Right of Reply.

The committee has completed its deliberations on the issue of the television licence. It will now discuss the right of reply mechanism as outlined in the heads of the Bill. Members consider this as an emerging topic for the public, as individuals seek a right of reply. This is not complex but addresses concerns relating to a method of making complaints that provides for a right of reply. Such a development will place a greater duty on radio and television broadcasters. Members agreed they would benefit from a public hearing on the matter.

I draw attention to the fact that members of the committee have absolute privilege but this same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee which cannot guarantee any level of privilege to witnesses appearing before it. Furthermore, under the salient rulings of the Chair, members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I welcome Mr. Peter Feeney and Mr. Eamonn Kennedy from RTE, Ms Mary Curtin from the RTE trade union group and Mr. Seamus Dooley from the NUJ. I also welcome Mr. Eamon de Valera, Mr. Michael McGrath and Mr. David McMunn.

How do the various organisations see their role in the issue of logging and addressing complaints? I understand there is a reluctance to log, document and address complaints to the extent required in the legislation. Perhaps Mr. Feeney might respond to that. How far does one go? For example, I might be the victim of a broadcast — or a perpetrator, for want of a better word. The two sides of the coin must be addressed in the interests of the general public, fair play and democracy, with a view to ensuring we do not restrict the area too much but impose sufficient responsibility on key personnel to protect the public.

We are dealing with complaints and the right to reply. For those joining us on the webcast, we are discussing heads Nos. 43 and 44, details of which are on the econsultation.ie website. Viewers may access an overview of proposals under each head as we discuss them here.

That was the first part. I have one supplementary question.

Mr. Peter Feeney

There is a very formal, independent means of complaint, namely, through the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, BCC. Its chairman is Michael McGrath, senior counsel, who is present. If a member of the public feels aggrieved, there is an independent, well established, statutory, formal process of complaint. The BCC forwarded 208 complaints to RTE in 2006, so that mechanism is certainly very widely used.

Beyond that, RTE receives literally tens of thousands of communications from the general public each year. Our information office logged 37,000 calls in 2005, and over 9,000 e-mails. They are not all necessarily complaints — many are comments — but the volume of correspondence is substantial. In addition, every programme and director of television, radio or news receives letters, e-mails and telephone calls. The volume of communication between the general public and RTE is considerable, and I am sure the same applies to TV3.

If all those had to be logged and dealt with formally, it would become a great burden on the organisation. The key and crux is to differentiate between comments and serious complaints that require a response. No one is suggesting that a comment about what hairstyle or jewellery a newscaster wears needs be logged. However, if someone such as the Deputy rings to complain that a news report was inaccurate or did not reflect what he actually said, that must be followed up. The key is to draw a distinction between general comments and complaints that require to be pursued. Our concern is that the proposed Bill is too wide, stating that everything must be logged and followed up.

RTE takes pride in its commitment, which can be read on our website, to issue a reply to any serious correspondence within 20 working days. We agree on the importance of that. The independent Broadcasting Complaints Commission is a terribly important part of it.

Perhaps we might hear from Mr. McGrath, before moving to Mr. de Valera, who has made several submissions on this matter.

Mr. Michael McGrath

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission is entirely independent of the broadcasters, public or private, as well as of the complainants themselves.

I will give members a very brief outline of the way in which the broadcasting complaints system works. A complaint must be made in writing. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission does not enjoy omnipotent jurisdiction but competences conferred on it through legislation. There are various headings under which complaints are addressed. It has been our experience in the last 12 months that the headings of impartiality, taste and decency, and advertising have accounted for by far the greatest number and proportion of complaints received by the commission.

The second point to note regarding the system is that the complaint must be made within a specified time of the date of the broadcast, currently 30 days. That complaint is examined in the first instance by the BCC executive and forwarded to the relevant broadcaster for its response. It is then sent back to the complainant. The complainant is sometimes happy with the response received and complaints can be resolved without the need for the commission to sit and adjudicate on the complaint. Approximately half of the 200 complaints received by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission by September 2006 were resolved at an early stage.

The commission is complaint driven, but that may change slightly under the proposed Bill. It is proposed that a compliance committee will take over the role of dealing with complaints, but it will also have a supervisory jurisdiction with regard to whether broadcasters have complied with obligations.

Does Mr. McGrath have some statistics for the benefit of Members? What was the level of complaints received in a calendar year? How many broadcasters would have been involved?

