Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1963—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The purpose of this Bill is, briefly, to authorise the Minister for Finance to make additional repayable advances of £1,000,000 to the Authority for capital purposes. The effect will be to increase the limit of £2 million in section 23 of the Principal Act to £3 million.

Before I go into the question of how it is proposed to spend the additional sum now required, I would like to tell the House how the sum already authorised has been spent and how the actual expenditure compares with the estimate given by me during the debates on the Broadcasting Authority Bill, 1959.

Up to the present, close on £1¾ million has been advanced to the Authority. The sums so advanced are now represented by fixed assets in the form of lands and buildings, transmitters, masts and aerials, studio equipment, vehicles, etc. The balance of the amount that may be advanced under the Act will not be sufficient to meet the Authority's existing capital commitments on the provision of the main television network. In fact these commitments will involve an excess of about £350,000 above the present statutory limit for advances from the Exchequer.

The Television Commission had estimated on the basis of cost forecasts submitted to it that £1½ million would be necessary to establish a television service comprising a studio centre and five main transmitters, and to cover initial losses. The extra £500,000 provided under the Act was intended to allow some margin for possible underestimation and to enable the Authority to execute some improvements of a capital nature in the sound broadcasting service. None of the capital expenditure to date has however, been on Sound Broadcasting.

The actual cost of establishing the service including the cost of the five main transmitter stations, will be of the order of £2,350,000 made up as follows:

£

Transmitters

1,060,000

Studios Building

790,000

Technical Equipment

440,000

Transport, Programme Equipment, Miscellaneous

60,000

TOTAL

£2,350,000

In addition, pre-transmission costs of roughly £200,000 were incurred which the Authority was able to write off in 1961-2 when it received a grant based on licence fees in respect of then existing television sets for 12 months although the television service was in operation for three months only of that year.

The cost of the transmitters includes the expenditure on buildings, masts and aerials, together with the expense of providing roads, power and other essential services at the high remote mountain-top sites whose names are now well known to everybody—Kippure, Truskmore, Mount Leinster, Mullaghanish and Maghera. The cost of the Studios Building includes lease, mast, drainage, fixtures, fittings, etc. The building at Donnybrook, Dublin, was carefully planned to meet programme requirements with very modest provision for expansion. The form of construction used was simplified in the interests of economy. The building was constructed on favourable economic terms; the Authority has been informed that if built now its cost would be 33? per cent higher. The capacity of the building is now over-extended to the point where major groups of staff have had to be located outside the building.

The studio capacity is now fully utilised to provide an amount of home originated programmes which is under criticism as being insufficient. The building and its facilities have been commented on favourably by numerous television experts from overseas as an example of concentrated and balanced development at very reasonable cost. The technical equipment installed was ordered on the basis of competitive tenders, and was related to studio needs and outside broadcast requirements. Technical resources are fully utilised to meet current programme commitments.

I would point out that the original estimates on which capital requirements were based were framed in 1958 and rising costs between then and the completion of the television studio building and the television network added substantially to the expenditure. For example, the eighth round of wage increases was largely implemented during this development period. The original estimate was also based on the assumption that the 405 line standard would be adopted; the later adoption of the 625 line standard with dual standard working on 405 and 625 lines from the Dublin and Sligo transmitters added £150,000 to the capital cost. Moreover the cost of developing mountain sites at high altitudes with the heavy commitments involved in road construction, power supplies, buildings, masts, aerials, etc., turned out to be much greater than anticipated.

A further important factor is that the studio and technical needs necessary for the provision of a national television service of the type which the Oireachtas doubtless expected the Authority to provide entailed a larger television centre and much more equipment than the Commission envisaged for minimum initial requirements. The scale of the Authority's operations, too, was larger than was originally thought would be the case. The Television Commission had assumed for the purpose of determining whether a television service was likely to be self-supporting, that initially programmes would be provided for about 30 hours per week, that 25 per cent of these would be of home origin and that the balance would be of filmed or tape-recorded material.

In the circumstances facing it, however, the Authority felt that 30 hours weekly of television transmissions would be inadequate and that from the outset Telefís Éireann should broadcast for about 42 hours a week of which over 40 per cent of the transmitting time should be devoted to home-originated programmes. This meant that production facilities would have to supply 18 to 20 hours a week of home-originated programmes instead of seven or eight. Even so, the Authority has been criticised for the amount of imported recorded material it transmits and Deputies will have seen that it recently announced that the percentage of home-originated programmes has been increased to slightly over 50 per cent of total output.

The extra £1 million now required is to cover the excess of £350,000 which I already mentioned and to provide for further capital expenditure of £650,000.

The total "break-up" is as follows:—

£

Excess over existing statutory limit

350,000

Additional building needs at Donnybrook

270,000

Additional technical equipment including standby television transmitters and protection equipment

110,000

Lower power television transmitters for areas of poor reception

150,000

Improvement of Sound Broadcasting coverage

120,000

TOTAL

£1,000,000

The present Montrose building is seriously overcrowded and the Authority is satisfied that it will be necessary to spend about £270,000 on providing additional accommodation for storage, workshops, boiler-house extension, rehearsal facilities and office accommodation. The extra accommodation will cater for the transfer of portion of the sound broadcasting staff from the GPO and will also enable the Authority to vacate outside accommodation which it has had to rent to cater for expanding television needs. Additional technical equipment estimated to cost up to £110,000 will be required to enable the service to obtain more programme material from the provinces, to extend the scope of outside broadcast operations, and, in general, to diversify home television production as well as provide essential standby transmitters at Kippure and Mullaghanish.

As Deputies know, when the television service commenced on 31st December, 1961, it was at first confined to 405 line transmissions from Kippure but the Authority's aim was to extend the coverage throughout the country as quickly as possible. The 625 line transmissions commenced from Kippure on Ist November, 1962, and the main provincial transmitters were brought into service on low power with temporary aerials in December, 1962. Due mainly to delays caused by bad weather they were not, however, in full operation with permanent aerials on permanent masts until the following dates:

Truskmore

(405 lines)

1st April, 1963

Mount Leinster

12th June, 1963

Maghera

10th September, 1963

Mullaghanish

12th September, 1963

Truskmore

(625 lines)

18th November, 1963

Until the main network was established, it was not possible to begin a reliable survey of the areas of poor reception with a view to deciding where low-power satellite transmitters should be provided. The one exception was the pocket of poor reception from Kippure in the South Dublin region. The necessary equipment to improve reception in this area has been ordered, and, although it will involve separate transmitters for the 625 and 405 line standards, it is expected to be installed and working by August, 1964, for both standards. The equipment will also serve as a stand-by for the radio link between the studios and Kippure.

The northern part of Cork city had poor television reception from the main transmitter at Mullaghanish and I am pleased to say that the first of the satellite transmitters— in this case a 50-watt transposer—has already been installed and is working satisfactorily. The Cobh area has also been surveyed, and it has been established that a transposer will be required.

Surveys of Counties Donegal and Monaghan have been undertaken and it has been established that three transposers will be required in County Donegal and one in County Monaghan to overcome the reception problem in these areas.

