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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 1 Feb 1966

Vol. 220 No. 4

Private Members' Business. - Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1965: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I do not intend to delay the House very long but I should like to make a few comments. I think Radio Éireann and Telefís Éireann on the whole are doing a good job. I commend the move that they shall jointly be known as Radio Telefís Éireann. It will cut through a lot of the confusion which has existed in regard to the two bodies. I also welcome the move, in relation to section 12 of the Principal Act, whereby more promotion will be allowed: red tape should not prevent people of ability from getting promotion. I congratulate the Minister on that step. There were fears, at the beginning, that our television service would cost the country a fortune and it is good to know that the very opposite is the case. Indeed, we should be looked upon as a very backward country today if we had not our own television service.

I should like to make a few remarks about programmes generally. We should have a lot more programmes with our own actors and actresses. We hear a lot about good actors and actresses who must go abroad to earn a living because there is not enough work for them here. This is one field where we could give them more work and also provide more work for our playwrights. They could take over from a lot of this so-called entertainment which is not of a very high grade. Some imported entertainment may be all right and I believe is all right, if it has educational value, but some of it is of a very low standard.

A few short months ago, we saw a certain type of play depicting the stage Irishman. There was the ordinary country boy who went across the Channel to earn a living and who fell into bad company. All the time, he is held up as a "gom" Irishman. We know that that type of thing is shown on films but to have it shown on Telefis Éireann is another matter.

This year, the 50th Anniversary of the Rising, Radio Telefís Éireann can play a big part in honouring that occasion. I am glad to hear that all concerned are doing their utmost to ensure a proper image of the time and I wish that venture every success.

Sometimes we hear references to the accents of announcers and it may be that somebody has an accent that has not a great lot of the brogue about it. I have in mind one or two good announcers who are engaged mostly on advertising. I could guarantee that the owners of these accents are good Irishmen but, even if they have not a real broque, I consider that they are worth their choice.

Telefis Eireann runs plays depicting rural life in Ireland. The series "The Riordans" is said to reflect the life of our agricultural community, but I doubt it. If one goes through the country, one will not find many farmers or farm labourers as well dressed as the people who appear in that series.

"Telefís Feirme" gives the facts and figures of farming. It is very educational for the rising generation. I hope it will continue along its present lines and I wish the programme luck.

Another feature is "Open House". I do not think any great film star has emerged from it yet. We welcome this feature. We are not a bit afraid to have a debate but frequently those in the hall where it is being recorded and those viewing the programme may get a wrong impression. Time is limited. Whoever is in charge of the show is bound to take as many questions as possible. Then, all of a sudden, the feature is brought to a halt, just when somebody wants to answer, but he is cut off. That sort of thing has happened more than once.

It has been suggested in some quarters that we should have longer programmes. Any programme throughout the day should be confined to the schools. What percentage of our population wants a television service all day—only a very small percentage. Furthermore, it would cost a great amount of money. I cannot see that it would be useful. Who would be able to view during the day? The man would be working and his wife at home would be busy doing the chores. The farmer would be in the fields. Only about three per cent of what I might describe as the affluent society would be able to view television during the day and the country would have to pay a large sum for it.

Some people want Telefís Éireann to lengthen the children's programmes in the afternoon. That is something about which we must be careful. Children go to school and are confined, maybe in a stuffy room, for some hours. When they get home after school closes at 3 o'clock, they must do their homework. The next thing is that the television set is turned on and they watch it for a couple of hours. Any child who is properly reared is out in the open playing games and roaming around. I think the afternoon television programme starts quite early enough.

Generally, we give a fairly good radio and television service to our community. The reception in some areas, especially in my county of Cork, is not all we should like it to be. There are areas where reception is very poor indeed. I was told lately that this matter is being looked into and I hope that this is the case.

I shall be very brief because the field has been very well covered. One thing that has emerged from the discussion is that a lot of Deputies are not aware of the on-off switch on their television set. If they were, they would not make complaints about various types of programmes and about having to look at certain items because, in fact, they do not have to look at them. In my area of Meath, we are lucky that, for the £5 we pay for our television licence, we can view programmes on three different channels. Even so, we find we can do without television for a while. One does not have to turn on the set the moment programmes start and keep it going until the station closes down. The biggest complaint in this country about television is that there seems to be compulsive viewing. There seems to be the feeling that if the set is not on in the house, there must be something wrong.

I consider that Telefís Éireann are doing a reasonably good job. This talk about all the canned nonsense they show is, to my mind, overcriticism. It would cost an awful lot of money to have a high proportion of live programmes. If we want to have live programmes all the time, why do we not say so and make provision to pay for them? As things are, Telefís Éireann are doing a reasonably good job. All of the canned stuff they show is not good but the same can be said of other stations also and it does not mean that the station itself is wrong.

Deputy Dillon put his finger on it when he pointed out that the first function of a television or radio station is to entertain. If we want real live drama, then we can find it every day in the country in which we live. Many people seem to forget that a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men is an attitude we should have to television. At least, it breaks the tedium of ordinary life and takes one's mind off the things which people, particularly politicians, meet with all the time. That is what those stations are doing and they are, therefore, fulfilling their function.

A comment about Radio Telefís Éireann news programmes is that they follow too rigidly the news patterns of British stations. Apart from the world headlines, which must be given, there would be greater interest amongst Irish people if our stations paid more attention to local news. If they did so, there would be greater interest amongst the Irish people. I know most people listening to the 1.30 p.m. news on Radio Éireann prefer to wait until the end and hear what is happening around the country. That is a point which might be borne in mind.

I believe also that Telefís Éireann are doing a tremendous job with regard to their outdoor programmes. Their sporting programmes compare more than favourably with those in other countries, but that does not exclude wrestling on UTV on a Saturday afternoon. I agree with the last Deputy who has spoken about the fact that many people would not be able to watch television if it was on all day; they would not have either the time or inclination to do so. But I think an effort should be made to have earlier opening of Telefís Éireann on Saturday because do not forget most people turn on UTV or BBC on Saturday afternoon when they can get it. If Telefís Éireann could open at an earlier hour on Saturday, they would be doing a good job. That should not cost such an awful lot of money.

