: I was commenting on the background outlined by the Minister in relation to the necessity for legislation at this stage to promote the film industry and regularise the existing facility available. The Minister in his statement established the need for a film industry under many headings. He mentioned the development of artistic and technological skills, promotion of tourism, promoting cultural values, and public relations. The film industry is a means of presenting this country, its heritage and its people to the world, and the way they live in their environment. It is a very worthwhile objective to provide a facility that will do all these things.
The establishment of a board with a sum in excess of £4 million over the next four years is a first step in the direction of the attainment of the objectives outlined. While the sum of £1 million per year approximately is not satisfactory, I suppose even if it were ten times that figure some people would find it unsatisfactory. It is a particularly small sum of money for an industry that needs and deals in large amounts of money. While the Minister may compare the size of the allocation with that of its counterpart in England, I suggest to him that the two situations are not comparable in that in the United Kingdom there is and has been a well-established, well-rooted and, as far as I know, a very successful industry in the past number of years. Here we are talking about starting from the foundation. Indeed, we are in the subterranean area if we take into account the amounts of money owed by the industry as of now. The establishment of the board, its formation and the question of the number of people involved are matters that could be discussed more appropriately on Committee Stage and I shall refer to them later.
The sum involved is quite small when we consider what has to be done. It is there for the promotion and development of film-making. I am sure that the representations made to the Minister referred to the questions of distribution and the provision of film archives. While the Minister has said that he does not wish to tie down the board in cold print specifically to this area of activity, I think the industry would be more comfortable if at least some gesture were made in print to the distribution aspect. The Minister has said quite rightly that there is the possibility of danger arising where a film maker could dump a completed film at the door of the board and simply say "distribute it". While that is an extreme case of something that might arise, I do not think that in practice it would arise because as the Minister and the House are aware, the costs of distribution are very high and the technicalities involved in breaking into the distribution sector, which is controlled by international, multi-national film makers, are very difficult.
When the board are brought into existence and are operating, I am quite sure they will have to expend some portion of their allocation on trying to break into the distribution sector of film making because without distribution, without getting audiences to view films either in cinemas or on television, the whole thing will collapse around our ears.
Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá maidir le scannáin as Gaeilge. Dúirt an tAire go raibh ceist cultúra anseo, go mbeadh sé mar cheann d'fheidhmeanna an bhoird agus ag an tionscal trí chéile muintir na hÉireann agus saol na hÉireann a thaispeáint don domhan. Anois, mar atá a fhios againn sa Teach seo, dá mbeadh fear déanta scannán ag braith ar theacht isteach ar scannáin déanta as Gaeilge, dá mbeadh sé ag braith ar an méid teacht isteach a bheadh ar fáil taobh istigh den tír seo, ní dóigh liom go n-éireodh leis toisc go bhfuil an tír chomh beag, agus bheadh deacrachtaí eile ann chomh maith, deacrachtaí teangan. Ach mar sin féin, má táimid i ndáiríre faoi chultúr agus faoi shaol muintir na hÉireann a theaspáint don domhan trí scannáin nó trí scannáin thelefíse, caithfear é seo a dhéanamh. Daoine go bhfuil suim acu i scannáin as Gaeilge, tá mé ag ceapadh go bhfuil an ceart acu go mbeadh airgead ar fáil le cuidiú a thabhairt dóibh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh cuid den £1 milliún seo, cé go bhfuil sé an bheag, ar fáil don obair seo.
Seo ceist eachrannach, tá a fhios agam. Nuair a bhímid ag trácht ar scannánaíocht bímid ag caint ar rud idirnáisiúnta ach tá tíortha beaga eile ag déanamh scannán ar fud an domhain agus á ndíol ar fud an domhain. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil bac ar bith á chur orthu i ngeall ar deacrachtaí teangan. Seachtain ó shin ins an Bheilg chonaic mé féin John Wayne ag labhairt Fraincíse agus job maith á dhéanamh aige. Bhí an blas aige; níl fhios agam blas Paris, blas Marseilles nó cén blas. Tá "super technology" againn agus táimid in ann "dubbing" agus mar sin de a dhéanamh. Ní dóigh liom gur bac é an teanga.
Sin an méid atá le rá agam maidir le scannáin as Gaeilge, ach cheap mé go mba cheart tagairt a dhéanamh dó sa Teach seo. Má táimid i ndáiríre faoin taobh seo den scannánaíocht, ba cheart go mbeadh airgead ar fáil chun an rud sin a dhéanamh, go háirithe chun freastal ar na daoine go bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar theanga labhartha acu.