The provision of transposers at these seven locations will form Stage I of the Authority's programme of satellite transmitters. The Authority is confident that Stage I will be completed by the end of 1964 or early 1965. Other areas of deficient reception will be dealt with as Stage II of the Authority's programme but investigation and surveys have not yet progressed far enough to enable definite plans to be made. On present estimates, the total satellite transmitter programme may cost £150,000.

I turn now to the question of improving sound broadcasting coverage. This is no easy problem to solve. Because of the large increase in the number of medium and long wave broadcasting stations in Europe over the years, there are now far more stations in operation than there are wavelengths for them, and as a result there is a considerable and increasing amount of mutual interference between stations operating on the same or adjacent wavelengths. This becomes very pronounced at night and the illeffects have been suffered by listeners in parts of the country which are furthest from Athlone, particularly in the south-east, south, south-west, west, and in County Donegal. Indeed the Authority does not regard the reception as satisfactory over much more than two-thirds of the country. As Deputies are aware, an improvement was effected some 18 months ago in the "earth system" at Athlone which had the effect of improving reception from Radio Éireann in a number of areas, particularly along the East Coast. The Authority is satisfied however, that substantial further improvement is necessary, and now that the main Television network has been completed the matter has been given special attention.

This country's frequency assignments are limited by international convention, and it has not the wavelengths which would be necessary for the additional number of medium-wave transmitters that would be required to give proper national medium-wave coverage. Neither have we a long-wave assignment. In any case, with the increasing crowding of the medium-wave bands, it is becoming more and more difficult to get proper quality medium-wave reception, particularly in the evenings.

On the other hand the advantages of VHF broadcasting are compelling. It would provide virtually interference-free reception of a quality which could not be obtained under any other solution, and would ensure independence from the effects of the activities of other broadcasting organisations. Television transmitter sites afford ideal VHF transmitter locations, and as these are already fully developed with buildings, masts and power already in existence at the sites, the capital cost would be very reasonable, and much less than for any other scheme giving nearly comparable coverage. There is the consideration, too, that the international trend is towards VHF for satisfactory national broadcasting— indeed almost every European country already has VHF broadcasting.

The main objection to solving the problem by VHF is that the sets at present in use are not as a rule, capable of receiving VHF transmissions. The benefits would, therefore, become available to listeners only as existing radios are replaced by sets which include a VHF band. I understand that the extra cost of such sets would not be appreciable.

After careful consideration the Authority has concluded that a national VHF service should be established at a capital cost of about £120,000, and that medium wave transmissions should continue as at present from the Athlone, Dublin and Cork stations. My Department's technical experts have reported favourably on the Authority's proposals. Accordingly £120,000 of the capital being provided under this Bill has been earmarked for a national VHF service which should greatly improve reception of the Radio Éireann programmes in areas where reception is at present unsatisfactory.

The provision being made in this Bill should meet the Authority's requirements up to the spring of 1966. A further increase in the amount that may be advanced will probably be necessary at a later stage, because no provision has been made for development of the Donnybrook site to cater for the sound broadcasting studios, which are still uncomfortably housed in the General Post Office.

I have confined my remarks to the question of the Authority's capital programme because we will have another opportunity shortly of discussing the Authority's affairs. I refer to the Supplementary Estimate for my Department which will make it possible to pay to Radio Éireann the proceeds of the higher licences that came into operation on 1st November, 1963. Moreover, the provisions of the Principal Act which deal with the Authority's revenue, as distinct from capital, cover only the period up to the end of March, 1965, and further legislation on this point will, therefore, be needed in about a year's time.

I recommend this Bill to the House as a measure which is necessary to enable the Authority to consolidate the progress which it has already achieved.

I notice that the Minister in his remarks confined himself to the capital expenditure involved, because the purpose of this amending legislation is to increase the repayable advances from £2 million, at which they were fixed in the Principal Act, to £3 million, or to raise them by a further £1 million. I should be interested to hear from the Minister what the deficit has been for each of the years during which Telefís Éireann has been in operation, and if he can indicate how much of the deficit is attributable to Telefís Éireann, and how much to sound broadcasting.

As I understand the Minister's remarks, the total capital expenditure which has been incurred to date has been entirely devoted to Telefís Éireann and no portion has been devoted to the sound broadcasting service. The very large expenditure involved here covers a great deal of work: the provision of the studio and all the other technical equipment, transmitters, transport of programme equipment and so on, as well as the sum of £200,000 which apparently was incurred before the Authority started to transmit. The Minister might indicate the reasons, and some of the items, responsible for that expenditure.

In dealing with the cost of a television service, it is obvious that very heavy expenditure is involved. The very nature of the service involves expensive equipment and the use of current and other media and equipment which, in some cases, would rank as the most expensive type of equipment used for any purpose at the present time. The fact that this country is so close to Britain, and that we have also a separate service from the North, makes for comparison between the services and the programmes. Comparison in these cases inevitably means competition. While we may have further opportunities for discussing the services rendered, there are some matters in connection with it to which I should like to advert this evening.

The information contained in the Minister's speech to the effect that there has been an increase in the amount of the programme which is based on home-produced programmes will be generally welcomed. On the other hand, home-produced programmes should also aim at producing the best, and if I have any criticism of the services provided by Telefís Éireann, it is that there is still too much of the canned programme being presented. While that is probably inescapable—in fact, some of it, I suppose, always consists of canned programmes —great care should be taken in the type of programme presented. In many cases there is too much of what I might regard as the Texas gunman type of programme. I know in catering for a service of this sort you have to cater for all tastes, and what appeals to certain viewers might not appeal to others. Sport has to be covered, entertainment, theatre, music, talks, and so on. The whole range of public interest has to be catered for and what may please or interest one section may be, if not objectionable, certainly of no interest to others. But I believe that in matters of this sort the aim should be to raise public standards and to raise general standards rather than the reverse. Some of the canned variety of programmes transmitted fall below that high standard, and certainly the aim of the Authority should be to provide the highest standard in these matters and not to cater for any other outlook in relation to that type of programme.

The other matter to which I wish to refer is the question of contracts and the arrangements under which programmes are presented generally. I know that in the running of the Authority the Board has authority and is independent of the Minister. It has discretion to expend very considerable sums of money and it is because of that I believe the Minister has, as has any Minister who is responsible for a statutory body or a State or semi-State company, a duty to see that where large sums of public money are being spent, the greatest care will be exercised to ensure that not merely is value given but that no body or individual is given preferential treatment, that equal opportunities for all will exist.

I mention this because of some views that have been expressed that individuals, or individual firms or organisations, have preferential rights. Whatever contracts are entered into between Telefís Éireann and individual firms or organisations is of course a matter for the Authority, subject to this over-riding duty which this House has and which the Minister has, to see to it that in awarding contracts, or in making arrangements, equal opportunities will be given to all firms or to all individuals who apply for or who seek these contracts. It may be that, for one reason or another, the Authority will decide that A is better than B or that B is preferable to C, and in some cases only one firm or one individual can be selected. In others, it may be possible to afford over a period opportunities to a number of individuals, or firms, but where so much public money is involved, it is the inescapable duty of the Minister and of the Government, and indeed the House has a responsibility, to ensure that contracts or arrangements made should be advertised or, in the case where applications are invited, equal opportunities afforded to all who wish to apply.