Another comment made here was the objection by many viewers to the continuous interruptions in television programmes for the commercials. Now I commented here—and many people say here—that sometimes the commercial may be better than the programme but, if one sits down to watch a programme, there is nothing so annoying as, just at an important part of that programme, its interruption for a commercial. The ITV or UTV stations do not do it to the same extent. The result is one finds many people switching from a good programme on Telefís Éireann to a not so good programme on one of the other stations because of the fact that they do not get so many irritating breaks in transmission.

Something else was referred to here on which I should like to make a comment, that is, this question of the canned applause. There is nothing so annoying, particularly on the radio programmes. Many people have a radio in their car and driving along they listen to it. I ask any Deputy to deny that, while he cannot hear what is being spoken on the set, the moment the applause starts, it blows him out of the place. I think an effort should be made to cut down on this stupid thing. It may be just a way of covering a certain amount of time but, all in all, it is stupid.

The question of political broadcasts has been mentioned. All of us, being politicians, will watch political broadcasts, either from this country or any other country, when we can. The broadcasts here have been good, bad, and indifferent. Some of them have been going on a long time. There is one thing about "Open House", that is, it has separated the men from the boys. People who have been sailing into this House on their father's or grandfather's laurels have had to stand up and talk for themselves. These people have had to give some kind of opinion on "Open House".

It is hard on the people, though.

Maybe so, but it is true that at least it has proved to the people who come and sit in the Gallery here and find that Deputies who do not speak in this House can speak; they are not dumb and, when it comes to that programme, they have to talk. If it did nothing else, it did that. It is rather a pity that this programme is drawing to a close because had it been continuing longer it would have been possible to improve the programme as it went along by changes here and there and, thus, make it a far more interesting programme. What will replace it I do not know. While people have an objection to bringing television cameras into this House, at least, it might fill the benches. We had a discussion here earlier on the Old IRA pensions, and this country will be filled with people shouting about 1916; yet we could only get half a dozen Deputies to sit in this House while that debate was going on. If we could have had television cameras in here while that discussion was going on, we should, at least, have had full benches.

The manner in which political discussions are debated by the professional newsmen has been mentioned here. I think they are not doing a bad job. I am rather interested in one programme which I have a great regard for, that is, the one generally referred to as "The Hurler on the Ditch". The only thing about that was they were not inclined to discuss what was said in the House here; they now discuss what they themselves say, which makes a change anyway, and maybe it is more intelligent than what is being said in the House.

I am rather pleased it has been decided to run the station as one station and that a long name has been specified for the two. It is hard enough to pronounce it as it is without adding to it. It is not right that we should have a balance sheet produced each year showing Telefís Éireann making money and Radio Éireann losing money.

What about Radio Brennan?

We will see how that goes. I think it would be a much better idea if we had one balance sheet covering all. After all, there is the question of £5 covering the television set and the radio set and the whole point of this Bill is to give permission for the transfer of that money to the Authority.

I think the Minister should consider the question of the radio and television licences. At present, if one has a television set and a radio set, a £5 licence covers both—they are in the same building. But, if you have a radio in a car, it is in another building, and you must have another licence for that. The Minister should reconsider that the houseowner, who takes out a joint television and radio licence, should not have to take out another one for the radio he has in his car.

I do not know who is responsible for advertising on television or radio, but it is rather an extraordinary thing, when you have a Buy Irish campaign, that threequarters of the time alloted to advertising is spent on advertising British goods, against our own. I suggest there should be a levelling up or down in that respect.

The second thing I should like to suggest is that there would be specially installed in Telefís Éireann a sheep shears for those hairy animals whose only justification for appearing on television would appear to be the fact that they have hair hanging over their eyes and wear whiskers. I would suggest that they be shorn before being shown.

There is another matter which I hate having to mention. I wonder who in Telefís Éireann was responsible for the play that was shown dealing with the life of Charles Stewart Parnell. It was the most disgusting, disgraceful thing that ever appeared in connection with a great Irishman who was known as the uncrowned king of Ireland. It is abhorrent to me that nothing else could be depicted of that man's life but one disgraceful incident whereby the young people of today could judge a great Irishman who did great work for this nation. It was a disgrace. I know what I would do with the person responsible for that production. If we cannot say anything good of the dead, let us not vilify them in the manner in which Parnell was vilified in that play screened by Telefís Éireann.

What did it say about Parnell?

Perhaps Deputy Dunne would keep quiet.

If we have not anything but third-rate Yankee murder trials to screen on Telefís Éireann, let us not show anything at all. There are many incidents in Irish history that could be televised and that would be an education for the youth of the country. There are many good Irish plays that could be televised successfully, rather than the third-rate Yankee slang that the youngsters are picking up so aptly.

Again, I would suggest that the Minister should inquire as to who was responsible for the play about Charles Stewart Parnell shown by Telefís Éireann. If I could get my hands on him, I would tear the windpipe out of him. Whoever was responsible should be kicked out. If we have not anything good to say of a man who was known as the uncrowned king of Ireland, let us not vilify his memory in the manner in which it was vilified in that play which was shown for our alleged benefit and, moryah, education.

I would recommend the shears for the teddy-boys.

Telefís Éireann is a young enterprise and therefore criticism of it should be helpful and constructive and that is the kind of criticism which I propose briefly to offer here this evening.

Since its inception the presentation and mechanical management of Telefís Éireann have been something of which we can be reasonably proud. Its engineers are doing an extremely good job, in spite of the fact that they did some sort of small messing up around my home country of Belmullet last week in connection with a new booster from Achill, but that has been righted by a very prompt reaction to a prompt complaint. If other Departments reacted as swiftly to a complaint as Telefís Éireann did on that occasion last week, there would be far less grumbling than there is.

