The proposer of the motion has 15 minutes, the seconder has ten minutes the Minister has 15 minutes and the proposer ten minutes to reply.
Satellite Channel Programmes: Motion.
That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to see what steps can be taken to prevent the transmission of pornographic material on satellite channels.
I welcome to the House our Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy M. Higgins. It is a great opportunity for him to display his many talents that we in the Seanad know he possesses. He made a major contribution as a Senator and he was a great ambassador for Seanad Éireann. I look forward to his contribution as a Minister. I welcome him to the House and congratulate him on his appointment.
This motion calls on the Government, as a matter of urgency, to see what steps can be taken to prevent the transmission of pornographic material on satellite channels. I understand an amendment has been put down and this side of the House is glad to accept this as an addendum but not as an amendment. I support the suggestion in the amendment that the Seanad should accept television as an instrument of education, whether the programmes are on home channels or satellite channels. Television is one of the greatest assets of the modern world. It is an educational facility coming into our homes daily, all year round. I do not know of anyone who has not learned something positive from television. If used properly it provides an opportunity to update one's education for example, in the area of current affairs one can find out what is happening in places like Australia, the United States or any other country. The power of television is brought home to us on a daily basis when it is used in a positive manner. In common with many others in his House, including the Minister, I have worked in the medium of television and I know how positive it can be and how it has promoted sport, industry and many other facets of life by bringing them into the home.
There are exceptions to the rule and the one I am highlighting this evening is the new satellite receiver which can beam up to 30 channels into our homes. Many of these channels provide a 24 hour service while others start at 5 o'clock in the evening and go on until 3 o'clock in the morning. Many of these channels are exciting and I watch the sports channels in particular when I am at home.
I am very grateful that the Minister considers the situation that has existed for the last number of months sufficiently serious and that he has come into the House to take this motion this evening. I recommend that the Government bring in regulations to prevent people in Ireland receiving the pornographic satellite station Red Hot Television. The Government should make it a criminal offence to supply the decoders required to receive this hardcore service from Denmark if the issue cannot be resolved during what I understand is a 15 day consultation period. The service known as Red Hot Television has thousands of Irish satellite subscribers and the screening of its sexually explicit contents is unacceptable. It has the potential to cause great harm to children and adults, who may view it. This material should not be available in Ireland simply because it is broadcast overseas. The growth of satellite television in Ireland is at a rate of over 300 new installations each week. It is a very popular service particularly the sports channel. That is one reason the service is growing here.
The EC Commissioner in charge of the audio-visual group has no desire to see the directive used to create a free market in pornography. I read in a magazine last week that the Director General of the European Commission audio-visual group, Collette Flesch, said that member state authorities have the means to stop such broadcasts. They can take whatever measures necessary. As far as the European Commission is concerned, the situation seems clear: it is up to member states to suspend such broadcasts. In a debate in the House of Commons on 19 March 1993 Mr. Peter Brooke, MP, said that the broadcaster of the Red Hot Television Service and the European Commission had been notified that the British Government proposed to take action under Article 22 of the EC Broadcasting Directive 89/552. Article 22, which deals with the protection of minors, provides for a member state to take action, where warranted, against a service coming from another member state in relation to the contents of a programme. Mr. Brooke said that Article 22 lays down a 15 day period for consultations with the transmission state and the Commission. If it was not possible to reach an agreement or settlement during this period, the British Government intended to take steps to restrict transmission of the service within the United Kingdom.
A country as liberal as the United Kingdom, considers this service unfit to be beamed into British homes. We should bear in mind that when you get a satellite receiver, with a satellite dish and satellite amplifier, you do not need a card of any description, as you do for Sky, to receive this channel. It is being transmitted and it is not necessary to pay a fee to receive it. This station started transmitting on channels 11 and 12 about four months ago.
I received five or six complaints from parents and my advice was to have their channels decoded by the person who installed the satellite equipment. That was done in the midland area but five weeks ago the channels were changed and the service began transmitting on channels 15 and 16. As a result of this, I am raising this matter this evening.
The United Kingdom wants transmission of the service withdrawn and Mr. Brooke said that he proposed to make an order under section 177 of the Broadcasting Act, 1990, proscribing Red Hot Television. The Independent Television Commission notified him on 15 October 1992 and again on 1 February 1993 that it considers this service to be an unacceptable foreign satellite service within the meaning of section 177 of the Broadcasting Act, 1990. Subject to the outcome of consultations which were required within a 15 day period in relation to the directive, he was satisfied that the making of such an order would in the public interest and compatible with the national obligation placed on him at the time, and he had no hesitation in making the recommendation to have them banned. Mr. Brooke said that once an order under section 177 was in force, it would become a criminal offence to support any foreign satellite service specified in section 178 of the Broadcasting Act, 1990.
With your permission Sir, I would like to share my time with Senator Roche.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I second the motion because it is a common sense one.