The difficulty in any matter of this sort is not merely that justice must be done but it must be seen to be done. For that reason, I should be glad to get an assurance from the Minister that equal rights and equal opportunities are afforded to all who are interested.

I understand that is the position.

I am glad to hear that.

I have not heard otherwise.

I have heard concern expressed that preference might be given.

The other matter which I am pleased to hear from the Minister in the course of his speech is that it is proposed to improve sound broadcasting and that an estimated sum of £120,000 will be spent on it. I note from the Minister's speech that one of the difficulties in this regard is that the frequency assigned to this country, in common with frequencies which other countries have, is the subject of international agreement and that some of the interference is due to the close proximity of other frequencies to our own.

I should be glad to know whether we have sought any review of the frequency assignment which has been given to this country and if there is any provisional arrangement under which these frequencies are reviewed periodically. I understand that on previous occasions we sought some facilities on this matter but so far as I know it is some time ago. I do not know whether the body responsible for dealing with this matter meets at regular intervals or not, or whether it is open to review. If it is, we should endeavour to take action to remedy some of the interference.

I am glad to note also from the Minister's statement that it is hoped to improve the reception available from Kippure to people in the south Dublin area. The people there have been receiving poor reception, mainly due to their geographical location in relation to Kippure. It is now hoped this will improve. There is one other criticism I have heard. In some parts of Dublin, not confined to the south of the city, the reception is unsatisfactory because of what has been described as ghost reception—the reflection of the picture on the television screen. I do not know whether there is any remedy for this difficulty but the Minister might get his technical advisers on to it.

The first thing that struck me, listening to the Minister's statement, was that we have once again an example of something which has become only too common in this country. We have had it when new national schools were being built, when hospitals or new housing schemes were being erected, and now we have it when our television service is being started. I want to say that I do not for a moment blame the Minister. The planners do not seem to be able to think ahead. Less than two and a half years after the new service was started, the Minister must come in and tell us that the people who estimated the cost of the service under-estimated to the tune of almost a million pounds.

Of course we have been told that the eighth round of wage increases was responsible for a great part of the over-expenditure. We have also been told that the accommodation which has been provided, even with the extra money spent, is not sufficient and that, accordingly, a lot of the services have to be provided outside Montrose, without at all accommodating the sound broadcasting services which are still in very cramped quarters in the GPO. Again, I do not blame the Minister, but is it not just too bad that such a short time after these services were planned and prepared, the Minister should be put to the embarrassment of coming here and saying: "When we started, we entirely under-estimated and now we want 33? percent over what we got and, please God, in 1965 we shall be coming back looking for another substantial amount."

This is despite the fact that there appears to be more advertising on Irish television than on any of the other commercial stations and that the licence fee has been raised to £5. I note that the Minister says the effects of the increase have not yet been brought to bear or have not been felt in the service. I assure him it has been felt in the pockets of the people who have been watching television or listening to radio. While we must be prepared to face up to our responsibilities, it is not good enough this should have happened and I suggest the Minister should have a very serious talk with the planners to find out if the same thing is likely to happen again—are we to find that when this scheme is completed, we will again be short of money, that we have not enough money to do what we sought to do, that we are still left with cramped conditions and that there will be again over-expenditure to the tune of nearly a million pounds?

We all know it is a very expensive business to set up a new television service. We all appreciate it was a wonderful achievement, but I do not think it is good enough to come up with the excuse that roads had to be built to the tops of mountains in order to provide television masts. The people who planned the service must have known that beforehand. Any schoolboy could have anticipated these difficulties. Surely, therefore, the planners should not have had to wait until the job was completed to say they were all wrong, that they had under-estimated? It would have been as convenient for us at the Start to have given the actual amount needed as to sanction it now.

I have a hazy idea, too, of hearing it said here that the station would be self-supporting within a certain number of months. There must have been a grave mistake there, also, because not only was it not self-supporting after a few months but it does not appear it will be so even after as many years. It looks now as if we are getting deeper into the mire. I wonder is it that our advertisement rates are so low that they are not bringing in the revenue?

I shall deal with the question of interference in a different way from that in which Deputy Cosgrave dealt with it. While there is a considerable amount of interference, and while the Minister told me in reply to a question last week that it can be remedied if the matter is reported to the Post Office authorities, I suggest again to the Minister that the fact that interference can be reported to the television authority and to the Post Office and that action will be taken, should be made known through the national network so that the people will know to whom they can have recourse for a remedy. It should be made generally known over the network.

Apart from this interference, there are growing complaints about another type. I do not know whether it is considered to be patriotic duty to interfere with the television services provided by the Sassanach—I thought we had outgrown that—but there seems to be a general tendency to endeavour to make reception from the BBC and UTV less effective. In this respect, two points should be considered. One is that if it were not for the fact that we were able to get, free, gratis and for nothing, services from the BBC and UTV, there would never have been the taste for television among our people and there would not have been, when Telefís Éireann started out, thousands of television sets in this country.

People grumbled, but they did take out their licences when the new service was set up, and I think it is most unfair that there should be an attitude against watching those two services now that we have our own television. That is a narrow-minded point of view. It has been expressed in this House from Government benches and it is about time it stopped. This attitude goes a little further. I am aware that quite a number of dealers have approached the Department with a view to getting permission to instal what is known as piped television. Piped television would do away with the unsightly aerials which now decorate our rooftops not only in Dublin but all over the country. There are forests of them everywhere and we will have them until the situation alters.

Therefore, there is a fortune for the man who can invent an aerial so small that it will not be unsightly. Until that comes along, I submit there should not be any objection, When these dealers agree in a particular town to putting up a main aerial which will provide piped television to all the houses in the surrounding area. Any objection to that system should be withdrawn. The objections of the Minister and his Department should be withdrawn. I can see nothing wrong with it. Even if the public here look at BBC and UTV, they will still pay their £5 licence fee to the Department; and that is where the matter begins and ends.

As far as Irish culture is concerned, I do not think it is generally appreciated that very often far better Irish programmes come from UTV than from TE. Certainly, as far as Irish songs and dance music are concerned, while the TE programmes are pretty good, they are not as good as those from UTV. The people up there are Irish too and we should not be carrying on this petty boycott, which seems to be the thing to do, according to some people on this side of the Border. For 50 per cent of the time, TE are doing an excellent job, but there are some very irritating little things. One of them has been brought to my notice again and again. In the Irish version of the news in the evening if something important happens, it is shown in pictures; but when it comes to the English news, a shortened version without the pictures is given.

I feel that details of programmes should be left over to the Estimate. They really do not fall for discussion on the Bill before the House, which is to provide capital for expansion.

If the Minister is entitled to make statements about programmes in his opening speech, I feel, with all due respect, I am entitled to follow the line he has taken.

I did not say anything about programmes.

The Minister did not mention the question of programmes. The Deputy is going into details which would relevantly arise on the Estimate.

We might not get the opportunity on the Estimate for a long time. However, I bow to the ruling of the Chair. But I should like to refer to one thing, which, I am sure, cannot be called a detail, that is, the matter of programmes generally. The Minister has told us it is intended to increase the number of home-produced programmes. One type of programme which would get the highest TAM rating is that dealing with Gaelic games. I understand there is a little bit of sourness at present between the GAA and TE. I know the Minister is a Gaelic fan himself. Would he whisper into somebody's ear that Gaelic sports are as much a part of Gaelic culture as the Irish language? Those who seem to think they should not appear too much on Telefís Éireann should learn to deal with them in the way they should be dealt with. If the Minister wants any details, I will give them to him afterwards.