There are some Telefís Éireann programmes comprising canned material of which I do not approve in full but perhaps there is some reason of expense for it. Telefís Éireann are probably doing their best to get material of that kind in order to avoid rather costly live appearances because Telefís Éireann, like television generally in every country, has jacked itself up salary-wise to Hollywood standards. The salaries are very much higher than in any other walk of life.

I am particularly pleased with the nature study programme where the drawings are done simultaneously. It is an excellent programme, to which longer time could be given. Not alone does it incorporate the wild life of the country but it makes a contribution towards geographical knowledge and is also educational from the point of view of children interested in nature study.

Although it was on UTV for a considerable period, I am glad that Telefís Éireann is now running the "Lassie" series. "Lassie" is probably one of the nicest programmes.

I have to disappoint the Deputy. Lassie is a dog.

Is that the Deputy's favourite programme?

Yes, I like Lassie on television. The news presentation is good, although there are times when I am told by my supporters that the Government people are getting more than their share. Be that as it may, I think the Telefís Éireann authorities do their best to make the presentation as impartial as possible. That may not be so of certain people who have to present things from time to time.

What does the Deputy think of "The Hurler on the Ditch"?

I am not going to be drawn into a discussion on "The Hurler on the Ditch".

We are all afraid of our lives of them. We are terrified of them.

They have got a special place in the minds and hearts of the people.

I agree entirely.

I do not think that politically there could be more use made of television. Deputies and Ministers should be brought on live much more often and grilled by competent interviewers. I should like to see the Taoiseach and any of his Ministers or Deputy Cosgrave or Deputy Corish subjected to strong, serious questioning such as British Ministers and even the President of the United States have to submit to from time to time. That is the real way to get things across. I do not think it is fair to political correspondents of daily papers that they should have to try to set the tone politically for us. They have enough to do without having to try to give things a slant. They should give their own views. By and large, they are doing their best, but I do not think that their best gives the view to the nation that it should get.

I support the view expressed by Deputy Tully that, if one is paying a £5 licence fee for one's household reception for television and sound, one should not have to pay extra for a radio in one's car. Cars are so common and radios are so common—I do not like them personally—that this is all part of a family scheme and I see no reason why a family should have to pay extra if they want to go sightseeing in the country and take their sound programme with them.

The picture on Telefís Éireann has improved considerably since the beginning. That was to be expected because every beginning is weak. I am very pleased at the way in which faults have been either corrected or eradicated altogether from the presentations. There are times when one hears all kinds of criticism about the way in which television is used—Deputy Corry and the long-haired men. You will always have people objecting to things like that. Long hair is part of our life at the present time. I do not think long hair any more objectionable than the regulation short skirt appearing on television. We will always have that kind of thing, but, and this is particularly true in relation to live shows, the producers and promoters should be more careful about the people they select. They should be educated people. They should be representative. They should not make dreadful mistakes in pronunciation, like someone I heard recently pronouncing epitome "eppi-tome". If people are paid £10 per night, or whatever it is, the least one would expect is that they would pronounce the particular words they use correctly.

Or, perhaps, have the good sense not to use them.

Exactly. These are things that should be kept in mind. By and large, I am quite satisfied with the work being done by Telefís Éireann. Eventually these grounds for criticism, be they justified or not, will disappear. So far as political presentation is concerned, television being such an important medium of mass communication, it is vitally important that it should be absolutely independent of the Government of the day or of any other pressures, because Governments are not the only pressures that operate.

In conclusion, I wish them well. May they continue along the good lines on which they are proceeding, taking note of criticism, particularly when that criticism is of a constructive nature, and trying to make the whole enterprise as presentable as possible and, side by side with that, acceptable as an independent presentation to the majority of our people.

I should like to think this debate has done some good, but, if the Minister replies in the way his predecessors have done in the past, then it will have been in vain. Were I to believe that the board of directors of Telefís and Radio Éireann take any interest in what is said here, I should consider the debate worth while. Since, however, Telefís and Radio Éireann have been handed over to separate bodies, so to speak, nobody has had any idea from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs whether or not he is satisfied with the type of programme we get.

Mark you, he has a legal responsibility in this matter. He is charged under a particular section of the Act with responsibility for ensuring that Telefís and Radio Éireann are run in accordance with national aspirations, national culture, and so on. I have never yet heard a Minister say what he thought of the programmes. I appreciate that in this matter he can only talk, like the rest of us here, as an individual, but he should tell us in rough outline, at least, of a discussion which, I am sure, he must have had with the Director General of Telefís Éireann and his co-directors.

Different Deputies have criticised different programmes. A former Deputy, Mr. Anthony Barry, said that, if one wanted to please the Deputies of Dáil Éireann, one would need 144 television stations. However, this is the only voice on behalf of the public in relation to a service for which they are paying. It is similar, I suppose, to other semi-State bodies: whilst we may talk all we like, our views can have no real effect. Television presentation and entertainment from Radio Éireann are not a cause of any political wrangling or political controversy, but I think the views of the ordinary people ought to be known and the only way they can express those views is through Deputies in Dáil Éireann.

I said on one occasion that if someone complains to me about a programme, I believe it is my duty to convey to those in authority what public opinion is because that is what we are paid for. From that point of view, I think it would be a good thing if the Minister in this debate would give us an idea of what the view of the Director General and the board of directors is in all this matter.

This may be an encouraging discussion for the Minister and for those in charge of Telefís and Radio Éireann, because, whilst in other years we have had pretty severe criticism of certain programmes and of radio and television generally, there seems now to be an acknowledgment of the fact that both Telefís and Radio Éireann are doing a pretty good job. It is unfair, and many unfortunately fall into the trap, to compare Telefís and Radio Éireann with the corporations in Britain. Deputy Tully is correct when he says that the type of presentation we have from both Telefís and Radio Éireann compares very favourably with others. That is a tremendous achievement, especially when we have regard to our limited funds from licence money and advertising.

