I appreciate the selection of this issue for debate and acknowledge the presence of the Minister.
Over the past number of years, I have been a member of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications and from time to time we have had the pleasure of discussing the future of broadcasting, its funding and structures and what constitutes a public service broadcast. In the past 20 years, the advent of commercial radio stations, particularly in provincial Ireland, has revolutionised broadcasting across the country. Until the advent of commercial radio stations, the local voice or the voice of somebody outside of the M50 was probably as rarely heard as the corncrake. In my part of the world, the advent of commercial radio stations has brought local news into the hearts of homes and into kitchens.
Over and above this, we have seen the creation of independent television stations, all of which I believe provide a public service broadcast remit. However, there is no acknowledgment of that. I am disappointed that at a stage when the Government is heading into an election, we have not considered reform of this area. We have not looked at defining what we regard as public service broadcasting or at supporting those people engaged in it. I will defend RTE when it needs to be defended and have no problem in doing that. It produces high calibre programmes. However, I will also criticise RTE when it needs criticism. The fact it is getting in excess of €180 million from the public every year means there should be some accountability for that money.
In the recent past there has not been the required accountability with regard to the TV licence fees. We need a greater level of scrutiny and oversight. We also need a greater determination of what is considered public service broadcasting. Let me cite two examples. The Fr. Kevin Reynolds situation was a scandal because his reputation could have been absolutely destroyed. The other example concerns the debate broadcast in advance of our most recent presidential election. I was never going to give Seán Gallagher a vote and do not make any bones or apology for that. However, I believe the programme broadcast on that night played a major part in the determination of that election.
From the point of view of a person who pays €160 for a television licence for a public broadcasting service - there is no significant coverage given to the cost of the television licence in comparison with the coverage given to the cost of another commodity, namely water - I am interested in ensuring the service is properly funded and regulated. We need to examine the level of oversight and accountability in this regard. I do not believe that in 2015 it is acceptable that it is only three years after somebody takes up a position in a semi-State company, that the salary details on that position are released. Can the Minister imagine this happening in other companies that fall under his remit, whether Bord na Móna, the ESB or whatever? Can he imagine the outcry there would be if he, the Minister, appointed somebody as CEO of ESB and told the people he would only reveal that person's salary in three years time? That is not acceptable.