We cannot argue too much about the general cost. Practical experience has proved that this amount of money is required. But it is too bad to find the people who made the Estimates being so badly out. I am glad to hear an effort is being made to increase sound broadcasting. VHF transmissions may be the answer, but we must take into account the cost of licences added to the cost of sets. Perhaps the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will permit me to make one last comment which might be more proper on the Estimate? The Minister should again attempt to do something about the cost of wireless and television licences to handicapped people in poor circumstances.

This matter is of such general interest that most Deputies will want to say something about it, even though they may be parochial in their remarks. It affects the lives of everybody in the country today. The Minister finished up by saying that in order to consolidate the progress already made this extra £1 million was needed. I did not stand up to make a case for the Minister—he is well able to do it himself—but I do not agree with the last speaker that there is anything strange about concerns finding after they have been established that they require more money than was anticipated at the outset. That has been a feature of private and public institutions down through the years.

But they usually estimate correctly the cost of their buildings.

Unforeseen circumstances are bound to arise, particularly in so flexible an undertaking as television. Looking back over the period that has elapsed since its inception, we must all agree Telefís Éireann has progressed well during that relatively short time.

As I said, we may be inclined to be parochial in our comments. We all have complaints from our constituents in regard to programmes and reception. I am particularly pleased that in his speech the Minister undertook to eliminate the reception blackspots in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, in Donegal we have more than a few of those; and the sooner we can get them rectified the better. People feel that, when they have to pay a licence fee and cannot get the service provided, they have something to grouse about. Most thinking people appreciate it is not easy to overcome technical difficulties unforeseen when the service was being established. It is not due to any flaw in organisation that these things exist. It is only with experience they can be detected.

The Minister proposes providing transposers in various areas. I would appeal to him to consider those areas furthest away from the programme source. He should try to give at the earliest possible date the necessary boost to enable those people to get a satisfactory signal. The same applies to sound radio.

I do not think the Minister mentioned when the VHF appliances will be fitted to the present television transmitting sites. When replying, he might be able to tell us whether it would be inside six or 12 months. The sooner the better as it is felt that, since Telefís Éireann opened, sound broadcasting has become somewhat of a step-child. I think the Minister admitted to some degree that the Authority had been preoccupied with television to such an extent that it was not possible to deal with the eradication of the flaws in sound radio that have become so apparent recently. It is impossible in many cases to get clear radio reception, particularly at night.

One aspect of the success which Telefís Éireann enjoys, and which I hope will continue, is that it gives rural Ireland the same entertainment as urban dwellers enjoy and those in the bigger centres, at a time when so many people are anxious to flock to the bright lights of the cities. Radio and television are the greatest media ever to bring a brighter life to the rural areas. Therefore, I urge the Minister to convey as far as possible to the Authority the importance of always bearing that fact in mind and not to be disposed to cater entirely for city people in their programmes. We noticed a welcome change in that respect recently and programmes such as "Location" are helping to bring the medium to the more remote areas and create general interest in the programmes as a result. The more of that the better. Frequently it is possible to arrange a programme of general interest with a rural bias. I do not want to deal too much in detail with programmes, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle does not seem happy about it, but we do not often have the opportunity and on this occasion, when we are voting a lot of money for television, we should be able to make some reference to programmes.

We realised before Telefís Éireann came into existence that it is impossible to produce over a prolonged period a programme giving general satisfaction. Sometimes a narrow view is taken by people who think their kind of programme is the only one worth considering. I suppose if I were to arrange a programme to suit myself 99 per cent of the people would not be satisfied with it. One can always select what one likes and leave out what one does not like. You need not go beyond one household to realise the difficulty there is in trying to get radio and television material for a whole community.

Telefís Éireann is limited in a way that possibly does not affect any other television station. We have neither unlimited time nor money and we depend to a certain extent on commercial programmes for revenue. Some complain about the programmes not being aimed at developing and educating the people. The BBC originally aimed at adult education: I do not know whether they feel they have been able to follow that course successfully. Telefís Éireann is precluded from developing in that way. On the other hand, to give the people entirely the type of programme they want is not always right. If we could finance television out of revenue without depending on commercials, we could possibly have adult education programmes and give people what they should get——

And what they would not tune in to.

——whether they would like it or not. As it is, we must adopt the newspaper editor's approach and give them what they want without going too far in that direction and lean more to the cultural, informative and educational side to a limited extent also.

In their efforts to maintain a middle of the road course, the Authority's programming at present is a fairly good effort. There is a reasonable amount of everything and that is the best one could hope for in our circumstances. You do not want to produce programmes which will cause the majority to switch over to another channel: you do not want to give a lot of slapstick that might please a big section but would conflict with the high standards one would hope to instil in the community. Those responsible for programming have a very difficult task. They have a rather limited time in which to establish any scheme of programmes; they must cater for various interests and must give a percentage of home-produced material. They cannot engage in excessively expensive productions and they must use a selection of canned imported material. In the relatively short time they are operating they are doing reasonably well.

The most popular item on either television or radio, one is told, is the news to which practically everybody listens. I sometimes think we could get a little more detail in the television news which I think is a bit short. That is only a personal opinion.

Better be careful about the news.

The weather forecast is of tremendous importance in the country and one might say that, in addition to giving the technical forecast, one would sometimes like the farmers to be told whether the next day will be good or bad. It sometimes ends with the farmer not knowing whether to expect an anticyclone, whether it will be diverted or what will happen. He gets a very good technical summary of the actual situation from the meteorological point of view. I should like the person announcing the weather bulletin to give in simple language some indication of the weather that may be expected, for instance, "Tomorrow will be cold"; "Tomorrow will be wet"——

"Stormy" is the right word.

It may not apply to the whole country, but it is a service that is availed of to a large extent in the rural areas.

Could he make a forecast about tomorrow?

He is going to give a forecast. It will be stormy tomorrow.

I would say that there are fewer prepared to forecast that now than there were a couple of months ago.

No bets.

I am speaking off the cuff regarding these things, giving a purely personal view, but when I mention the question of the weather forecast, I am speaking as a result of complaints I have received from persons who told me that sometimes they find themselves a bit confused as to what the outcome will be.

Only a bit confused? Usually they are terribly confusing.

Deputy Tully is being amusing. I know he does not intend to interrupt but he is leaving himself open to a reply that I might be compelled to give him.

You are very welcome to try. If anybody is more confused than he has been over the past few weeks, God help him.

With regard to sound broadcasting, rightly or wrongly, the impression has got abroad that it is not receiving the attention it might receive since Telefís Éireann started. Sound broadcasting is most important from the point of view of persons who are confined to the house inasmuch as programmes were available in the early part of the day. It is very important that Radio Éireann should continue to produce programmes of the same high standard as it has given since its inception.