I do not favour measures which limit civil liberties or the rights of artistic expression. I believe that self-regulation is better than State regulation. I think censorship can be a two edged sword. Indeed, there are a number of ways to avoid the censor and by doing so the activity becomes more attractive. While I do not favour restrictions, as I said I feel that self-regulation is better than State regulation. As a society we have our norms and standards as to what is acceptable behaviour; as a civilised society we place limits on ourselves. For example, we decide what can be broadcast, what can be published and what can be circulated in society. We accept limitation on our rights in these matters. We do this, not to restrict the individual, but to safeguard society.
I question the efficiency of some forms of censorship and restriction. For example, I have on two occasions in this House asked if section 31 is a form of censorship, and on other occasions I think the Minister would share my view on this matter. Other forms of restrictions are, unfortunately, a necessary adjunct to the type of society we live in and the kind of technology available. In 1988 both Houses enacted a Video Recordings Act which provided that the State had the right to limit and control the distribution of video material. The aim of that Bill was to limit the spread of violent and sexually explicit material. When that Act was passing through both Houses speakers on all sides agreed that pornography was an assault on values which society generally accepted. Moreover, speakers also accepted that pornography was an assault on the individual and on his dignity. It was felt that women were the main victims of pornography and they were portrayed as objects rather than as persons. Violence, which is a hallmark of video pornography, was also seen as being dangerous. These videos frequently portray violence in a manner which is uninhibited and promotes the view that what is abnormal is normal and what is horrific is acceptable. People's decency and care for their fellow human beings can be eroded by exposure to this material.
The satellite television transmissions offer a means to side-step the issue. New technologies from Denmark, a country which does not share our values, provide an opportunity for unacceptable material to be beamed into our homes. The proposals in the motion are sensible. They are not an assault on liberty or on the right of expression. They attempt to regulate new technology as we have regulated existing technologies, publications, material exposed on the stage or material broadcast on radio or television within the State. It is sensible to accept this proposal.
I would like to say a few words on the amendment. If all the words after "taken to" were deleted an entirely different focus would be given to the motion. Like Senator Cassidy, I would have no problem with the amendment as an addendum to the motion. It would be a sensible addendum. I do not think Senator O'Toole, Senator Henry or Senator Norris would accept that sexually explicit material which demeans the individual and attacks womanhood should be allowed to be transmitted without any form of control and I do not think this is what they would wish. As they are not in the House at present we must wait to hear from them. However, I think this would be the effect if their motion was accepted.
The idea that satellite television should be used in an educational and positive manner is a good one. I believe that there is tremendous educational material available on satellite channels. I have been at war for a number of years with Cablelink about their refusal to transmit TV5. It is an excellent French language channel which would offer positive benefits. I know that recently French teachers asked for its transmission. I suggest that the House endorse the motion and that Senator Norris's proposed amendment should be taken as an addendum to it.
No way. I have never heard such drivel.
Senator Norris has now arrived. It is a pity he was not here to hear the earlier part of the contribution.
I was listening to it and I have never heard such pompous drivel in my life.
It is a pity that Senator Norris, when he arrives late——
I was not late. I was working in my office and I saw Senator Roche read every word of his speech. He was fascinated by it.
——tries to disguise his embarrassment by bluster and fuss. He will have the opportunity to make his point and to defend pornography and the dehumanisation of the individual which pornography represents. I will listen to Senator Norris with more manners than he listened to me.
I was suggesting that little divides us on these issues and that the proposed amendment would be acceptable to all sides. Certainly, I would accept it because I believe satellite television is a tremendous medium for education. It is a pity Senator Norris cannot show some common sense. However, I have seconded the motion.
Patronising, pompous drivel.
I made the point that Senator Norris's amendment——
It is not my amendment.
——the proposal by Senator Henry, Senator O'Toole and Senator Norris would negate the motion. I also made the point that the benefits of the motion and the amendment could be achieved if Senator Norris and his compatriots showed a little common sense. However, this is not the case. I have formally seconded the motion. I think it is a sensible one but, unfortunately, I must oppose the amendment.
Ar an gcéad dul síos tá áthas orm a bheith arais sa Seanad. Tá súil agam go mbeidh ócáidí fiúntacha ann amach anseo nuair is féidir liom ráitisí a dhéanamh agus páirt a ghlacadh i ndíospóireachtaí.
I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received here today. At times I look back on my period here form 1973-77 and 1982-87 and I am delighted the Seanad has lost none of its vigour or depth of its exchanges. I thank Senator Cassidy and Senator Roche for their contributions on this topic and I look forward to hearing the views of other speakers.
The technology of broadcasting has meant broadcasting services in one country could always be received to some degree in neighbouring countries. In Ireland we have seen the development of significant cable and MMDS industries, based primarily on the accidental or fortuitous overspill of United Kingdom traditional television services. I believe television viewers in this country have gained enormously from the variety and cultural diversity of the increased choice of programmes provided under the "open skies" policy adopted by successive Governments.
