which has the giving of programmes to whom they like.

Ní dóigh liom go bhféadfaimis mórán locht a fháil ar Radio Éireann. Cé'r bith cúis atá leis, níl amhras ach go bhfuil feabhas anmhór ar na cláir. Is dóigh go bhfuil an moladh sin tuillte ag an riaracháin nua a cuireadh ar bun agus go bhféadfaí a rá gur mar gheall ar go bhfuil an tseirbhís rud beag neamh-spleách go bhfuil ag éirigh chomh maith leis ins na blianta seo.

I think it can be claimed that the improvement which undoubtedly has taken place in Radio Éireann in recent years, and which is fairly generally acknowledged in the country, is in great measure due to the fact that a type of organisation was set up which enabled that service to become semiautonomous and to take decisions more speedily. If we were to imagine the position if the daily newspapers, for example, were to be handed over to a Government Department, I am quite sure that there would be very extraordinary results. There would probably be very large gaps in times of publication. The radio must keep up to date. Above all the services, including even the Post Office, it is the service to which the public looks to respond almost immediately to certain needs.

The Minister has referred to the fact that Radio Éireann has acquitted itself very well in many respects in reporting in the way that only the radio can report in giving accounts of important events, whether social or otherwise. Of course, if Radio Éireann went into the social and fashionable sphere seriously, I have no doubt that it would make the daily newspapers tremble for their circulation. However, that is a matter that, perhaps, we will have to postpone until television, to which Deputy Childers has referred, becomes part of our radio organisation.

It is most valuable that the radio service is able to give publicity to local festivals, in relation to inland festivals in particular. It is most satisfactory that they have been able to give such publicity to the currach races in Galway and to the recent festival in Ennis, which is thoroughly characteristic of the Irish countryside. I hope that during the coming year we shall have many more of these festivals, if that be possible within our resources.

We know that the authorities of Radio Éireann should be able to do a good deal for these festivals by the encouragement they give by advance publicity. That is very important. It is all to the good that any important festival, cultural, social or athletic, should get advance publicity. There is also an advantage to the competitors. Even country fiddlers, dancers and singers, while they may not be of the standard required for recitals, have an opportunity of being heard over the radio in programmes which, if properly arranged, can give more enjoyment than one sometimes gets from soloists.

The recent folk music production in Dublin showed what can be done. The means were very simple, but the results were extraordinarily effective. That was entirely due to the way in which the production was arranged. These country performers were trained and adapted themselves to the requirements of the occasion. They sang their songs, conducted their conversations and played their music and anyone who saw the show enjoyed it most thoroughly.

Last year, I asked the Minister to do what he could to assist the Feis Ceoil. I think that has been done and I am very glad to know that the organisation is assisting young instrumentalists —in the first place those who are learning—and even if further steps are necessary in the way of prizes and scholarships, why does Radio Éireann not try to give these to those who are studying the violin or wind instruments, in view of the fact that it is so very difficult to get these instrumentalists? We should certainly give them every encouragement.

The same applies to singers and actors. There is the matter of country plays. Unfortunately, they generally do plays which have been done over and over again in the Abbey Theatre and which do not have very much appeal; but perhaps more can be done to induce authors to produce suitable plays and sketches for radio production by country groups. In that way, the country people would have an interest in them; and, of course, the radio counts a great deal more with them than it does in the City of Dublin. Therefore, we ought to have the country represented as much as ever we can.

The present organisation is doing very well. It is setting a very high standard generally. There is good variety, which is very essential so that all tastes are catered for. The proponents of jazz, of course, would be in a minority in this House at the present time, and persons like Deputy Childers and myself might be regarded as rather high brow. Perhaps it is a good sign that folk singing, not alone from our own country but from other countries, even on records, is getting a better showing. Perhaps it is a sign that the more raucous and horrible forms of jazz are being gradually allowed to disappear. Most people do not object to a mild dose, provided, of course, that it is not too noisy.

The folk music enables our people to see what could be done by themselves. On occasions like An Tóstal, surely a small number of performers could be got together in any Irish country town? If we keep at it steadily, over a period of years, we shall have something to our credit—something lasting that will help to build up country life, which is so necessary, and make people feel that they can do something for their own amusement and culture locally and not have to depend entirely on Hollywood and other such importations.