It is a beautiful sight to see television aerials on the roofs of rural cottages, county council cottages and other homes in backward and remote areas. Many people are cynical and talk about hire-purchase and so on. It is the people in rural areas who should have television sets. Television is the greatest benefit that has ever come their way. They can sit at their own fireside and enjoy the same type of life as is available in the city. If hire-purchase has helped them to get that amenity, I say that television and sound radio are the greatest amenity that people in the labourers' cottages and in hillside farms could possibly have. When the stage has been reached that these people can have television and radio sets, electric light and running water in their homes, we have gone a long way towards tackling the problem of the depopulation of the congested or remote areas. Those of us who come from areas far removed from the source of television and radio programmes are always mindful of the importance of suitable programmes. The authorities should keep in mind that, while the majority of licences come from Dublin city, there are many people in the rural areas to whom the programmes presented are of greater importance than they are to the people in the cities.

I should congratulate the Minister on the obvious success of Telefís Éireann up to the present time. I hope the Authority will not be carried away by that success. They should understand that from now on people will be much more critical. When the station was set up people were happy if they could get a picture on their sets but in future viewers will be much more selective and much more critical. While viewers are prepared to make allowances and to give credit for success achieved so far they would like the television authority to understand that the service is capable of improvement and it is no harm to remind them that improvement is expected.

I know the Authority have a very difficult task to perform in maintaining an even balance as between political parties. Now and again somebody gets his toe across the line and may abuse the privilege that he has of presenting his views to the public. I do not object at all to what some people might regard as a biassed programme if it is factual. The Authority could not be blamed for presenting anything that is correct but where the medium is used for propagating what is dishonest or untrue that is a crime against the system that is unpardonable and should not go unchallenged.

Surely, these are matters of opinion?

They are matters of opinion of a very large number of people.

Surely, if you put the two sides up at the one time, it is all right. If you put one fellow up from your side of the House and let him have full say, we all know what we think about that.

I do not know what Deputy Tully would do.

He would be fair, as you know.

I would have no objection in the world to it.

We are thinking of Professor Williams.

There are other occasions when it could be abused and I think that is a terrible mistake because it could create a trend in that direction, which would not be desirable.

This sounds rather like a warning. Is the Parliamentary Secretary giving a warning to Telefís Éireann?

No, he is not.

I hope not.

I was waiting until I could see would you try on the cap. I would seldom intervene to discuss an Estimate or Bill but one has a duty to one's area on an occasion such as this. I have already conveyed to the Minister the complaints I have received from persons in my area about bad reception of sound radio and in regard to the few black spots in the county which are awaiting transposers. I understand that three transposers are required in Donegal in order to get television to all areas.

That is right.

Those are the things which we urgently require. The people will feel they are unfairly asked to carry the expense of having a set and paying a licence if they do not get a signal from the station. Therefore, I hope that, in sound radio and television, those black spots will be brightened up for us in Donegal in the very near future. We expect that to be done at the earliest stage because we are the farthest away from the sources and we are pretty well isolated. It does not have to go around the long way to get to the county. We expect the Minister to assist in getting that extra little bit of entertainment for the entire country at the earliest possible date.

The Minister said he required the money to consolidate the progress already made. I am quite prepared to say that that is a modest statement. We are all agreed that very definite progress has been made. I think we are not being asked to pay too much for what is of great service to the community.

Deputy T. Lynch.

I have been here for four hours waiting to speak. It is my turn next. I have been waiting here since 5 p.m. I was to be called by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputy may not challenge my ruling because there is one member of the main Opposition Party offering and the Deputy surely cannot be equated to a Party.

I know I have got no tea through waiting since 5 p.m. I should like to go out to get some tea.

I hope the Deputy enjoys it.

This is a rare occasion for me in that I find myself in agreement with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, who has just spoken.

I am going to my tea, if that is so.

What he had to say relating to Donegal applies to my constituency, too. He was parochial and I shall be parochial, too. We read on page 7 of the Minister's supplied statement about mutual interference between stations operating on the same or adjacent wavelengths. He says:

This becomes very pronounced at night and the ill effects have been suffered by listeners in parts of the country which are furthest from Athlone, particularly in the south-east, south, south-west, west and in County Donegal.

I am very glad the Minister mentioned the south-east first. I trust he will maintain that order and will look after my constituency before going off to Donegal. There are more people in the south-east than there are in the Donegal area. It is a case of the greater good for the greater number.

There are great complaints in my constituency about the noises in sound broadcasting. If the Minister does not attend to this matter soon, a lot of people will give up the purchase of sound broadcasting licences.

Deputy J. Brennan mentioned that people in rural areas now have sound broadcasting and television. I would add that they have electric light. We can say "Thank God" for the Shannon Scheme and the people who thought of it. Otherwise, we would not be able to enjoy these other benefits.

You can lay no claim to rural electrification. All you did for it was to remove the subsidy.

All I can do is to rule it out of order. It is most irrelevant.

I took a note of the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary that rural Ireland is not getting a chance on television. I agree with him. We see very little of the country people on television. The Minister should send some of his young men out through the country more often. Whenever they do so, they bring back very worthwhile programmes and features. I am not "sold" on some of the canned programmes but I suppose we have to have them. You bought a lot of junk and that ought to be looked to.

The Parliamentary Secretary is also the Parliamentary Whip. He was responsible, I am sure, for negotiations that went on here from time to time about whether or not we would have sound broadcasting from this House. I have an idea he was a bit afraid of it in view of what he said here tonight and what has transpired. I was hoping Deputy Booth would be here tonight to give his opinion as I was speaking to him some time ago on the matter.

The first step in projecting this House to the people of Ireland should be taken on the principal occasions that occur in Dáil Éireann—the occasion of the Minister for Finance presenting his Budget; the occasion of the replies by the leaders of the Opposition Parties. I do not mean that ordinary mortals such as myself would be included. Now that we have an amplification system in this House, tape recordings of speeches could be made and supplied to the Authority— and let us all take our chance. It would be fair reporting and it would be an advance to project Dáil Éireann to the people outside.

I shall not go into details on programmes. We have very good newscasters, as good as any I have heard from across the water and elsewhere. It is extraordinary that we can get news of Nicosia, the Panama Canal and Vietnam but we do not know what happens down in Mooncoin or in Gloccamorra in our own country. I would draw the Minister's attention to that. It would be nice if we had more news from the provinces. I know this would cost money but the Minister is responsible for a service and he should ask his officers to do this. In the country we have decided the only times we will see pictures of Irish news is when an accident occurs within a mile or two of the studio but we will never see anything that happens down the country.

Another point is that we will send telecasters into Northern Ireland to report on their factories or on the digging up of their railways but we will not do likewise around our own country. I should like, and the Irish people would like, to have telecasters going to, say, Abbeyleix to ask the people there what do they think of the railway being closed. I was surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary should find fault with the young men who give the weather forecasts. They are doing a good job but the reason I was surprised was that they all speak with a Donegal or a Northern Ireland accent. If they had the accent of the Decies, I would not complain about them. Indeed, when the Irish programme is on, the weather is the signal for English-speaking people that the programme is about to finish because two words which have been projected over the country are "An aimsir" and people know when they hear those words that the end of the Irish Broadcast is at hand. Some years ago I attacked traditional singers and brought fire and brimstone down on my head.

That is Gaelic culture.