Mr. McGrath

I can provide the most recent general figures. The commission received in excess of 250 complaints for 2006. More than 100 of those were resolved without going before the commission for a formal decision. The greatest number of complaints by far is about partiality, which is a growing area of complaint in both numbers and complexity. People are complaining that the broadcast was unfair and partial, that the broadcaster expressed his own views and so on. That type of complaint has become more complex and this may be related to the fact there are now in excess of 55 licensed operators in the country.

From where did the greatest number of complaints come? Against which broadcaster was most complaints made?

Mr. McGrath

I do not have a specific breakdown.

Can Mr. McGrath give us a general overview?

Mr. McGrath

I have a breakdown from 1 January to mid-September 2006, which is between television and radio. Of 206 complaints received, 135 were submitted against the various State broadcasters, such as the different RTE companies and TG4.

Would television or radio account for more of those complaints?

Mr. McGrath

Television accounted for 83 complaints, while radio accounted for 52.

How many of the television complaints were made against TG4?

Mr. McGrath

There were seven complaints made against TG4.

What about the other two public service channels?

Mr. McGrath

There were 57 complaints made against RTE One and 19 against RTE Two. There were 44 complaints made against Radio 1 and eight against 2FM.

We are very conscious that the public service broadcaster is involved in much more programming. What types of complaints are made against the private sector broadcasters, such as TV3 and Channel 6?

Mr. McGrath

I am not sure if I have a breakdown of the individual category of complaints for each broadcaster-----

What about the number of complaints?

Mr. McGrath

Some 22 complaints were made against TV3 up to the middle of September, according to the latest figures available to me — I am sure Mr. McMunn will confirm this — while the independent radio stations attracted 49 complaints. One must bear in mind that there are more than 50 licensed independent radio broadcasters in the country.

We will park that matter for the time being. I call Mr. de Valera, who is welcome to the meeting. Mr. de Valera made a number of submissions. The committee does not want to hear about his individual complaints against any broadcaster. We want to hear whether it was a cumbersome effort on his behalf to have the complaints addressed, whether he got a response and if the matter was dealt with to his satisfaction.

My view was that the complaints mechanism did not work. I first, probably wrongly, wrote to RTE. There was a delay and I found myself out of time to make a complaint about the television programme in the first instance, although I later discovered that related radio programmes would have brought it within the remit of the legislation. The programme was then repeated despite my participation in a radio programme and my complaint to the broadcaster. I then complained to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

Certain elements of my complaint are incontrovertible. In other words, the evidence I presented did not admit to any other interpretation. There was omission of information on a page that had been exhibited which contradicted the programme. After I wrote to RTE, it responded. I was given a chance to respond to RTE but I was told that RTE would not see my response, which I found bizarre because the BCC subsequently made great play with the issue of rights in its correspondence with me. There seemed to be an emphasis on the right of due process. The BCC, according to its rules as detailed on its website, could have proceeded to hear oral evidence but it did not choose to do so. Without referring to the detail, the BCC made a statement that it could see no evidence of bias when, in fact, my grandfather's denial, which I can swear is true, of the allegations contained in the programme, which were published in 1959, had been ignored. I cannot see how that is not a deliberate element of bias.

The procedure was flawed in so far as I was not put on notice that my response would not be shown to RTE, and that was not stated in the BCC's rules and procedures as listed on its website. The BCC was probably constrained, although I am only guessing in trying to find an excuse for its actions. I was led to believe that the BCC ignored the factual material which I provided, which contradicted the RTE response and clearly showed that in one case a statement that the programme did not know something was factually wrong because it quoted from a letter which I provided.

I ask Mr. de Valera to allow me to interrupt for a moment. Given his submissions, obviously he has had an opportunity to read heads 43 and 44 in respect of the complaints procedure. Does he consider this to be an important change in the legislation to allow for complaints? Does he believe the heads as laid out at present will be helpful in future and will address the shortcomings he has outlined in respect of complaints?

The devil is in the detail and I will make a number of observations. First, the compliance commission must have a means of investigating a complaint, rather than simply going into a plenary session. I understand the existing legislation is deficient as there is no means whereby the commission can delegate an officer to ascertain the facts. The information I provided could have been verified easily by inspecting the shareholder register in Irish Press plc, which is a public document.

I thank Mr. de Valera.