Exception has been taken to the frequency of the advertisements. I do not think anyone suggested they should be cut down in number; if they were cut down, revenue would likewise be reduced. To have advertising at the beginning of a half-hour programme and spend twice the time on advertising instead of interrupting half-hour programmes after a quarter of an hour would be a little more acceptable. They must be gratified with the advertisements they are getting. The revenue must be considerable, and that in itself demonstrates the popularity of Telefís Éireann.

There is the added fact that while some of us on the east coast and in Dublin and up towards the north can receive BBC and UTV, the majority of the country still depends on Telefís Éireann, but for the likes of Deputy Tully and myself, who have a choice of stations, we recognise that Telefís Éireann is as good as the other two. It has its limitations. I do not know anything about the technical side of the business but it does appear to me that the sound in Telefís Éireann is inferior to the sound on Independent Television or the BBC. That is no reflection on anybody, particularly those who are employed there, but the picture can be somewhat distorted, especially background pictures. I suspect that because the station is only five years in operation, No. 1, they have not got 100 per cent technique, and, No. 2, they may not have the efficient and up-to-date equipment that I am sure is available both to the BBC and ITV.

We could all comment on the various programmes and we could differ to 144 degrees, the number of us who are in Dáil Éireann, but it is good that we should comment on the programmes. Despite all the TAM ratings —how they do this I do not know; I do not think they can be very reliable —the voice of the people through the public representatives is best able to express the viewpoint of the public.

Any of us of a certain age will be prone to criticise the teenage group. We can be very unfair. When we criticise these young people who are very keen on pop music, we, of my generation, forget how we used to rave about Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee and our parents thought we were crazy, that we were ignorant boors who did not have a clue about good music. Now we are on the other side of the fence and we cannot understand the viewpoint of the people who want a certain type of music which is not alone pop but pep. I am sure people were very critical when hair oil was first used. Now there are critics of those who want to let their hair grow long. I do not mind if they let their hair grow long, nor do I think we should advocate the introduction of a shears. All we would ask of those who wear long hair and beards is that they would wash them now and again.

I do not blame Telefís Éireann for the amount of time they devote to this pop music. Like many of my colleagues, I have not the opportunity of looking at all the programmes, but as far as I can see, there is not an inordinate amount of time devoted to this type of music. However, there is far too little time given to better music. We all have to go through the phase of the Beatles, Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby, and after a few years we graduate to light music, light opera, and even further. The objection I have to Radio Telefís Éireann, and even to the BBC, is that there does not seem to be any attempt to bridge that gap. Another fact is that Radio Éireann is a sound station and is doing something in this regard; I believe it is doing less than it did but Telefís Éireann is doing absolutely nothing to get from the pop music to another type of music.

Telefís Éireann must, I am afraid, continue to have canned programmes, the cowboy films, detective films, adventure stories, and so on. I suppose they get these films through a certain agency, maybe for £20 or £25, to do a half-hour show. To present a home-produced programme would cost £200 or £250 and Telefís Éireann have not got that sort of money. I think the hours are as much as one could expect and any increase in showing time as far as Telefís Éireann are concerned should be devoted to education.

A tribute has been paid to Telefís Éireann for their sports coverage. In my opinion it is not a deserved one. They could do a little more. It is true that they do an admirable job in regard to the All-Ireland Football Final, the Hurling Final and the international rugby matches, and so on, but they could use Saturday afternoon to greater advantage.

I was congratulating them on the programmes they were doing, not the ones they were not doing.

We are at one, so. This country has a great reputation for horses and horse racing but Telefís Éireann give far too little coverage to it. They should utilise Saturday afternoon to better effect. In regard to the political broadcasts, the "Open House" programme is a bit staid and stilted. Maybe that is because most of us who appear on that programme are there for the first time and there is a certain amount of terror associated with it. It looks too school-boyish to have four public representatives behind a kind of desk up on a platform being questioned by John Skehan, who is extremely good at the job but who appears like a schoolmaster examining them. It is true he is putting questions from the floor, but I do agree with Deputy Tully or Deputy O'Leary—I do not know which of them it was—that the questions are too small and too detailed for representatives of Dáil Éireann. Some questions will be asked in respect of a particular area in which the Deputy himself is living. The questions should be of broader, national interest rather than the puny questions selected by the person in charge of the programme.

I agree with Deputy Tully in regard to the programme, "The Hurler on the Ditch", which I hope will be continued, that the participants should devote their discussion to what was said rather than to some particular subject or an aspect of the subject that was discussed in Dáil Éireann and giving their own opinions. I have the greatest respect for these "Hurlers on the Ditch". They have demonstrated over the years that as political correspondents, they are second to none. They certainly know how to write and I would say their comments are objective and, as far as my Party are concerned, in the main, I would say they are unbiased.

The people have come to regard "Hurler on the Ditch" as a round-up, a summing up of what happens in Parliament. I should like to remind the five of them that, though they are political correspondents, what the people are concerned with, in the main, is what their representatives are doing. Though we appreciate bouquets, we do not mind criticism and what the people want to know is who in Dáil Éireann said what and how he said it. The programme has been a very useful contribution not only to television out to the public life of the country. One of the things we have always grumbled about is lack of interest in politics. These political broadcasts have not only given the people an interest is politics but also in the policies of the various Parties.

Perhaps this is not the appropriate occasion for this type of debate. Nevertheless, I suggest the Minister should take a broad view of the operation of Telefís Éireann. I do not think there will be any controversy about it. All the information he requires he can get from the Director General. Generally speaking, the majority of Deputies believe that Telefís Éireann are doing a reasonably good job and that those responsible should be encouraged.

I shall be very brief. All I shall do is add my voice to the tributes already paid to Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann. It must be remembered that Telefís Éireann must cater for all tastes and all kinds of people. It is a very difficult task and we should not be too anxious to criticise if our own peculiar tastes are not satisfied. We are not the best group of people to go into any great detail in discussing the programmes because, due to the type of work we do, we are not in a position to be at home as often as we should like.