Over the past five to ten years, broadcasting has benefited from the revolution which took place in communications technology. We now have a plethora of satellite television services which deliberately cater for an international audience. In response to the growing internationalisation of broadcasting services brought about by these developments, it has been clear for some time that if broadcasting is to be regulated at all, such regulation should be international at least to some degree. A vast European market for the work of European broadcasters has evolved and it is important that European programme makers, including Irish programme makers, get fair access to television airwaves.
Free flow of broadcasting services across European frontiers is a basic requirement if the European audiovisual sector is to achieve its full potential. I expect the audiovisual industry in Ireland to benefit from the legislative quotas on European works for which the Directive provides. My views on the potential of the Irish audiovisual sector are well known. My announced legislative intentions in relation to this have been welcomed by a wide range of opinion in this country.
EC Directive 89/552 on transfrontier broadcasting activities was adopted on 3 October 1989 after much debate and consideration. Senator Cassidy has already referred to this Directive, which brought together many strands of sometimes contrary opinion. It was a breakthrough in broadcasting policy and evidence of the recognition of the importance of this sector. The primary objective of the Directive is to promote the free flow of broadcasting services across national boundaries by means of cable and other retransmission systems.
To achieve this objective, it was considered necessary to establish a common European set of standards in a number of critical broadcasting areas; advertising, sponsorship and programme responsibilities. With regard to programme responsibilities, Article 22 of the Directive states the following:
Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that television broadcasts by broadcasters under their jurisdiction do not include programmes which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular those that involve pornography or gratuitous violence. [I am glad the seconder included remarks on violence.] This provision shall extend to other programmes which are likely to impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, except where it is ensured, by selecting the time of the broadcast or by any technical measure, that minors in the area of transmission will not normally hear or see such broadcasts.
Member States shall also ensure that broadcasts do not contain any incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality.
Articles 2 and 3 of the Directive require member states to ensure that all television broadcasters under their jurisdiction, including satellite broadcasters, comply with the provisions of the Directive. Article 2 requires member states to ensure freedom of reception of programming and not to restrict the retransmission of such television broadcasts emanating from other member states.
This Article also sets out a procedure whereby member states may provisionally suspend retransmissions of television broadcasts via cable or other relay systems from other member states if the broadcast concerned manifestly, seriously and gravely infringes Article 22. Such infringements have occurred repeatedly. Responsibility for the regulation of cable and MMDS systems rests with the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.
Under Statutory Instrument 251 of 1991, Irish broadcasters have to comply with Article 22 of Directive 89/552/EC. It is a matter for other member states to ensure broadcasters operating under their jurisdiction are obliged to comply with the terms of the Directive.
I am aware of the transmission of satellite broadcasts intended primarily for reception in other EC member states which comprise almost entirely explicit sexual material. However, as far as I am aware, such channels are not freely available here. I believe such broadcasts are encoded and one would have to go to some trouble and expense to obtain them.
That is not true.
It is true.
The Minister, without interruption.
My information is that they do not fall unwanted into the living rooms of Ireland but require a conscious decision to obtain them. Where parents have acquired the necessary equipment to view the channel, I consider they would have the primary responsibility for preventing minors viewing the programmes.
I share the Senators distaste of and distress at the transmission of pornographic material on satellite television channels. I would prefer to see a world where pornography — and I include gratuitously explicit violence as well as sexual pornography — was not made, was not transmitted and where there was no demand. Over the years in broadcasting I have been more worried by the growth of gratuitous violence than by anything else on television programmes. It is important that we address this issue.
We have to strike a balance. Many people who want total freedom also want another form of regulation. They are confined by a paradox from which I would like to release them but it is a difficult question to resolve.
My view of television and broadcasting generally is a different one and it will become apparent as I comprehensively review broadcasting in television and radio. I believe in a theory of the communicative order. We are talking about citizens entitled to rights as opposed to a set of market segments with purchasing power. I am consciously following this philosophical first principle in everything I do in film and broadcasting. It is not confusing. One has a right to a broadcasting system irrespective of one's income power.
There are those who suggest we should all be viewed as market segments. Raymond Williams put it much better than I when he said we must ensure we are the arrow, not the target.
I share the concern of Senators. Pornography and gratuitous violence degrades makers, participants and viewers. It is an affront to humanity — women and men — and to human values. Let me stress immediately I am not against sex and violence being portrayed in a realistic and justifiable way. Such matters are real issues which must be tackled by programme makers. Again it is not easy when dealing with different cultures to define what is erotic and what is pornographic. There is the difficult issue of different standards of taste and decency between countries and between people. In some countries — and I do not believe this implies their populations are generally depraved — the transmission of pornography at certain times is permitted. In others, even where the sale or transmission of pornography is outlawed, so-called "adult entertainment" television services have been licensed by the authorities.