With regard to the programmes in Irish, as I said last year, I am very pleased indeed with those which have come from the Gaeltacht, and I am sure the Gaeltacht people are delighted to have the opportunity of taking part in these productions and having their voices heard. I believe it will do more for the Irish language than a great many things being done at present. I should like the young educated men in the Comh-Caidreamh, representing the universities, and bodies like the Keating Branch to be associated even to a greater degree with this work; and that, in the same way as the Gaeltacht are represented, these young men who are highly educated in Irish, would be given opportunities of having discussions in Irish on serious subjects.

Where you have men and women forming discussion groups, you can have very good results; and the Minister for Education, on the Education. Vote, pointed to the fact that in the vocational schools where we are trying to develop agricultural education— Deputy Childers has referred to it frequently and this evening also—that the discussion group is the natural development of the teaching of rural science. There is a great deal to be said, therefore, for Deputy Childers's point of view that we should have more discussions. We ought to try to grow up; we ought to try to look at ourselves a little more critically perhaps, to carry out an examination of our position occasionally and see how we can improve matters, exactly as we are doing in the Dáil, or as we are supposed to be doing, but not on a political basis.

I think something could be done in Irish. As well as the type of programmes for learners, there should be programmes for those who have got a good primary or secondary school education and who are able to follow simple Irish dialogues and discussions. For example, I thought that the programmes of "The School Around the Corner" which I heard were very amusing indeed, but the trouble is to maintain the atmosphere of spontaneity in the answers of the children. The listeners expect that the repartee and humour will be as good as would come from the professional artist. Of course, that is not possible in the case of children. But the idea certainly is a very good one, and I was only sorry that we had not something like it for Irish where the younger people would be able to participate in the programmes.

There is no doubt that the Davis lectures were considered to be a very fine feature indeed, and I hope they will be continued. There are many other aspects of what we might describe as adult education, which I think could be explored in these lectures. You have local history. In every county, for example, you must surely have people who are able to give a good account of their local history, and that applies particularly to the City and County of Dublin. That could be worked in with programmes for younger listeners also.

Then there are the social and economic considerations. Like Deputy Childers, I believe very strongly that there is a large listening public for intelligent, informed and objective discussion on social and economic questions. The trouble with political broadcasts, of course, is that they tend to go over the same ground as we go over here in the Dáil, and also that the persons who might be the best broadcasters might not be regarded as the best exponents of Party policy orvice-versa.

In connection with savings, across the water information is given almost every evening on that matter. That is the way in which savings and the general problems with which the country finds itself faced can be brought into perspective so far as the public generally are concerned in such manner as to ensure that the individual can see the bearing they may have upon him or her in his or her adult life. Hearing these matters discussed by responsible persons would be an advantage. Of course people of university standard should have first preference in such discussions. These would be important now that we appear to be faced with a bad summer and people will be compelled to sit in and listen to the radio; in those circumstances it would be better for them to learn something which may be of advantage to them.

The agricultural discussions are very instructive. In such discussions, bearing on agriculture, industry or social problems, it is important that we should have people of practical experience. For example, we should have farmers to tell us what is being done on the land. It is personality and experience that lend pith to such discussions and give them vigour, life and reality. Men talking from practical experience, who know the problems fairly intimately, with now and again a specialist brought in to discuss a specialised branch of the work, are always assured of an audience. It is in that way that one can get the best results. I hope that policy will continue. I would like to see it extended to other branches of adult education, if I may use that expression once more, in relation to social problems and emigration. If we could have programmes of particular interest to our emigrants, so much the better.

With regard to An Foras Tráchtála, as a member of the Dáil I am very interested in the question of our trade with America. One would like to hear that discussed by those who have been dealing with it. We have had a recent report and, if Government Departments concerned are willing to place their information at the disposal of whoever would be selected to take part in that discussion, we would learn what can be done in regard to trade with America, what can be done about tourism and what are the feelings of American visitors who come here. That type of programme was a prominent feature for many years on radio across the water. Of course I do not believe in the type of interlocution when the interviewer asks: "Now what do you admire most about our city?" The visitor is not given an opportunity, even if he wished to find any fault, to express any criticism. It is assumed that he should not have any fault to find and he would certainly need to be a very courageous man to offer criticism in such circumstances. I do not think the views of visitors would be of very much value unless the persons taking part were reasonably well-informed people, prepared to give a fairly objective, but perhaps not altogether too candid, view because, if they went into all our shortcomings, it might be rather difficult for us to listen.

Deputy Childers raised the question of alteration in the personnel of An Comhairle. I have been deferring making any changes. I recognise it is neither a permanent nor a perpetual institution but, in the circumstances, I consider it wise to hold the present team together pending consideration of the question of whether Radio Éireann should be given greater freedom. That is the reason I have been holding off making any changes. I assume we shall not have the same Comhairle for all time. I agree we have a very excellent team —I think that is conceded—but at the moment we are not swopping horses crossing the stream.