There is another issue in respect of related programmes. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission took the questionable view that a repeat was not a related programme to a related programme of a repeat.

I thank Mr. de Valera for his contribution and I am delighted he appeared before the joint committee. Has Mr. McMunn any observations to make in respect of the complaints procedures under heads 43 and 44?

Mr. McMunn

I wish to make two brief comments. The first is related to dealing with complaints and the number of complaints. The representatives from RTE, namely, Mr. Feeney and Mr. Kennedy, are correct that it receives many more complaints than the private sector. Obviously, this is due to the nature of RTE's output. Moreover, it is funded and staffed to a much greater extent than, for example, TV3, Today FM or any of the local radio stations.

In respect of the processes in question, one must take cognisance that the Government's 2004 White Paper on better regulation stated that regulatory impact assessments would be conducted regarding any legislation that might lead to an increased burden on any sector. The independent sector asks for such assessments to be conducted in this regard. Many complaints are received by broadcasters, many of which are, for want of a better word, silly. We always cite the example where we once received a complaint that we broadcast a programme stating the tooth fairy did not exist and that it was inappropriate to say so.

It must be clear as to how the right of reply ties in with legal remedies generally, be they defamation, slander or otherwise. Obviously, a broadcaster does not wish to be under a form of double jeopardy where trying to deal with a complaint under the right of reply might leave it open to a libel action as there would be insurance implications. The heads of the Bill suggest there should be some interaction with the Defamation Bill. We suggest there should be a single right of reply mechanism for both the broadcast and print media. Furthermore, if such a mechanism is availed of, there should be a limit on people's other legal rights.

I thank Mr. McMunn. As he is aware, a regulatory impact analysis has not been carried out in respect of this Bill because only the heads of the Bill have been produced. I hope this will be the case for all legislation. Some difficulties were encountered in respect of another piece of legislation that passed through the committee recently, namely, the Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Bill. It caused much upset for members because regulatory analysis had not been performed on it.

I will turn to Deputy Perry for questions in respect of the issue of the redress and right of reply mechanism. I ask Ms Curtin and Mr. Dooley to answer some of the questions because they made some observations in this regard. Members can then revert to Mr. Feeney or Mr. Kennedy.

With regard to the redress and right of reply mechanisms, is there a need for a wider right of reply? What is the relationship between the right of reply mechanisms proposed and the important provisions of the Defamation Bill 2006? I know this will be a concern with regard to the mass audience watching the networks, given the introduction of the Defamation Bill.

We do not know because the position is not clear. In looking at the issue we must also remember that it is possible a privacy Bill which will also not interact will be introduced. Therefore, in looking at the issues of compliance and the right of reply one is looking at a legislative structure which ignores the possibility that legislation will be introduced in the future.

I do not often find myself in agreement with Mr. de Valera, but I agree that the devil is in the detail, some of which is missing. As a broad principle, it is very important that there is the right of reply. Giving the public a greater right of reply is an idea the NUJ would support. However, the code is enormously detailed and there is a danger that it will be turned into a cranks' charter. However, there is something wrong with a programme if it does not provoke a public reaction and with the work of my members if it does not get up the noses of people. At the same time there is a requirement to be fair and impartial and, where someone has been done an injury, to give him or her a speedy right of reply. The importance of linking all the pieces of legislation cannot be over-emphasised.

I have a particular concern about the role of the compliance committee. I would rather see the retention of an investigating body for complaints which is completely independent of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. For me the notion of the compliance committee, effectively a sub-structure of the authority, being a party in investigating complaints is problematic. In addition, by definition, the committee excludes anyone who knows anything about journalism. The exclusion of worker-directors, trade union representatives and anyone who has any involvement in professional activity seems to be a major flaw because the investigation of how a story was handled, for example, could be assisted by the active involvement of practitioners. This has happened informally in the Broadcasting Complaints Commission in which there is a tradition and a long history of people such as regional newspaper editors sitting on the committee. That people who might know something about the profession are excluded seems to be a serious flaw.

Is Deputy O'Malley's question related to the same issue?

It concerns the right of reply.

We will take another question from Deputy Perry and then one from Deputy O'Malley.