The complex question of freedom of expression and how this is interpreted in different countries, where such freedoms came at enormous cost in human terms, also arises. I must also make it clear that while I support a legislative regime which bans the transmission of pornography, I do not believe that the content of television programmes is a matter for which any Government Minister should have responsibility.
Senators will be aware of measures announced recently — and they were referred to by Senator Cassidy — in the UK to inhibit reception of a particular channel known as Red Hot Television — red hot Dutch in a previous incarnation — recently gained some notoriety, this action is two-fold and involves both the provisions of the transfrontier broadcasting directive and domestic UK legislation. Under their national legislation they intend to ban the sale and advertising for sale of decoders necessary to receive the service. There is no corresponding broadcasting legislation here. There is no equivalent to section 199 as quoted.
The UK authorities have also indicated that they intend to prohibit the service from being relayed on cable services and my information is that they have informed the Danish authorities — the programmes are transmitted from Denmark — that they regard transmission of the service as a breach of Article 22 of the broadcasting directive. They hope the Danish Government will respond by prohibiting transmission. The Dutch authorities have already withdrawn permission for the transmission of the service from the Netherlands.
It is likely that the action of the UK authorities will be challenged in the courts. Indeed statements have already been given to the press indicating that those responsible will take court action. However, I understand that the UK action has the backing of the EC Commission and the Commission has reiterated the view that member states are obliged to take action against broadcasts which breach Article 22 of the directive.
In my view, the prevention of transmission of such programmes is by far the most effective way of dealing with this type of difficulty. The prevention of reception of pornographic material directly from a satellite presents practical problems — one would have to ban the sale or possession of the equipment necessary to decode the transmissions. This would be very difficult to police. One thinks immediately, for example, of how one would assert possession and use, what difficulties would be involved there, and which ones might infringe individual and domestic liberties.
The experience gained by the Red Hot Television episode will be useful in determining if there are loopholes in the directive or in our own legislation which could be exploited by pornographic channel operators. Under our broadcasting legislation no one can be licensed as a broadcaster other than RTÉ or a person under contract to the Independent Radio and Television Commission. It may, however, become necessary to consider the introduction of legislative provisions such as those invoked by the UK authorities with regard to the sale of reception equipment, no matter how difficult they may be to put into practice. If the measures taken by the UK authorities succeed in putting the channel off the air, there may be no need for new legislative provisions in Irish law.
It is important not to be too narrow in our approach to matters such as these. We must try to ensure that quality programming remains the first choice of viewers. We must give responsible and talented programme makers access to the television audiences. We must make sure that our broadcasting regimes — both national and international — are such that audiences can feel that they are the most important element of broadcasting policy, the arrow not the target. We must allow them to have the best in every sense of the term.
We must guard against too much fragmentation of the market which will set up sections of our community as easy targets for all kinds of drivel. As regulators we must refuse to allow our communities to be regarded simply as a market to be exploited without responsibility. I regard public service broadcasting as a major bulwark of this policy and I would add a fourth precept to the well tried trio of public service broadcasting fundamentals. As well as being informed, educated and entertained, I believe the audience must also be involved.
Regarding European educational programmes on satellite channels, I am not entirely sure as to the meaning of this part of the motion. There are a number of satellites used for television broadcasts which give coverage to this country. Any school or person with the necessary receiving equipment can receive these channels in the same way as those individuals who have already chosen to obtain satellite entertainment and sports channels. I am sympathetic to the increased use of technology in education. However, better use of those channels and technology should be made for educational purposes.
Obviously, I have no function in ensuring other administrations use satellite channels to disseminate their educational broadcasts — it is entirely a matter for the relevant authorities to decide on the transmission method of their choice. Once they are transmitted by a satellite, which gives the appropriate coverage, it is a matter for the schools or the person concerned to decide if they wish to invest in the necessary receiving equipment.
Senators are, of course, correct in recognising the potential of satellite communications in education and dissemination of culture. Indeed, one of the dilemmas of international communications policy is how, in a satellite age, we can retain democratic principles within a broadcasting policy. The technology is already so far advanced one is bound only by one's imagination — and unfortunately money — in the uses to which it can be put. I am aware of distance learning experiments which involved the transmission of material from this country rather than its receipt. In so far as regulatory authorities enter this picture, the use of satellite transmission equipment is the function of the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications.
As I said, I am looking forward to contributions from other speakers. However, I ask the House not to take too hard a line at present. Senators will be aware that I am formulating proposals for broadcasting legislation for the long term and can rest assured that I will take into account their views in relation to the matter raised and the future uses of television, satellite, etc., in my deliberations.