Deputy Corry is.

We meet a considerable number of people, in our work and otherwise, and we hear a lot of comment, and I should like to say that in general the programmes provided are accepted as being very good. Many people have told me they would welcome more programmes of educational value such as "Telefís Feirme", "On the Land" and programmes of that nature. "Telefís Feirme" is of great educational value to the farming community. I have no doubt that as a result of this programme, production in agriculture will be stepped up, a very desirable feature. "On the Land" is also very interesting and helps to give people in urban areas a better understanding of the work and the difficulties of their brothers in rural parts. This, too, is very desirable.

Previous speakers said they wished Telefís Éireann would commence broadcasting at an earlier hour and suggested they should begin at 4 p.m. with children's programmes. As the father of a family, I do not agree. When children arrive home from school, they must get through their homework and it would be altogether wrong to put on a children's programme at such an hour. It would only interfere with their studies and for that reason I think Telefís Éireann are on the air sufficiently early.

I do not think there is any other comment I wish to make except to say that Telefís Éireann are worthy of any support we can give them, if only for the pleasure the programmes bring to people confined to their homes, either through old age or illness. That is a wonderful thing. People living in remote areas would also enjoy the programmes but many of them suffer from lack of electricity and therefore cannot avail of them.

I did not intend to intervene in the debate but there are one or two points of which I should like the Minister to take note. Some Deputies have praised some of the programmes; some Deputies have said such a programme should not be broadcast or that another programme should replace it. Coming from the Fíor-Ghaeltacht, I feel very strongly that 15 minutes, one item a week, is too short a time to give to our native language. Certainly, anybody who watches "Labhair Gaeilge Linn", presented by Eoin Ó Súilleabháin must be proud of it. We should have more such programmes or we should extend the time of that programme. Eoin Ó Súilleabháin is doing a very good job, particularly for people who are new to the language. The Irish used is very plain and easy to follow. We hear people on all sides talking about that programme.

That is all right for people who can get a good picture from Telefís Éireann. In my part of the country, there are the mountains, the lakes and the sea, and two-thirds of the time we cannot get a picture, though we pay our licences just as they do beside the booster stations. I think that is wrong and I hope the Board can see their way to erect a booster station on one of the Twelve Pins. Some months ago I asked the Minister what the Board were doing about it and I got the answer that a booster station was being provided on Curraun Hill. I do not know if the Minister realises how far away Curraun Hill is from my area, how the mountains and the lakes and the sea intervene. I was in a house on Sunday evening last and the Curraun Hill booster had no effect whatsoever on the picture. The people there assured me the reception had been like that since the booster was erected. I suggest that officials of the authority visit these houses themselves and see the position. I feel very strongly that a booster station should be erected on one of the Twelve Pins. At times when we turn on Telefís Éireann, we get a bull fight from Spain.

They should charge you an extra fiver for that.

Often it may be worth more than a fiver but if we are paying for Telefís Éireann, we should have reception from it. Deputy Corish objected to the frequency with which advertisements interrupt programmes. I agree there should not be so many advertisements coming into the middle of programmes. Perhaps they could give more of them before the programmes begin. I again urge the Minister to get authority to erect a booster station on one of the Twelve Pins.

In rising to reply to this debate, I have the feeling that I am not called on to reply to any very serious criticism. As Deputy Corish has said, the Minister should feel very proud at the tone of the debate. I think every one of the 14 or so speakers started off by saying that on the whole, relatively speaking, it was not a bad medium and it had made considerable progress and so forth. I feel I should almost start off criticising the medium myself in case the Authority would become so complacent that they would think they had nothing to worry about in the future.

I should like to start off, first, by referring to one of the last speakers if the first speaker, for the moment, will forgive me, because he seemed to think that no Minister had expressed an opinion. I have during my short time here on a number of occasions expressed my opinion in regard to television and radio. That can only be a personal opinion except in so far as I feel obliged by the directives given in the Act to ensure that the medium progresses along those lines. This is exactly what I have been trying to say on other occasions when the opportunity presented itself in the past.

The Minister, under section 31, has a directive to compel Telefís Éireann to take off a particular programme. That is only a safety clause, or section, which would be used only in the most extreme circumstances. The fact remains that while the Authority has, should have, and is given a free hand in the preparation of programme matter it is only natural that the Minister should take a fairly keen interest in the overall success or otherwise of the medium over the year or over a long term. It is only, in so far as I felt it was not living up to its obligations under the Act, over a protracted period that I would be obliged to seriously interfere with anything I did not feel was in accordance with what is imposed on the Authority by the Act.

I agree with those who say that Telefís Éireann since its inception has been a success. One has only to think of the speeches made at the time it was inaugurated and of the great deal of speculation and doubt as to whether it would be able to pay its way and whether it would be the success that everybody hoped it would be. Nobody could quite visualise, it being a new medium, how it was likely to turn out. We would not have been surprised if I had to come into the House after its five years of operating, looking for a heavy subsidy to keep the medium going in the years ahead. This is something which many people felt at the beginning might have happened because the whole thing was an innovation so far as we were concerned. The fact that it has succeeded in going ahead and giving good entertainment to a great many people is, in the first instance, a matter in regard to which any Minister can be entirely proud and happy.

Before I leave the question with regard to the Minister's comments and what Deputy Corish said about consultation with the Authority's director and so on, I should like to say that those are not the only people I should like to consult. I would rather listen to a cross-section of the public and responsible people who view from time to time about what they think, what the Government think from time to time and the people who brought the Act into force.

No person during the debate mentioned section 17. This is the section which I like to keep continuously in mind and it is the section which I should like to implore the members of the Authority also to keep constantly in mind. It says:

In performing its function the Authority shall bear constantly in mind the national aims of restoring the Irish language and preserving and developing the national culture and shall endeavour to promote the attainment of those aims.