Reference has been made to the sponsored programmes and I think they are entitled to the compliments they have been paid. The producers are making every effort to keep a balanced programme, with a bit of variety in it. That has been the constant aim of the director.

With regard to educational programmes, Radio Éireann provides programmes to supplement the teaching of school subjects. Much has been done in that direction. But the initiative must come from another Department and a due balance must be preserved between education and entertainment. We are prepared to cooperate and we are co-operating as far as we can, but somebody else must give the initiative and lead. Otherwise, we shall have the Department of Education coming down on us and telling us we are outstepping our duties.

I hope not. Give the Department of Education the good example.

With regard to arranging Irish music, I think more is being done in that direction now than ever before. A series of programmes is being prepared composed almost entirely of new arrangements for orchestra and singers. I think this year and next year will mark a definite step forward in that direction. That should meet with the approval of the House.

Deputy Childers suggested that more travelling should be done. I have been putting that before the director. Travelling involves a lot of very hard work for the music section quite apart from the cost and so forth. I shall certainly pass that suggestion on to the director, not as my suggestion, but as the suggestion made by someone else. I am sure the director will give it very careful attention.

I shall also pass on the suggestion made by Deputy Childers and Deputy Desmond about political broadcasts. I am not so sure how I will come out of that. However, I understand the net point involved in the suggestion and I will put it before the director for his serious consideration. The suggestion of a consultation with local rural committees and councils for rural debates is an excellent idea and one of which advantage could be taken.

With regard to television, it is open to the Government to reconsider their attitude at any time. With all due respect to Deputy Childers, I think the Government decision was a wise one at this juncture. There is a drive on to try to secure savings owing to the financial position. We cannot escape that drive more than any other Department. I think it would be inconsistent, when that drive is being made, if we were to launch out on television and encourage people to buy expensive sets. It may be said that television would take a few years to materialise and mature but we are not in a position at the moment to know when the depression will lift or turn into a boom. Remember, television would largely benefit Dublin. I believe that in rural areas it would be looked upon as though we were doing everything for Dublin and, while that would not influence me, I am stressing the point that I think it would be unwise at this juncture when we are trying to get savings to go ahead with a nonessential service. It would be taking away from those savings; in other words we would be giving away with one hand what we are trying to take with the other. I cannot say when the matter will be reviewed because we do not know when the financial position will improve.

I was rather surprised, and perhaps I should say disturbed, at the statements made by Deputy Desmond about the selection of artists. I am not aware of anything to justify those statements. On the contrary I have been under the impression that the activities of our people in that regard were perfectly above board and that there was nothing to complain of. I would be very anxious to get any available evidence on these matters. I can definitely say that I am unaware of anything of that sort taking place in the Department.

Deputy Desmond complained about bad reception in certain parts of Kerry and Cork. I am not an expert on these matters and have no technical knowledge but I understand that certain changes take place in the atmosphere at night which make it more difficult to get a good reception in the remote areas and which cause a great deal of interference from outside stations. We have been considering how this situation can be remedied and very high frequency seems to be the most satisfactory answer. I mentioned in my statement that we are making tests with a very high frequency transmitter which we hope will give us a lead as to how we can cure this bad reception in the remote parts of the country.

Deputy Derrig stated that he thought a good deal of the improvement in Radio Éireann was due to the fact that they are now a quasi-autonomous body. I think that is so. I do not understand what Deputy Childers was referring to. He seems to think that I want to keep my finger on Radio Éireann, but I can assure him I do not. I do think that a body like Radio Éireann requires a good deal of elasticity and flexibility as does any broadcasting station. They cannot work efficiently if they are tied to a machine like the Civil Service and they will not get results. They want more flexibility and they are getting that now. There are certain practical difficulties that have to be got over but I do not think there are any of the difficulties suggested by Deputy Childers.

I am glad to hear that.

I am thankful to the House for the reception they have given this Estimate and I congratulate Deputy Derrig who last year and this year was encouraging in the remarks he made. I think Radio Éireann has been doing a very decent job in the encouragement of the Irish language and music. That is very desirable and I think they will continue to do that work with great success. We all know the work they are doing and we are critical of them only to keep them on their toes. This annual revision of their work helps to bring forward new ideas and I shall bring these ideas and suggestions to the notice of the director.

Vote put and agreed to.
Progress reported, Committee to sit again.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.5 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 25th July, 1956.