I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him on an enlightened response which, I must point out is completely at variance with the response of the proposer of the motion and Senator Roche. I welcome this broad shift in the new coalition——
——that allows such discussion and differences when dealing with motions of this kind. I have never heard in this House, two such differing speeches as those made by the Minister and Senator Cassidy.
Strength and diversity.
After reading Senator Cassidy's motion I feared it was part of the xenophobia we have become used to and, having listened to his speech, my fears were confirmed. Senator Cassidy referred to the British Tory Party and his great ally, in this argument, was Mr. Peter Brooke, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
We are partners in Europe.
It is an alliance which I hope will prevail. Senator Cassidy will have to do better than to use the British Tory Party as his chief ally in his pursuit of purity in Ireland.
I ask that Senator Ross be allowed make his contribution without continuous interruption.
I remind Senator Roche that this is not a meeting of Wicklow County Council.
An article in the Independent Magazine, 16 January 1993, says that when the Irish, who have very popular cable services, realise what the EC directive means, a row of almighty proportions is likely to break out. This directive was agreed in March 1989 and came into effect in March 1991. Four years later, Senators Cassidy and Roche wake up to the existence of this directive, express great shock and horror to the House and want something done about it.
With respect, we are not speaking about the directive.
As the Minister said they are far too late. The time to bring this up was in 1989 when Senator Cassidy was in this House——
An Leas Chathaoirleach
I have to ask Senator Roche and Senator Cassidy to allow Senator Ross to make his contribution without interruption.
——and when Senator Roche was in the other House. Their concerns have emerged now because they have been reading the British House of Commons debates and I congratulate them on that.
On a point of order, my concern is not caused by reading those debates but by——
I would like to remind Senator Roche that that is not a point of order. Senator Ross without interruption.
Where did the Senator learn about this?
Senator Roche is new to this House and may not understand the order of this House or the fact that this House is extremely civilised.
I ask Senator Ross to address his remarks through the Chair. I remind Senators that this is a serious debate and I ask for silence for Senator Ross.
The Minister said that these channels are not freely available and that people have to go to some trouble and expense to obtain them. The Minister made a pertinent point which the proposers of this motion should take into account, when he said:
My information is that they do not fall unwanted into the living rooms of Ireland but require a conscious decision to obtain them. Where the parents have acquired the necessary equipment to view the channel, I consider that they would have the primary responsibility for the protection of minors from viewing the programme.
Everybody in this House want to protect vulnerable minors from pornography of the sort which Senator Cassidy described but we have to talk about this in a practical and not in a sanctimonious way.
Under the EC regulations there is little we can do about the broadcasting of pornographic programmes by satellite into this country because they are legal under the rules and standards of the countries from which they are broadcast. They may only be stopped in the country of origin. There are measures which can be taken in this country to restrict those broadcasts——
Nobody wants to do that.
——by attempting to stop people advertising and by stopping the sale of decoders. The transmissions come from Denmark and Holland and it is in those countries that the programmes have to be stopped. They must be stopped at source. The programmes cannot be banned from this country either technologically or legally and I ask the Senators to take that to heart when considering this motion. It really is far too late in that sense. We can — if Senators wish — put an enormous amount of pressure on the countries from which these particular broadcasts are transmitted. We should not adopt the subjective view that Senators Cassidy and Roche took of censorship. Senators must hear what is permissible and what is not. Senator Roche said we had morals and standards in Irish life which were acceptable——
What is the Senator's view?
——but he did not say what those morals and standards were. Censorship is extremely dangerous because Fianna Fáil censorship is very different to Labour Party censorship and that is perfectly clear——
The Senator knows nothing about it.
——from what we heard today from the Minister.
Transmission is the issue.
I doubt whether I should get involved in this ball game between Senator Ross and Senator Cassidy.
The Senator's speech will be dissected with great interest.
I hear the voice o Senator O'Toole whose amendment is too clever by half. It is framed to act like a blunderbuss to blow the motion away As a Democrat, I believe that people are entitled to put down motions which regardless of whether they are accepted are entitled to be debated and should not be mummified by clever amendment such as that of Senator O'Toole.
I learned all about it last week and was just putting it into practice I am a very quick learner.
When I was campaigning against the common market, as it then was, and colleagues were campaigning for it, I was never warned of problems of pornography coming from Europe. I was told jobs and technology would come from Europe but nobody told me about dirty movies.
Sex had not been invented then.
There was no sex before satellites.
Nobody was warned about it. One could say it is one of the prices we pay for the open market. We have to be careful when we talk about censorship because the Irish have disgraced themselves more than most in relation to censorship. I hope we never see a similar situation again. The key issues here are transmissions and European broadcasting. It is not about thought police going around to houses.
Nobody in this House would grieve for the porn merchants — whether in Amsterdam or Dublin — who make substantial sums of money through "movie making" which essentially involves the degradation of women, children and men. It is a big industry and one that should not be encouraged. Most people would agree that the transmission of hard core pornography should be resisted. It should be resisted by not allowing the satellite to be used to enrich the few who are producing and broadcasting pornography. There has to be some regulation; rights and freedoms carry responsibilities. Who would argue that snuff movies which portray the killing of fellow human beings should be allowed under any kind of licence?