This is an obligation imposed on the Authority and it is one which we cannot lose sight of. I may have certain views which may not entirely conform with what others have in regard to the interpretation or development of the medium in accordance with that section but they are views which are supported by a fairly wide section of the community and a very large school of thought in this country.

I believe television and sound broadcasting should gradually, but definitely, develop a distinctive national character, use the Irish language on suitable occasions and, progressively, give more and more time to it. This is not always adhered to but I am satisfied that that spirit is growing. A good deal was said here about bilingualism in programmes and I like the people who use the national language whenever the occasion presents itself to do so even in the context of a programme that may have nothing whatever to do with it. It is not entirely the language alone one visualises. There is also the type of programme. We have got a few that are racy of the soil, the type of programme in accord with our Irish heritage, our Irish culture and our way of life generally without being stage Irish at the same time. Those things can be done and be highly entertaining, even educational and informative.

If the House could give a few million pounds and I could cast aside all commercials and put a television station to entertain around the clock, with the most beautiful programmes that everybody could desire, then we could look forward to having something that would please most of the people, but not all of them. Remember, we must not forget the fact that we have a television service at all is due to the manner in which it is run on a commercial basis. That brings me to the points made by most of the speakers.

Most of the speakers mentioned advertising. The Minister must approve of the time allocated to advertising. It is approximately 10 per cent of the time used for broadcasting and not more than six minutes per hour. During the actual time of broadcasting the advertising must not be unduly long. I think the Authority try to ensure that in the main the advertising is bright and that it conforms to good viewing, as far as it is possible to do that. It is asking the Authority to do something which would be almost equivalent to telling them not to do it at all if we ask them to put advertising on at a time when it would not interrupt the actual programme, to have all the advertisements in the middle of the day and the programmes at night, but the people who pay for the advertisements, and pay dearly for them, expect to get the best viewing time. If we are to capture the best priced and the best quality advertisements, I am afraid the Authority must give them good viewing time, time when most people are viewing. We cannot brush them aside and give them any old time.

Dealing with advertising, I should say that on the last occasion when an adjustment of the rates for advertising was due the Government intervened and refused to allow the rates to be adjusted upwards as they were due to be adjusted. This is something that must be re-examined——

Why did they do that?

In the interests of stabilisation.

Why not take some of the profits from the people who advertise?

The people who advertise have to sell goods and they have a happy knack of passing on costs to the consumer. It is not a question of increasing prices. It is not a question of working out the rate card whereby the cost of advertising is increased in accordance with the set count. At the moment we have around 300,000 sets in the country, and we are charging the same as we were last year when the number was considerably less. This readjustment will have to take place, and I hope Deputies will understand that it is not an increase in price. It is a progressive rate which is charged, and on which the Authority have to purchase when they are buying programme matter. It is the rate which governs the price.

Why not increase the rate for foreign goods advertised on Telefís Éireann?

They pay a much higher rate than home-manufactured goods.

A still higher rate. Buy Irish.

They will not after July. We cannot discriminate.

I hope I am not in for a session of interruptions from Deputy Coogan.


Reference was made by a number of speakers to the problem of cigarette advertising. No decision has been taken to preclude the advertising of cigarette smoking, or any type of smoking. There is a code to which the advertisers are expected to conform, and to which they do conform. A decision to do as they did in England, to cut out cigarette advertising entirely, would be a very big step which in my opinion would have to be taken in conjunction with the Department of Health, on a national scale, and the advertising of cigarettes would have to be entirely precluded from any medium, the national newspapers, magazines, and any other form of advertising. This they did not do in England. Cigarette advertising is precluded in England but the advertisers can use any other medium, so far as I know, which only means that they concentrate further and spend the extra money on other media of advertising.

If cigarettes are advertised on our television it does not mean that this House, or the Government, or the Authority, are recommending to the people that they must use everything advertised. This is a medium of advertising. We are not asking the people to smoke cigarettes, any more than we are asking them to use a particular detergent to wash their shirts. The fact is that as of now a decision to ban cigarette advertising has not been taken, and I do not see any point in taking it in respect of one medium alone and leaving out the others.

I shall take the Deputies as they came. Deputy Dockrell very kindly paid tribute to the success of television and sound radio. He referred to the symphony orchestra. He was the only one who advocated that it should appear more on television. I am glad to see Deputy Coogan agrees with him.

An unexpected ally.

This is something we would like to see if it could be commercially successful but I am afraid symphony music in this country has a rather limited audience. It is growing, I hope, in this city and elsewhere but remember, it is a minority.

Everyone is a minority.

I am afraid the viewing public which the appearance of the symphony orchestra commands would not be quite up to the viewing public of the "Hurlers on the Ditch" or the "Late Late Show".

So long as the Minister does not disband the orchestra we are all right.

While I should like to make much more use of it programme-wise I think that they make as much use of it as they can, considering the number of people who are prepared to view it. If that number is growing we will be delighted and we can make more use of of it if it is found to be top material.

Would the Minister try it?

We do try it occasionally. If enough of the fans keep writing in to the Authority and requesting it they may succeed in getting it.

The Minister might be surprised. There is a very big potential audience.

What about Bunnies for the "Hurler on the Ditch"?

Deputy Dockrell referred to the merging of sound radio and television. This Bill does not denote any further merger of the two media. It is merely simplifying the name by which they are known. I hope we will use the abbreviated form of the initials, RTE. The use of Radio Éireann and Telefís Éireann is rather confusing and we are changing it to Radio Telefís Éireann. It does not denote any further merger between the two. The two are under one authority and accounts are presented in the same way too.

Deputy O'Leary, who was the next speaker, in common with many other Deputies, referred to "Open House". One would expect that Deputies would be interested in a programme in which they themselves are involved. Most people seem to think this programme should be continued. Personally I do not think there is much entertainment value in it but it certainly has a good viewing public. Talking about "Open House", we must remember that no matter what Government are in power, in a symposium or a debate of this kind the Government must be prepared to be on the defensive. In matters like this there are some complaints——

It is the way the questions are put down.