In respect of the customer charter, it has been indicated that this will present an onerous task for broadcasters. However, when one looks at the profitability of the broadcasting business with regard to day-to-day management and embracing new technology, one would imagine that one would be able to segregate what was important and needed attention to detail. The question arises as to whether the right of reply should extend to the families of deceased persons, as an allegation or comment which will have a huge impact on the next of kin can be made. An allegation made in the print media or on television can have a huge impact for decades on the family concerned. In such a situation there is a considerable responsibility on broadcasters to be sensitive. I know the print media would like to see this excluded but there is a considerable responsibility of which people are conscious. This should be dealt with in a more sensitive manner because such allegations can be very hard to address.

Would Mr. Feeney or Mr. Kennedy like to comment? We will then hear from Ms Curtin.

Mr. Eamonn Kennedy

There will be a right of reply in dealing with complaints that people's reputations have been affected. The problem with this proposal is that it does not apply to newspapers. It is an idea taken from legislation in France and Germany. Legislation in France has taken account of a right of reply in respect of newspapers since 1881. There will be a disparity of treatment if the proposal does not apply to newspapers. This is not justified and must be examined.

There must be an urgent review of how this will work in practice. If the legislation is passed, there will be a number of rights of reply. The right of reply under the BCC will continue. The Defamation Bill provides for remedies called declaration orders and correction orders which, in effect, are the same as a right of reply. The proposal must be reviewed to see how it will work. It cannot operate in a vacuum and must be considered in the context of the law on defamation.

Mr. Kennedy's comment about disparity of treatment was interesting, as were Mr. Dooley's about the exclusion of experts. I have a question for Mr. McGrath. One will always have people who make vexatious comments but there are instances where the issue of one's reputation must be dealt with speedily. People may have justifiable complaints about advertising because in some cases advertisers seek complaints to gain notoriety for an advertisement. When it is a matter of fairness or concerns comments of a personal nature, it is very serious. We can distinguish between serious and vexatious complaints. How quickly would one have a right of reply as proposed in the Bill? As a politician one is more exposed than the average person and one's reputation is all one has. Anybody would be keen to protect his or her reputation. Are the proposals strong enough?

Mr. McGrath

Head 45(7) provides that the requestor may make a request for a right of reply up to six months after the date of the broadcast. At present one has 30 days to make a complaint from the date of the broadcast. The broadcaster must deal with the complaint under the proposed legislation and, if the requestor is not satisfied with the response, the matter will be referred to the compliance committee.

That seems far too long, particularly on a matter of fairness. I refer to an incident last year when a Minister was annoyed about what was represented on a programme. One needs a speedy right of reply. The matter should be dealt with within one week.

Mr. McGrath

Deputy O'Malley is correct. For a right of reply to be effective, the reply must be broadcast reasonably quickly after the offending broadcast. This a matter for legislators to address.

Does Mr. McGrath agree with the Deputy that the timeframe should be shortened?

Mr. McGrath

It should be considered.

Ms Mary Curtin

On that specific point, the proposed legislation states a person seeking a right of reply has up to six months to do so. I expect anybody who feels he or she was wronged will be in like a shot. It would be foolish to leave it for six months. If a clear case for a right of reply exists, it should be handled speedily. I speak as a former radio producer. If something goes out that should not have gone out, it is usually inadvertent and in RTE the ethos has always been that it should be dealt with and any wrong should be rectified. We will not be at odds on this matter.

The issue comes down to whether a right of reply is justified. The proposed legislation states vexatious complaints do not need to be dealt with and my concern is who will make that decision and when. One section suggests the broadcaster will make that decision, but elsewhere it is suggested it will be made by the compliance committee. It appears we have first call on it, but an appeal can be made to the compliance committee. I do not want to repeat what other people stated, but I echo Mr. Dooley's point on the independence of the final judge on issues such as complaints and right of reply which is crucial.

I assure Ms Curtin her contribution is important to the committee and to the departmental officials who will draft the final legislation.

I will be as brief as possible. I never made a complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. I complained to various print and electronic organisations about the broadcasting of fact versus fiction. Within reason, broadcasters have an obligation to eliminate all doubt about the veracity of an allegation which could affect the character or good name of an individual. The right of reply is useless once the character of a person is falsely taken. If it is done deliberately, it is serious enough to warrant removing the licence from the licence holder. We should all be clear on this and it applies to business, politics, governments and those in opposition.

I will not make an allegation about anybody in particular, but in some quarters a tendency exists for a bad referee to mend his or her faults as the game progresses. A referee who fails to recognise a serious offence on the field allows it to go by and decides to balance it by penalising the team at the end of the game. This is not balance; it is using hindsight to act on an error previously made. Two wrongs do not make a right and I do not know whether the broadcasting complaints mechanism will be able to deal with this aspect. We must be extremely careful about how we act in the event of irreparable damage being done to the character of an individual or firm based on false information. It raises serious issues.