Movies with a hard core pornography content should not be broadcast in any civilised state or international community. What can we do? As the Minister said there is very little one can do about the reception of these channels. It has to be dealt with in the context of transmission in the broad European context. It would be as difficult to stop reception as it would be to stop a radiowave. There is nothing one can do about it nor should there be, in my view.
In relation to television and the powerful effect it can have, particularly on young people, some system of regulation, applied in a liberal way, is a necessary safeguard. The only other method to control television viewing in homes is parental control. Cork Multichannel, for example, transmits about 20 channels one of which, a German channel called Channel 18, transmits, not hardcore porn, but material unsuitable for young people. One has to opt out to avoid reception of that channel.
Do you watch it? Do you enjoy it?
It is unsuitable for those who are not used to such programmes. I spent my fifteenth birthday in Venezuela when the Senator was probably being cosseted by his mother.
If one does not want to receive this channel one must opt out. Many people who avail of the channels are not aware of what is on offer; they realise there are sports channels, BBC1, BBC2, German channels and others but they are not aware of the programme content being transmitted. I think that one should have to opt to receive that channel rather than opt out. Parents may not realise that they have access to this channel or realise the content of the channel's programmes until perhaps they discover that when the children should have been safely tucked in bed they were instead watching an exciting movie involving four or five women and one or two men. Then the parents contact the cable company and have the reception cut off. I believe they should be obliged to opt in for reception of that channel rather than opt out.
That is fair enough.
That is the only change I would make there. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Higgins, made it clear that we should not force him to proceed any quicker as he is in office for just 80 days. He is conscious not only of the need for regulations but also the necessity to have a liberal regime both in broadcasting and in the arts and I support him on this matter.
I support this motion, not because I believe the Government has a great role to play apart from controlling the transmission of hardcore porn, but as a protest against the porn merchants who believe there is a market in this country for their product. I wish to be associated with that protest.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "taken to" and substitute the following:—
"ensure that European education programmes be made available to Irish homes and schools via the satellite channels."
One would get the impression, when listening to the proposer of the motion, that there was no sex in Ireland before satellite broadcasting.
There was in Cork.
I give Senator Magner and the Minister full marks for making speeches which opposed everything Senator Cassidy said, and I hope the proposer notices it.
Do not be so facetious.
I will give the House an easy option; support the amendment and I will support the main motion.
Support the motion then.
I am utterly opposed to pornography. It demeans the men and women who are forced to participate in it for money. It is violence of the worst kind; it is worse than domestic violence or the violence of the battlefield. It takes away human dignity and is bad in every way.
That is nonsense. It is worse than killing?
Senator O'Toole, without interruption.
I do not mind. I am in favour of free speech, not censorship.
The Senator is saying pornography is worse than violence on the battlefield?
It is obscene to say it is worse than the battlefield — people are killed on the battlefield.
Senator Magner, you must allow Senator O'Toole to make his contribution.
I would not want the Senators to be censored. I leave that to others.
Senator O'Toole should speak to the amendment.
Nobody wishes to encourage the transmission of pornography.
Why vote against it?
I do not know how many people have a satellite dish. I live in the country, unlike most people here who live in urban areas.
Why vote against it?
Senator Roche, I am surprised at you.
I am just pointing out his hypocrisy.
I have set up my own satellite dish. I have the receiver for this particular channel but I do not get the channel because, as the Minister has out lined, I would need a decoder and would have to sign up with the station in Denmark or in Amsterdam. The children do not have access to the station and the Minister is correct in saying that, just as he is incorrect in saying that educational television is available on satellite to schools and houses throughout country.
Educational television may be available to between 20 and 50 educational institutions that have enough money to buy the custom-made dish and special recorder required and also to pay the European authorities who transmit the programmes. It is not widely available and it is misleading the Minister to advise him otherwise. I have sought the relevant information on the matter and I can make it available. Over the past two days I have had meetings with the Channel Four authorities in Dublin because they are concerned that Ireland is the only European country that does not have educational television available in primary schools.
This motion is simply another diversion from real issues. The real issue is that television is one of the most educative tools available to educators, parents or the community and it should be wisely used.
I direct the attention of the House to a more important aspect of satellite television which I outlined in the House a week ago. I put forward a proposal to the European Community that, in accordance with Article 126 of the Maastricht Treaty, a European educational broadcasting service should be established and be available to Ireland. I make the point again this week as it is absolutely unfair that our children should be deprived of this service.