Sometimes the complaints are raised by the Minister's own representatives.

The fact remains that the tendency in a debate on political matters is that the Government of the day must take the defensive.

The present one.

I am afraid they would want to at present.

That is a simple matter. Many Deputies suggested that there should be more broadcasting time and I think most of them had television in mind. We would all like to see sound radio broadcasting time extended and I hope we will get around to extending it in the not too distant future, thus giving the housewife a fuller day's broadcasting. I should like if this could be synchronised with the coming into effect of VHF when many areas which are not getting a pure reception at the moment will be in a position to get better reception.

Surely VHF does not make any difference on the portable radio?

I never noticed any difference.

It does. Interference will be picked up on any radio. The Deputy is speaking about the transistor set? I do not think there is any difference whatever.

Nonsense, man alive. You get half the interference from the mains on the valve set.

Interference about which we complain is very often more serious than that and will never be completely eliminated, but certainly from the technical advice available to me, I understand that VHF will give the maximum purity of reception. This will be a very marked improvement and a very opportune time to consider extending sound broadcasting time.

Deputy Dunne complained about the poor rates paid for dramatic productions on television and I think he was speaking from some experience.

There is something slightly slanderous about that.

I would not venture to take the Authority's part on this. It is a matter for their own rating and their business. I would venture to say that the first venture does not always command the highest possible figure.

If it is worth broadcasting, it is worth paying for.

I know hundreds who would be glad to get something broadcast, even if they were never paid. Look at the royalties you would get.

No Minister of the present Government need say that.

That there are many hundreds of people who would like to have a broadcast and not be paid for it. They are following the cameras all the time and we are weary looking at them.

And their script writers are not so hot either.

Deputy Dunne expressed an opposite viewpoint to Deputy Crinion in the matter of rough language which one sometimes finds in dramatic productions. By and large, there are very few complaints on that score. Indeed, they are so few that they are hardly worth mentioning.

Like the telephone system in Maynooth. The Minister has started a revolution down there already tonight.

I will say that no dramatist if he is, to quote Deputy Dunne, to have regard to the facts of ordinary existence, will use to a great extent what is the vernacular but to reach the stage which some people think we should reach and to make use of the rough stuff is something with which I do not agree. I think that is what Deputy Crinion was trying to say.

Did I not say that? Did I not say that I was not in favour of the abuse——

The Deputy did. That is on the record. I should not like it to go out to the public that we are condoning this type of thing, what some people regard as advanced thinking or a dramatic production. Deputy Davern and Deputy Corry referred to the long-haired youths who appear. Well, I have not been accused of that myself.

The Minister will not be, any more than myself.

That is what I have just said. But this is really a personal matter and I am mentioning it only for the reason that there are so many different sections of people and types of people, all of whom are entitled to have some entertainment of their own.

They are not entertaining; they are disgusting.

Hundreds might think otherwise. They are the youth and when the Deputy was growing up, his parents did not approve of everything he did and it will be that way to the end of time. The whole problem goes to show how difficult it is to get something to please all sections. They are all entitled to get something.

One or two speakers, including Deputy O'Connell, described the licence fee as excessive and Deputy O'Connell referred to some city which he visited in America where there were free transmissions. I do not know what the licence fees are in the different American States but I have some of the European fees here and I will run over some of them for the benefit of the House. In Denmark, for 29 hours of programmes per week the combined fee is £7 5s. and they have a set count of 1,020,000. In Switzerland, the fee is £6 19s. for television only and they have three channels, Swiss-Italian, Swiss-German and SwissFrench. In Sweden, it is £6 15s. for television for 43.5 hours per week.

Is there any indication of the number of alternative programmes in each case?

The number of hours do not permit of much alternative. There are different channels in Switzerland, as I mentioned, Swiss-Italian, Swiss-German and Swiss-French.

Is there only one programme in Sweden? I think there are two.

It has only one, with a total of 43.5 hours. They may have that split up—I am not sure— but the fact remains that the fee is £6 15s. In Belgium, the fee is £6 19s. for 39 hours. They have a French as well as a Flemish service.

In Sweden, for instance, the standard of wages and salaries is very much higher.

I question that very much.

The Minister can if he likes.

Some of these countries are not famous for their high salaries. In Austria, the fee is £8 6s. for 35 hours and in Norway, £8 5s. for 25.5 hours. In Ireland, it is £5 for a combined licence for 45 hours. That compares very favourably with any of the others and it certainly cannot be said to be excessive.

The Minister did not include Britain.

Can the Minister say of the national services mentioned have they advertising or are they run on the same lines as the BBC?

I could not say. Some are commercial and some are not. I could not really single out the different ones.

There is a big difference.

Is the Minister making a case for an increase after the Budget?

He might increase it before the Budget.

Deputy Briscoe and a few other Deputies referred to a developing personality cult on television. That, again, is something that can be looked at from two points of view. Recently, the BBC decided to prevent people from building up a personal image; but others take the view that one must build up a good image to be good, the same as some of the outstanding journalists we know in other countries. It is only by constant contact and work that they ultimately become known as able and capable people. By and large, the people working on Irish television and radio have come on well. If at times they feel a little important, perhaps a bit of a superiority complex is no harm. In any event, I do not think we have reached the stage where personality cult is a problem here.

Deputy Byrne was very complimentary but was very generous in the type of programmes he would like to have. In this he was expressing the minds of us all. He asked for more time for agriculture, health, hygiene, children's programmes. But the important thing to remember is this: we would all like more programmes of one sort or another but, as many speakers pointed out, it is a question of £ s. d. Because of economics, the Authority must have, as Deputy Dillon said, a measure of celluloid. In that context it would be no harm to give the House a comparison of the figures of every-day costs based on hours of operation of the station. Telefís Éireann are spending approximately £845 per hour on production and the BBC are spending approximately £4,700 per hour. Anybody who attempts to compare the two stations must take into account the level of the finances available to Telefís Éireann for producing programmes.