I have heard traditional singers on Telefís Éireann and they would be better off elsewhere. I say "thanks be to God for the Clancy Brothers". They sing traditional songs in the way Irish people want them sung and I would ask the Minister to use whatever influence he has to see that if traditional songs are to be sung, they will be sung by people who are able to sing. That should be the policy in Telefís Éireann. No traditional songs should be sung by a man merely because he writes his name in Irish but only if he is able to sing. Some chieftains, shall I say, of sound broadcasting did not welcome the Clancy Brothers at the start but Irish people both here and in the United States have given them the answer. These people can put it over and they are able to sing Irish traditional songs, Scottish songs or American ballads with a zest and with something the Irish people like. In future, when traditional songs are being presented on Radio Éireann or Telefís Éireann, I hope they will be presented only by people competent to do so.

In my constituency and in Waterford city, we do not ask for recognition; we consider we are the most musical part of Ireland. You only have to pick up a newspaper today to see that another of our bands have won another open competition. It does not matter whether it is a song that is sung by Elvis Presley, a piece by Brahms, Mendelssohn or an Irish traditional song, I give first place only to the Decies. As I am speaking, there is a "Féile na Scol" taking place in which thousands of children participate. It is a feature on Radio Éireann. We seldom see Telefís Éireann in Waterford, either at the grand festivals of light opera or at the Waterford Music Club which presents artists of international repute, or the other musical festivals or at our competition between the factories, "The Tops of the Town" in which boys and girls play classics or "pops" or imitate Elvis Presley or the Royal Show Band, which is the best band in its own line of business. I seldom have the satisfaction of looking at Telefís Éireann and discovering that they were in Waterford and have recorded some of those things. I have written to the Director of Telefís Éireann about this matter and I consider that it is only right, when we are supplying the money, that we should mention it here.

In conclusion, I would say to the Minister that a good policy for Telefís Éireann would be to have more pictures of our own news and if that is going to cost more money, the Minister will get it if he comes to the House; that we should have more teams and camera men going through the country recording the ordinary life of the people and putting it into magazine form. This is not such a tiresome thing as evidenced by the picture which was taken recently in Abbeyfeale. They were able to take it to the continent and get an award for it. That was just a picture about ordinary people in Abbeyfeale, a cattle market, talking to the people, asking them about the statue erected in memory of the priest, what he did, and so on. I saw another picture, again about a village, this time in Kerry. It was splendid. We should have more of these. I do not want Telefís Éireann to move away altogether from this great capital city of Dublin, but I believe it would be a good thing if there were more live programmes from all over the country, showing the Irish people, telling us about the stories and legends, and the customs of the people.

Last night I listened to a talk about calendar customs in Ireland, the things that are done in different places at different times of the year—Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Chalk Sunday. These are the things that will project the real Ireland. I hear and read about "Irish culture", but I do not know what it is, and those who use the phrase do not know what it is either. If they want to find out what it is, then they will find it in the homes of the people, in the streets, at the fairs and in the markets, in the markets of this great city, and in the factories.

I wish the Minister luck. We will give him the money he wants. Lastly, I would advise him and the members of his Party not to be afraid of television. The members of the Government and the members of the Fianna Fáil Party are afraid of television. You are afraid of the medium. You are afraid of having the Dáil reported.

The Deputy should address the Chair.

I apologise, but I am sure you would not have any objection to seeing the Parliament of Ireland projected into the homes of the people of Ireland. The members of the Government Party are afraid of the medium. I appeal to the Minister and his colleagues not to be afraid of television. I ask the Minister to send for the people concerned, to send for the members of the Labour Party, to send for Independents and the chief Opposition Party here, Fine Gael, and make arrangements that each group will have a certain time on television.

It is difficult to sit here for four hours. Sometimes it drives one up the pole, in case you do not know it. It is all right for some people; they like talking at ease, but other people get a little restless and find it is not easy just to sit here. I sat through practically four hours——

This debate started at 7.30 p.m. and it is now nine o'clock.

I know, but I came in when the Guardianship of Infants Bill was being discussed and, not being certain when it would end, I sat here throughout the debate, and now I have had to sit again.

I have no comment much to make about programmes. I think they are best left to those who deal with them. It is like housing. I know all about housing. Lots of people who talk here know nothing about it. I appreciate that the people in Radio and Telefís Éireann have the job of living with the problem; they know what the people want, what the handful want and what the multitude want, and they know what people are prepared for what they want, and they work accordingly. In my own home when items that are not thought well of here are on, my children come in wanting "Rusty" and "Bat Masterson" and, when they are over, they are gone again. When some of the things people consider superior are on, there is no one in the house. Do not forget there are a great many teenagers who want something a small number may not want, but these teenagers have to be catered for. So much for that.

I have more important matters to refer to now. There is an item on Radio Éireann "Today in the Dáil". I have never had any objection to that. I think it is fair comment and, in fact, last year I asked on a couple of occasions that we should have something similar——

It was indicated at the outset, I think, that particular programmes may not be discussed.

That is all the last Deputy talked about.

The Parliamentary Secretary started off by talking about local affairs. I want to refer to a new programme—"Strictly Politics". It is a serious matter. We have had it now for two Fridays and it can be a rather dangerous form of business because, if there were a general election tomorrow, there is nothing to stop the people in charge of that programme giving a very nice image of certain politicians and certain Parties.

I am afraid I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed on that line. The Estimate will come up for consideration very soon and the Deputy may unload himself on that. This is a Bill for capital outlay, which is quite a different thing. The Deputy may not discuss administration.

May I point out the last speaker spoke about all the programmes?

The Deputy did not speak of any particular programme; he spoke of programmes in general.

Surely I ought to be allowed to comment? We are voting money here for a new programme that I think can be dangerous.

The Deputy will allow me. I do not want to enlarge the scope of the debate. This is a debate on a capital outlay. The Deputy may discuss particular programmes on the Estimate, when it comes up, but I cannot allow him to proceed on the line on which he is proceeding at the moment.

Every other Deputy has spoken about programmes since I came into the House.

Would a Deputy not be entitled to give his reason for objecting to voting for these moneys? I agree it is not a question of discussing programmes in particular but, if a Deputy should say that he is advancing a particular point as a reason why he would not wish to vote the money, would that not be in order?

This is not a matter of administration; it is a matter of working capital outlay.

For what, though?

For the service. It is not administration and administration does not fall relevantly for discussion on this Bill.

If part of this money is to pay for this special programme——

In the future?

Anyway, I am objecting to the programme.

In the future, yes.

We are not discussing programmes in the past.

I am objecting because the commentator is a man known as "Backbencher" and is, therefore, giving a particular viewpoint.

I am not allowing the Deputy to proceed on that line.

I have been libelled by this man, and I object.

The Deputy will resume his seat. I will not allow this kind of thing to continue.

It is a very dangerous thing when we come to general elections. Seeing I cannot talk about that, I cannot talk about anything, because I have nothing else to talk about.

There is a matter for the future which I should like to raise in connection with programmes and the voting of money here. It is a matter that affects the privilege of the House. I do not wish to transgress, but, to meet Deputy Sherwin's point, I do think that, rather than have the risk of misrepresentation in the future of personalities in the House, it should be considered whether permission directly to take the proceedings of the House and report them should not be considered by the House.