The national broadcasting authority has an extremely difficult job. It is torn by the influence of the Government, although it will deny this. I recently had a hot debate on this issue with a print journalist who claimed that the Government had a divine right over broadcasting. I contest this.

Who said that?

I have full privilege here and can tell the Chairman if I wish. However, I would never abuse privilege here or in the House. The national broadcasting body is the national, not the Government, broadcasting authority. There should be clear lines between the two. They are not synonymous, although there is a tendency to forget this in some quarters. I do not blame the authority but the matter needs to be dealt with.

By its nature, electronic transmission has difficulties. On air one may have no control over certain events. However, one can exercise it by delaying the broadcast and other self-protection measures. This should be borne in mind. I pose the following question to anybody who wants to answer. In the event that a person's character is taken live on air, what action can he or she take, other than going to court, involving a long series of expensive activities? What action can be taken to ensure the character of a person or the good name of a firm is not taken irresponsibly and without foundation or supporting evidence?

Perhaps that is a question for Mr. Feeney.

Mr. Feeney

My experience as head of current affairs — television for seven years in the 1990s was that if a person contacted a programme to say something factually wrong had been said, there was almost always an instinct to find out if the complaint was genuine and to address it within the same programme if it was live or the next day if it was not. There is no reason to think this has changed. All programme makers, regardless of whom they work for, have an instinct to address issues immediately because we are wary of litigation, the costs involved and the time and energy it takes. The professionalism of journalists and programme makers tends towards trying to address a genuine expression of an injustice immediately. This mechanism does not need to be legislated for, as it is the instinct of journalists. The same applies to newspapers. If one sees something wrong in today's newspaper, one's best chance lies in having it addressed in tomorrow's newspaper. That is outside the new proposed Broadcasting Bill.

I have been in politics a long time and that does not always happen. I do not refer just to Mr. Feeney's organisation or the print media. We have all suffered at the hands of the media but when we complain, we are told it is an editorial decision. That does not wash with me. Does Deputy Broughan have a question, not a statement?

Because of the nature of our business, politicians need thick skins. The guests on Ryan Tubridy's radio show this morning cast aspersions on the musical abilities of Oireachtas Members, although five of us have performed pretty well on "You're a Star". We must take this in our stride. Is there a difference between the cold media of newsprint and the hot media of radio and television? To correct errors in newspapers one can write a letter and post it to the editor immediately. The three major morning papers often allow one to write an article. During the fishing debate we saw how one side was able to answer the other on matters of opinion as well as fact. The right of reply is immediate, whereas it is much more difficult to achieve in the hot media. I broadly support the right of reply, for example, via talk shows. I listened to the great Joe Duffy yesterday invigilating on a discussion between Mr. Ollie Byrne of Shelbourne Football Club and football supporters around the city and country who were critical of the administration of the club. There is a particular problem with radio and television in that regard.

Mr. Dooley expressed a preference for an independent body based on the existing BCC model but why should we do that? Why should a regulator not also have the right to adjudicate over these matters?

I do not believe this Bill will ever see the light of day. The discussion is interesting but the new Government, whoever forms it and I hope my own party will be a strong influence at its centre, will put forward a different Bill. We have grave reservations—

Will the Deputy ask a question? Other speakers are waiting to come in.

I wish to make an important point about public sector broadcasting. I see no reason to abolish the RTE Authority and I am inclined to follow the British model for the BBC. If a new authority is established, why should it not have the right to invigilate on these matters as well as everything else?

My last point may have been raised before I came into the meeting. Is it not unfair to conclude that a person who does not turn up has failed to reply? He or she may simply have disagreed with the tenor of a broadcast. There have been cases of great journalists, such as Charlie Bird, chasing somebody who obviously will not answer questions but other cases have been very deleterious to a person's character.

The journalists will be lining up to interview Deputy Broughan this afternoon. Before I call Mr. Dooley to reply, I invite Senator Kenneally to ask a question as we must finish by 12 p.m. It will give Mr. Dooley the chance to collect his thoughts.