The Minister said that it was up to the national authorities of other European countries to make the necessary arrangements to broadcast their material by satellite. That is not what I am proposing. My proposal is that there should be a European broadcasting service in respect of educational television. Already schools throughout Europe communicate with each other through the medium of satellite in European-funded programmes. Specialised equipment is made available to the schools so that they can exchange information and speak to each other using telephones, modems, computers, satellites and televisions. That is the way forward. That is what satellite television is about.
I do not know how this pornographic channel is received. No child can have access to it unless the parents make it available in the home. That is why the motion, while it is not unimportant, is irrelevant to what is happening in Irish society today. People in my area who want to receive foreign channels must have a satellite dish because they are not on a cable system as are urban residents. I urge the Government to look at this fair and rational amendment to the motion which seeks to move this debate forward positively to assist Irish schoolchildren.
I told the story recently in this House of an Irish educator, who is now Chief Education Officer in one of the border counties, who went to Zambia or another African country to set up educational broadcasting in the 1960s and 1970s. When he returned from having set it up in a developing country, he found there was no educational broadcasting service available in this country. There has been a minor movement in that direction aimed at post-primary pupils, which is to be welcomed, but it is only a beginning.
I have over the last ten years organised a number of conferences on educational television and the only people available with expertise in this matter were from ITV and the BBC in the North of Ireland. It is extraordinary that the only television programmes on the teaching of Irish available on this island are being produced, transmitted and made available by the BBC in Belfast. That is surely a reflection on Irish society. The people who came to Ireland recently to discuss making Channel Four television available for Irish primary schools, met with an official of the Department of Education who said he would be worried in case the content of these British programmes were not culturally neutral and might therefore damage our poor impressionable Irish minds.
I find it extraordinary that the proposer of this moton will go to such lengths about something which is not creating a problem. He is publicising a channel which most people do not know how to find and which is not advertised in Irish newspapers. Last night I switched through all 40 television channels.
The Senator has two minutes left.
Yes, but this is interesting technical information.
We will give you a hand. Vote against pornography.
Most of the channels have been scrambled. I am one of those who refuse to pay extra money for a decorder.
Where would you find the time?
It is a 24-hour service. There is no freely available access to this channel. Senator Cassidy may have misled the House which I am sure was not his intention. He viewed this channel in a place where it was available by arrangement. I do not know how much time Senator Cassidy has spent watching this channel which I have not seen myself. I do not know how available it is in the midlands. I ask him to support the amendment and to do something positive for the next generation of Irish people rather than worry about something which is largely unavailable. He should put his energies into positive and progressive action on behalf of the people of Ireland.
Put the amendment down as an addendum.
Is the amendment being seconded?
Yes, I was told I could not second it immediately but I am very happy to second it now. When I was listening to some of the contributions the words of James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man came into my mind — I am not quite sure why — that: “Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink.”
I have rarely heard such pious humbug. The Minister made the principal point which I would have made that one must make a conscious act of choice in order to get this material. It requires a satellite dish and a decoder. In those areas where this material can be received it is scrambled. I asked some of the Members concerned, and I will spare their blushes by not naming them, which of them had seen this material and apparently only one of them had. He complained that it reduced the revenue in the entertainment business so at least we know that this debate is about vulgar market economics and has nothing to do with——
I could quote the conversation which took place in the anteroom.
Humbug, absolute humbug. We are against pornography.
I was struck by the absolute lack of conviction of Senator Cassidy who read his speech from beginning to end in a voice which suggested utter boredom. If he wants to kill this thing dead he should apply to star in one of those movies himself. There is a danger here with regard to censorship which I oppose. I was watching this debate in my office; I could not bear to sit in the Chamber and listen to it. I think it is outrageous and ridiculous of Senator Roche to say I was in dereliction of my duties because I was not in the Chamber. It is a tradition in this House not to refer to the absence of Members. I was working in my office and listening to Senators reading scripts on something about which they felt so intensely passionate that if there had been a meter reading vocal pitch it would have registered dead level because the voices were monotones.
I must ask the Senator to address himself to the amendment.
I am addressing myself to the amendment.
On a point of order, in proposing an amendment is it in order for the Senator to refer to both the amendment and the main motion? That has been a long tradition of the House.
Yes, it is.
I was interested and amused that the parliamentary debates of the House of Commons were referred to and Senator Ross did an excellent job in exposing the nonsense behind them. I am amazed that anybody in this country would take a headline from England in matters of civil liberty. Who are they fooling, what do they know about the situation? Have they heard of Clause 28, a noxious Thatcherite attempt at thought control, where the presentation of a positive image of alternative sexuality is a criminal offence?
Are you in favour of pornography?
Yes I am. Do you know what pornography means?
Senator Norris, without further interruptions.
He had such difficulty making his own speech that he is trying to cobble one together by interrupting other people's. As I have said on a number of previous occasions, the word pornography comes from two Greek stems porne and graphe— the writings of prostitutes. That is all it means. The Senator is talking about obscenity, I presume?