Like other Deputies, I think Telefís Éireann has, since its inception, done a very good job, by and large. We may all feel reasonably proud of the standard of general technical competence which was achieved relatively smoothly right from the beginning. However, it is only proper that the medium, being a national medium, should be something more than an entertainment medium. The deliberations in this House are of such fundamental national importance that they should be accurately conveyed to the electorate. I suppose it is not feasible for technical reasons to televise the House live, which possibly would be the best method—but the sound proceedings could be recorded and if speakers from the House were then represented on the medium, they could be faithfully represented in their own voices. We should welcome here the giving of prominence to the proceedings of the House and we should at the same time be conscious of our own position under the Constitution and vis-á-vis the community as a whole and, should I say, be jealous of our own privileges.

I raise this partly because two other Deputies have touched on it and partly because it is likely to be the only opportunity for the moment of commenting on the problem and, if the Chair will allow me to make this reference to the programme to which Deputy Sherwin referred on the basis that it will continue in the future——

I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed on those lines.

I am referring to the future.

It is a particular programme.

In the future.

Even in the future.

Touching the privileges of this House.

The Deputy may discuss that when the Estimate comes up in the ordinary course.

But this is a fundamental consideration in my voting or not voting for moneys for this Authority.

This is capital outlay, not outlay for administration.

I accept your ruling, but, on the other hand, this House is the ultimate authority——

It is also the ultimate authority on administration. It need not vote the moneys for administration if it disagrees with the administration.

I believe there is nothing wrong in making the point that one has made if one is to have any discussion on this Bill. We are asked to vote moneys for Telefís Éireann. What is Telefís Éireann if it is not its programmes? If one may not refer to its programmes how may one debate it?

I am not allowing the Deputy to refer to any particular programme, as he is endeavouring to do.

It is to provide the facilities for such a programme that I want to advocate——

This is capital outlay, not outlay for administration.

Does that confine one simply to technical installations? Is that the only purpose? If so, other speakers were completely out of order.

It is for the purposes in the Bill.

Then I, like Deputy Sherwin, would have very little further to say on the matter. Obviously, if we are to have such a service, we must provide the equipment for it. We have already gone a good way towards it. On the technical side, the performance has been very creditable and I do not think any Deputy should object to voting money for this project.

While I do not agree with all the remarks or some or the innuendoes of Deputy Lynch, I agree with him when he suggests, in a more serious vein, that the medium can be of importance in conveying to the country the more serious sides of Irish life and the serious social, political and other problems concerning the community. In so far as the medium can do that, it should be encouraged with facilities. I suppose, within the terms of your ruling, Sir, that is as far as I may go now.

It would be a pity if the turn which this debate has taken were to deflect the attention of the House from the extraordinary capital position which the Minister has revealed in his speech here tonight, that what was estimated to cost £1,500,000 has in fact cost £2,350,000. The Act which only three years ago provided £2 million for the television service is now being amended to provide £3 million. It is anticipated that in a few short years more money will be needed; in other words, the whole basis of the cost of establishing a television service has been thrown overboard. These original estimates were not merely wrong in points of detail but grossly wrong.

Other parts of the Minister's speech amount to no more than an apologia for inefficient financial management. He has to say that "the cost of developing mountain sites at high altitudes with the heavy commitments involved in road construction, power supplies, buildings, masts, aerials, etc., turned out to be much greater than anticipated". Why were proper estimates not made of the costs involved in these proceedings? If a private business were to finance its operations on such a basis, it would have long ago gone bankrupt. At page 1, the Minister states:

The balance of the amount that may be advanced under the Act will not be sufficient to meet the Authority's existing capital commitments on the provision of the main television network. In fact these commitments will involve an excess of about £350,000 above the present statutory limit for advances from the Exchequer.

We are entitled to resent very strongly the extent to which we were misinformed three years ago when the Minister introduced the Broadcasting Authority Bill. It completely alters the light in which we must regard the provision of the television service.

The Minister said that the technical equipment installed was ordered on the basis of competitive tenders. Unfortunately the Minister cannot say that the Montrose studio buildings, costing £790,000, were ordered on the basis of competitive tenders. When Montrose was being built, the contract was not advertised by public tender. A certain number of builders, a small number of builders, were invited by a private architect, not a civil servant, to submit tenders for that large contract. That is not sound administration of public moneys. This House, established precedent, and convention, have laid down a rigid procedure for the handling of public moneys so far as direct State expenditure through normal Civil Service channels is concerned.

It is true that we have from time to time set up autonomous bodies, or semi-autonomous bodies, such as Telefís Éireann, for various purposes, which sometimes engage in commercial operations. It behoves us to indicate to such bodies handling such large sums of State moneys as Telefís Éireann handle, that we expect the exacting standards of financial administration by officials in State Departments to be applied by them, and that we object to any private professional architect dispensing patronage in the form of contracts for the building of public institutions. It is time for us to have regard to the first principles upon which we want our State bodies administered, and I would urge the Minister to advise Telefís Éireann of our concern about these matters.

Beyond that, I have very little to say on this Bill, particularly having regard to your ruling, Sir, on the last two speakers. There is one matter, however, to which you may permit me to refer, that is, the question of interference with television programmes. I am not quite clear as to what the present state is regarding the formulation of comprehensive regulations for the prevention of interference. Certainly, I know that in this city one hears many complaints, from time to time, of serious interference with television programmes by electrical equipment. I understand there still is on sale by dealers, electrical equipment—household equipment mostly—which has not been fitted with suppressors for the elimination of interference. It might be helpful if the Minister would tell us where matters stand in that respect.

Like the previous speaker, I believe that taking things by and large, Telefís Éireann have done a very good job. I do not object to more money being made available for the continuation of that service and its expansion, but I strongly object to the fact that it transpires that what was originally estimated would cost £1½ million now costs nearly £2½ million. To my mind, that is inefficient financial planning and administration.

Opening the debate for the Opposition, Deputy Cosgrave asked a few questions. He wished to know what were the deficits in each year for television and sound broadcasting. In 1961-62, there was a surplus of £10,000. In that year, of course, the television service was in operation for only three months. In 1962-63, the television deficit was £17,000. The sound broadcasting deficit in 1961-62— for the full year—was £114,000, and the deficit for 1962-63 was £153,000. As the House knows a subsidy was voted to sound broadcasting year by year from its inception, and under the 1960 Act, there was a provision of £500,000 subsidy for the sound broadcasting side of the Authority's business. In 1961-62, the subsidy was £133,400, and in 1962-63, it was £150,000.

Deputy Cosgrave also wanted to know what was the reason for the £200,000 pre-transmission expenditure. I mentioned in my opening statement that this cost covered expenditure on television during the period before Kippure went on the air. It also covered the cost of staff recruited in advance of its operation. It was necessary to recruit staff and have them trained to operate the service when it commenced. Those are the reasons for the expenditure of £200,000 mentioned in my opening statement.