Deputy Dillon covered a good many matters, many of which I have already touched on. He was complimentary and made allowances for the short-comings any station must have. He paid tribute to the progress made. He repeated his warning of last year with regard to political broadcasts.

I said that, on the whole, I thought the technique had improved.

He said the last warning he had given was effective. I think the best measure of the impartiality of both radio and television is the fact that I get complaints from my people—others say they get complaints from theirs—with regard to who is getting most of what. As Ministers of State, our Ministers are bound to appear on television from time to time. They are bound to appear frequently if they are doing their job, and on this side of the House, Ministers always do their job.

The Minister forgot to warn the cheer leaders before he said it so that they would be ready with the clap-clap.

Deputy Dillon has been accused by some of my supporters of appearing unduly frequently on television. That is because——

They have not learned to love me.

——he has a lot to say. He speaks on most things in the Dáil and is presented on the screen.

No better man.

You did not always think so. For that reason he gets what perhaps might appear to some to be an undue share. Also, with the occasional warning he issues here, the journalists are perhaps a bit afraid of him and ensure he gets a fair share.

I have never seen any evidence of that.

I only suggested that that was the position.

There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with a pound of butter.

Deputy Dillon also referred to the cost of the Orchestra being borne by the sound radio expense account. For the moment I can think of no better way of paying for the national orchestra unless we have a direct State subsidy. We have given a fair amount of financial assistance to Telefís Éireann to set it up in the first instance. While they are paying interest, they have not used all the repayable advances available to them. I suppose they are doing us a good service by carrying what we know is a very heavy load. Whether it is shown in equal parts by the accounts of television and radio or entirely by one is immaterial, although it may give an incorrect picture of the returns from sound broadcasting. However, most people are aware of how the Orchestra is paid for.

Are you casting an eye on that, like the Garda Band?

Not yet, anyway. Deputy Meaney complained of poor reception. This is something the Authority have in mind to put right at the earliest possible moment. They have been looking into it for a long time. With the new transposers erected recently, it is estimated that 95 per cent or more of the country is free from black spots, as they are called.

Where are these transposers erected?

They are erected at a great many vantage points throughout the country.

Is there one any place around Wexford?

The transposer near Carrick-on-Suir is nearing completion. Provision is made for 13 in all.

Where will they be?

If the Deputy would look at the annual report, I think he will find that it gives an account of them all. They are pretty widely dispersed all over the country, south and north, but they have not completely eliminated all the black spots. I have discussed this matter with the Authority. They hope to follow up in areas where there will be black spots such as in the case of Deputy Geoghegan who is surrounded by the Twelve Pins. There are small black spots in respect of which further arrangements will have to be made in order to ensure that the service reaches them.

Has the Minister anything to say to us about the films that are being shown?

I said at the outset, before Deputy Dillon came in, and perhaps I should repeat it, that the television Authority are responsible for the programming with as little interference as possible by me unless, on the overall, I feel some change should be effected in a particular direction or that they have not lived up to the obligations imposed upon them by the 1960 Act.

It is inevitable that some film material will not be up to a standard that will satisfy everybody. I think Deputy Dillon was anxious to have all films of very good standard brought back or some of the better new films. There can be a certain amount of technical difficulty in this respect. All films are not available and very often I suppose the Authority have to select the best available. I am not entirely supposing this because it has been mentioned to me. We are confined largely to the English-speaking world for films. Continental films are not always suitable.

I do not think all the films shown are of the type Deputy Dillon described. Some quite good films are shown. Sometimes a film which is not very popular with the grown-ups is quite popular with the young people. As Deputy Dillon mentioned, some of the younger people would not know of Greta Garbo or some of the other outstanding film personalities of the past.

Mae West.

You could do worse than Mae West. Is she still going strong?

I do not think there is anything that really calls for serious explanation. Generally, the debate has been very sensible and very harmonious. Most Deputies paid tribute to the effort by the Authority to do their work to the best of their ability within the resources available. I should not like the Authority, because there is so much unanimity in regard to the job they are doing, to be lulled into a sense of complacency. We would always expect that their one desire would be to do better and, above all, to endeavour to present a more distinctive national image. This is something we are aiming at and I think will succeed in doing.

I do not think it is necessary to say anything further. Perhaps the House would give me the Committee Stage tonight?

Innocent little man.

I do not think there is anything that would require any serious reconsideration. It is really a continuing Bill. It makes provision for the payment of an amount, equivalent to the net receipts from licence fees, to the Authority. It also makes a few other minor changes.

Would the Minister not comment on one very important point raised by Deputy James Tully and Deputy Lindsay? It concerns a special licence for a car radio. Has the Minister given thought to it?

According to the Act which makes a licence necessary, a car is a separate place.

But that was before the introduction of the comprehensive £5 licence. Surely that comprehensive licence, which covers your radio and your television, should, for administrative reasons, cover everything?

The combined licence covers all the sets you may have in the house.

You may bring your transistor on the strand and it is still covered by the licence.

If you bring a transistor into a car and rig up the proper aerial, I think you are OK.

A car changes hands. One man owns it today while another man may own it next year.

The same may be said about an ordinary radio. It may be sold.

Give the £5 licence to cover them all.

This is one radio for which nobody should grudge having to pay the licence fee. We get more entertainment out of the car radio than from any other.

The radio in the Minister's car is there all the time, no matter who the Minister may be.

With a change of Government, it would still be there.

I have explained the position. I should be glad to be given the Committee Stage tonight. I do not know what else I can say unless it is that the House wants me to say that I will advocate the removal of a licence fee in respect of the radio of a car.

The Minister for Finance is sitting behind the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. Perhaps he might think of that in relation to his forthcoming Budget.

Question put and agreed to.