I realise there are time constraints and I only have a couple of brief questions. I understand Mr. Dooley's point that, while broadly supportive of the proposal, he fears it will lead to a cranks' charter. Would there be any merit in charging a fee to deter frivolous complaints? There will always be people who make complaint after complaint, largely without substance.

My second question relates to the earlier discussion with Mr. McGrath. Mr. de Valera said the Broadcasting Complaints Commission was able to hold oral hearings. How many of the complaints up to last September were dealt with by oral hearing? Is it a mechanism that is widely used or is it never used?

I ask Mr. Dooley to respond, after which I will call Mr. McGrath.

To answer Deputy Broughan's question, my view on the RTE authority and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission is summed up by the principle: "If it is not broken, do not fix it". Deputy Durkan referred to the perceived influence of ministerial appointees but that is not a matter for me, other than to point out that this Bill provides for 78 ministerial nominees who will have a direct influence on the shape of broadcasting.

Senator Kenneally raised the possibility of a fee but I am opposed to that move. The right to seek redress should be open to all and affordable. Greater clarification on what is frivolous or vexatious is the answer.

Live broadcasting is not a risk-free zone. Therefore we must assume that risks will be taken in broadcasting. There is a need, particularly in this session, to consider how we can most efficiently address the damage caused when mistakes are inadvertently made. If damaging broadcasts are not inadvertently made, those responsible should by and large end up before the courts.

Journalism, electronic journalism in particular, is very risky. Speaking from a personal rather than NUJ perspective, I believe electronic media organisations have not been particularly innovative in using the right to reply, and there is scope for a right to reply type of programme. The BBC has modelled this and it could be useful, provocative and entertaining. It would also be limited in terms of the law. It would be useful for the area to be examined by broadcasting organisations.

Mr. McGrath

The practice has not been adopted by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission although the current commission has been in situ for just over 12 months. My understanding is the practice was not adopted by the previous commission and I am not aware that it was ever adopted by any commission in the past in terms of oral hearings.

There was a capacity to use it.

Mr. McGrath

Yes, and perhaps the issue should be looked at.

Mr. Feeney

On the volume of complaints and so on, it should be borne in mind that most complainants act over Irish matters. People do not complain about bought-in programming but do about Irish-made programming, as it affects our daily lives. RTE produces the vast majority of home-produced television in Ireland, and that is reflected in the level of complaints.

That point was made in the opening statements.

We all had experiences of what some might regard as biased broadcasting or publications brought to our attention. Others may see the same work as balanced. I am sure the Chairman would have had occasion to look at this matter as well. I have viewed and listened to programmes that I regard as critical of my point of view and which I am sure supported the point of view of others.

There are two consequent matters. Examining a publication or broadcast afterwards, it may be found that it was objective or fair. There is also the agenda element to consider — which has not been addressed by anybody here — where a particular line is being pursued by various people.

That is not relevant to this session.

It is very relevant. The area needs to be addressed.

It is more relevant to the afternoon session.

I am aware of that as well. The matter relates to broadcasting, balance and the right of reply. A person may have no right to reply and such a right may not be necessary. The theme of a given programme in print or broadcasting may lead in a particular direction. In that area the damage may well be done before there is ever a right to reply, as the agenda may be set. I wish to note the point of agendas that can evolve in the course of broadcasts, or in the print or electronic media.

Mr. Dooley spoke about live recordings but did not refer to a prerecorded programme which may be edited and which could be just as damaging to individuals. I will give the final right of reply to Mr. de Valera. Having listened to what was said today does Mr. de Valera consider the new legislation proposals to be an improvement? The witness mentioned the devil in the detail.

It is an improvement. On a general point it does not make sense to have separate bodies looking at compliance, and this relates to the move to a compliance committee, which would also look at complaints. A broadcaster would be in breach of contract if it broadcast objectionable material.

It should be clear that within the procedure there must be an appeals mechanism. Otherwise, if a mistake has been made, there will be no mechanism for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission to vacate a decision.

I thank Mr. de Valera. I remind everyone that we will reconvene at 2 p.m. to discuss how a levy to fund the broadcasting authority of Ireland and its committees should be operated. We will discuss the statutory duties, codes and rules imposed on commercial, community and public service broadcasters, including equal status for radio and television; sponsorship quotas for advertisements, news and current affairs. Codes of practice in the commissioning of programmes will be dealt with on Thursday morning. I thank everyone who has appeared before the committee for their contributions.

Sitting suspended at noon and resumed at 2 p.m.