Deputy Cosgrave and other Deputies also mentioned the programmes and seemed to think there were too many imported or canned programmes as against the percentage of home-produced programmes. Deputy Cosgrave advised that the Authority should exercise great care in the selection of the type of imported programmes, and with that I thoroughly agree. They have to make the best selection they can from whatever is available to them in imported or canned programmes. I am sure every Deputy realises that within their resources, the Authority cannot operate the service on a completely home-produced programme schedule. It is necessary, as other Deputies have said, to meet the tastes and desires of other listeners and many of them, as Deputy Sherwin pointed out, are interested in looking at imported or canned programmes.

Deputies Tully, Byrne, and others mentioned the necessity of coming to the House after three years to seek additional capital to enable the Broadcasting Authority to consolidate the progress made. Deputy Byrne found fault with the people who estimated the cost, in the first instance, of providing the country with a television service. It is true that the costs are much higher than anticipated by the Television Commission, but, at the same time, I must point out that the operation which has been carried out by the Broadcasting Authority is much greater than that which was envisaged by the Television Commission when preparing their plans and making their estimates for them. The Television Authority is putting on longer programmes each day, many more hours of programmes, and they are, of course, putting on a higher percentage of home produced programmes than was anticipated by the Television Commission.

At the same time, the costs of building became greater by reason of increases in wages and increases in the prices of materials. In so far as the estimated cost of providing mountain roads are concerned, I would point out to Deputy Byrne that I do not think that the people who made the estimate, or the men who were engaged in carrying out the operation, had any previous experience in building roads to such heights on mountain sites and it is not an extraordinary thing that they underestimated the cost. I would not hold that against them under any circumstances. At the same time, I would point out to Deputy Byrne that some of those roads were constructed during the shocking bad weather conditions that obtained last year. I do not think that the operation of establishing this television station could have been carried out at any less cost than we provided for under the 1960 Act and this Bill. As a matter of fact, I have already indicated in my opening statement that people who have come here and looked at the buildings and have seen this station in operation have commented on the low cost.

Deputy Byrne also raised the question of how the contract was placed for the building of the Montrose studio. I was asked a question here on that matter—I do not know exactly when— and at that time I told the Deputy who asked the question that it was a matter for the Broadcasting Authority itself. It is, of course, a recognised practice in recent years, I think, for business concerns, when they are engaged in a very large building operation, to seek tenders from a limited number of contractors whom they know are capable of carrying out the building operation for which they are asked to tender. I think that the Broadcasting Authority were influenced at the time by the consideration that they wanted to have a job well done. They wanted to have tenders from firms whom they thought were capable of doing the job. They wanted the job done quickly as well at that time. I do not think it very fair to pin the decision on any particular architect.

Can the Minister say how many builders were invited to tender?

I have not got the number. I know it was a limited number but I have not got any documentation here in relation to the matter. I am talking completely off the cuff, as they say, and out of my recollection of looking into the matter at the time the Parliamentary Question was put to me. I was satisfied then that the Authority was operating in the best interests of the State in the matter. I know that ordinary Departmental contracts are subject to rigid regulations and that such regulations are scrupulously carried out by the officials who are engaged in that business but this contract was placed by an independent Authority set up by this House. I am convinced that the Authority was acting in the best interests of the State. That is a matter of opinion, of course, and Deputy Byrne, or any other Deputy, is entitled to his opinion in relation to the manner in which the contract was placed. At the same time, I do not think it was a question of patronage or a matter of any irregularity.

I accept that assurance from the Minister so far as he is concerned.

It is a matter decided on by the Authority. Deputy Tully raised the question here with me of the reception of Ulster Television and the BBC. He seems to think that the Broadcasting Authority and the Government or somebody else are anxious to interfere with reception from both stations. That is not so. We do not try to interfere with reception. We are concerned, of course, with Telefís Éireann and we are concerned that Telefís Éireann should be operated according to the Stockholm Agreement. Our first obligation is to ensure that viewers get satisfactory reception of the home programmes and our second obligation is that Telefís Éireann transmitters will not cause interference within the service areas of other transmitting stations. These are our main concerns and whatever interference there is with reception from UTV or BBC I can assure the House that it is not caused deliberately by the Broadcasting Authority's station.

Deputy Tully and some other Deputies raised the question about piped television services. Piped television services could improve the reception of Irish programmes but would offer greatly improved reception of foreign programmes over wide areas of this country. This competition would adversely affect the revenue earning capacity of the Authority at a time when it is trying to establish itself. A few months ago the question of a television relay service was raised by me and I was advised by the Broadcasting Authority that it might be reviewed at the end of 1965 in the light of conditions obtaining at that time. It was, therefore, decided to continue the ban on the relay of television programmes from outside the State. The provision is not finally closed for all time. It is a matter which can be reviewed again and the Broadcasting Authority suggest it should not be reviewed prior to 1965.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach raised the question of the length of time it will take to put in operation the VHF system for sound broadcasting. I am advised it will take from 1½ to two years to provide full programmes through this medium. I am also assured it is the best and cheapest solution to all the problems attached to reception of sound broadcasting, particularly from the viewpoints of capital and operational costs.

Deputies have asked me to hurry up the programme for the provision of additional transposers, and I can say that the Broadcasting Authority intends to go ahead with Stage 1 and expect to have it completed by the end of 1964. This scheme, when completed, will make for better reception in certain areas.

Deputy T. Lynch asked me to try to get the Authority to provide more pictures of local rural events in the television news programmes, that more should be done to bring rural people and rural areas on to the television screen in their daily lives, in their pastimes, both outdoor and indoor—the opera, dramas and other cultural activities engaged in by the people of the cities and towns and villages far removed from Dublin. I would draw his attention to the statement I made during my opening remarks that additional technical equipment, estimated to cost £110,000, will be required to enable the service to obtain more programme material from the provinces.

New equipment will be purchased with that money, and this will help to extend the scope of the outside broadcast operations and in general to diversify all television broadcasts. The idea is that television cameras and camera teams will be sent to more widely dispersed areas of the country and their pictures seen on the screen more often.

I should point out that the service is young and new, that as time passes, it will become more diversified and more progressive, that it will cater for many more interests than it is capable of catering for at present. We could not reasonably expect in the short space Telefís Éireann has been in existence to get everything we need from the service, but as time passes, the Authority will, of course, look to wider fields for its activities and will endeavour to increase its work in the country, bringing to the screen our own people in their working lives and occupations.

I do not think there are many more points I have to deal with. I believe this Bill meets with the general approval of the House. I feel that the Broadcasting Authority, when it obtains the necessary approval of the House for the capital it needs to extend its operations will, in the shortest possible time, carry out the work that it envisaged at the outset. This additional capital will enable the Authority to consolidate and extend its operations aimed at providing full coverage of the country, through both sound and television.

It is a mistake for people to think sound broadcasting is the Cinderella of the service. In my view, sound broadcasting is an essential element of the Broadcasting Authority's operations. It is my belief that for a long time to come very many people in this country will use sound receivers and that the Authority will, if that is possible, give more attention to this aspect of its operations. Sound broadcasting is the side on which the money is being lost. It is not a paying proposition.

I may say that by and large the television operations are paying their way. I would also point out that the advances made to the Authority under this Bill and under the Act of 1960 are on the principle that they are repayable, that the Authority is expected to balance its budget and pay its way, while, at the same time, conforming to the general principles laid down in the 1960 Act to provide a service in keeping with the best traditions of our people.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.