Mention of the employment that a film industry can give was made by the Minister. It would seem that in the past when outside film makers came here to make films at Ardmore Studios and on location they were very slow to employ key personnel—directors, producers, top cameramen and so on. I understand that as yet they have not taken on Irish people in prestigious positions. I am sure those people are available here but because of the international aspect of film making, and because of the big money and risks involved to promoters and sponsors, they are reluctant to take on new names. They are happier with established, well-known names in the business where their money will be, as they see it, at a lesser risk.
The emphasis on the expenditure of this money on Irish made films is legitimate and is something the people involved in the Irish film industry are asking and are concerned about, and rightly so. The Minister referred to difficulties with the EEC. If we are seen to be discriminating against any member state we will find ourselves in serious trouble. In my view there are other areas and departments which find themselves in a similar position, but they get around this problem. I am not suggesting we should tell lies to the Commission, but there are legitimate ways around the kind of regulation which keeps a very close eye on discriminatory legislation.
A strong case can be made here because of the infant state of our film industry. In the normal course of events it should be given some preferential treatment. It has a long way to go. It has the personnel, the enthusiasm and a fine studio. All it needs is a chance to put down roots, get its head above ground and hope for a little sunshine, but it needs time to do all these things.
While I am in favour of preferential treatment for the Irish film industry in Irish hands, that does not preclude in any way foreign film makers coming here and using our facilities, let it be through the incentives which will be provided by the board or by using Ardmore Studios and all its ancillary services. The two go hand in hand, but there may be a danger that when the board are established and it is known internationally that incentives are being provided by the Irish Government for the production of films, there might be an over-abundance of interest shown by outsiders to the possible exclusion of Irish interests. This is the kind of thing that could happen, although I am not saying it will. The board, when nominated, will keep a careful eye to ensure a balance in the allocation of funds. When a viable Irish project comes along, I hope the board will give it a nod in the affirmative. I am sure that will be the Minister's aspiration too. We do not want to upset the Commission in Brussels or cause them any soul-searching in relation to discrimination.
As the Minister said, the board are an experimental project. They are not engaged in the gratuitous handing out of Exchequer moneys to every Tom, Dick or Harry who may come along. They are involved in a very competitive, technical business. I hope the members of the board will have the necessary technical and administrative skills and know-how to ensure that we get value for the money we are providing for this industry.
The second Bill deals with the studio itself, and the provision of money for NFSI. As I said at the outset, I am a member of the Committee of Public Accounts. Purely as a watch-dog on public expenditure in recent years that committee criticised expenditure on this project. I do not think the finger was pointed at anybody involved in the studios. This was looked upon as a global project which did not seem to be getting off the ground. As has been said, the demands on Exchequer funds are such that we cannot be seen to justify expenditure which does not seem to be getting us anywhere. The functions of the Committee of Public Accounts include that kind of careful scrutiny in all Departments through their accounting officers. While no member of that committee could be regarded as a technical expert in the field of film production or in the type of facilities the studios might provide, these matters were not our concern. We tried to ensure that the expenditure passed by this House would yield a satisfactory return but it did not seem to us that very much was coming back.
It may be, as is the case in many of these projects, that it was under-capitalised from the start and that the people running the studios found themselves in an impossible position where they could not meet the demands made on them and lost business to better equipped studios. I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing Ardmore Studios while a film was being made. It was gratifying to see the number of people employed there—carpenters, scenery painters, electricians, extras, canteen staff and so on. The only problem is that this is not on a full-time, regular basis because the total dependence on foreign film makers leads to intermittent work for these people.
I would hope that, with this new injection of capital and with the existence of a board to direct the industry, there may be a more even spread of activity in the studio which in turn would provide regular employment for people involved in the necessary services during filming. Apart from the personnel employed at that level there would be provided also very worthwhile and necessary training for our young technologists, for those engaged in lighting, in camera work and so on. There arises a problem in relation to total reliance on foreign film makers in that these people do not have a commitment to this kind of training programme whereas, presumably, Irish film makers involved in this work would have a commitment and would seek out people for training in the various aspects of the industry and train them to standards that would be acceptable for the production of short or feature films for international distribution.
People in the film industry may have some reservations about the provisions of both these Bills. We hope to expand on the details of the legislation on Committee Stage, but the fact that we are talking about this legislation now is a step in the right direction. I trust that at the end of the period for which this financial allocation is being made, the Minister's threat of this step being a last chance will not have to be implemented and that there will be by then a well-established film industry that will be in a position to remind the Exchequer that they are in a healthy state but that they need so much money to create further improvements and that while they may be self-sufficient they will need involvement at Exchequer level. A Government should not turn their back on an industry which we hope within the next few years will prove itself to be both vibrant and healthy.