I was talking about the obscenity of violence. I am surprised the Senator is in favour of its transmission.
It is very dangerous to attempt to censor people's options. The one person on the Government side who claimed to have seen some of this material indicated that it consisted of various, not particularly polymorphous perverse, forms of human sexual intercourse. This is a form of relaxation which adults should have the option to avail of. The only reason people watch it is because it is a sexual stimulus and it facilitates the act of masturbation which is the safest form of safe sex available. If people want to consume this material in the privacy of their own homes then I could not care less. Unlike some of the other Members I have not scanned the airwaves looking for this material and with my 20 year old television set I very much doubt if I could receive it.
The Senator is lucky not to receive it.
When I did come into the Chamber I detected a very curious pong and it was the whiff of nauseating self-congratulation from some of the Government side. We hear about countries such as Holland, Denmark and the Scandinavian countries and think we are so much better. We have a higher rate of abortion than Holland, a higher rate of infectious venereal disease and practically the highest rate of AIDS transmission about which we still cannot tell the truth. We condemn Holland and Denmark — Protestant countries, you could not blame them, it is invincible ignorance I have no doubt — as dreadful moral cesspits. They have a far healthier attitude towards sexuality than many of the people whose conversations I have heard in the Dáil Bar but I would not breach confidentiality by repeating. We ought to have done with this kind of hypocrisy we heard this evening. There seems to be a whiff of it in the air. Is it because we are coming into Holy Week? I understand that Wicklow County Council recently attempted to ban the book Forbidden Fruit by Annie Murphy. There is a creeping mentality of censorship about and I am afraid we are liable to make fools of ourselves.
The Minister in a detailed, balanced and wise speech — if he will not be damaged by praise from people such as I — indicated a very usefully neutral moral line. Although he was on the side of what I would consider real morality, he did not adopt the pious morality of some of the other people; he also indicated the technical difficulties in trying to prevent not only the transmission of this material, but its reception as well.
There was a time when I wondered if some people in this country were aware of the world outside Ireland. We have expanded our horizons and we believe there is a place called Europe and we are a member of it. There are countries outside the European Community that are not covered by this kind of directive. I am old enough to remember Radio Caroline, where they broke all the broadcast regulations by broadcasting from a boat. If people want to broadcast pornography, there are many ways around it and they cannot be stopped by this kind of motion.
The Minister quoted article 22 of the directive, "to ensure that broadcasts do not contain any incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality". I hope it will also include "sexual orientation". I was horrified to see a headline in a Galway paper deliberately inciting hatred over the participation of homosexual groups in the St. Patrick's Day parade. I am referring it to the Director of Public Prosecutions to find out if the incitement to hatred legislation has teeth. This paper was sent to me by a heterosexual married woman. These are the real issues, in my opinion.
Somebody mentioned "snuff" movies; of course they are an abomination. It is tragic that anyone would want to watch this type of material. I do not know whether people are killed in these films, and I hope they are not, but we should deal with these films at the source.
I could not care less about explicit sexual material. We are all sexual beings and the sooner we wake up to it the better. There was talk about the United Kingdom and the measures they are introducing — what a laugh. They legally sold to the Gulf states electronic instruments designed to torture human beings. Retired members of MI5 have been training the Khmer Rouge and have collaborated with the Indonesians in the genocide in East Timor. With their friends, the Americans, they were involved in war crimes during the Gulf conflict and the same British tabloid newspapers from which the Senator got his information gloried in the sinking of the General Belgrano, and the deaths of innocent young men who were pressed ganged onto the ship. That is a real obscenity, not a couple of people having intercourse on television.
Before I call Senator Mooney, I join in giving a warm welcome to the Minister, Deputy Higgins, to the House and wish him luck in his office.
I echo your sentiments in welcoming the Minister. I am delighted he is here. I found his speech very interesting. I wonder if Senator Norris, who has left the Chamber, is watching on television——
The Senator should not refer to the absence of a Member.
I find it incredible in the aftermath of the horrific killing of Jamie Bolger in Liverpool that there has been a wide ranging debate in the British media and in the British Parliament — I make no apologies for referring to our larger neighbour — about the direction British and European society is taking. We are all a part of this "Europeanisation". I find it extraordinary that we should listen to Senator Norris, a man who has a particular sexual orientation and must be prejudiced by that sexual orientation, a man who has stated publicly he is homosexual and proud of it, so I am not insulting him; I could not care less about his sexual orientation, but when he comes into this House and expounds on sexual matters——
I remind the Senator that he should not refer to the personal life of a Member.
I must in the context of this motion; we are all influenced by our attitudes.
I ask Senator Mooney to speak to the motion.
I feel I am justified in rebutting much of what Senator Norris has said and he is joined by the general secretary of an educational body who is supposed to be protecting the interests of young people.
Senator O'Toole is not here to defend himself.
I am sorry he is not.
I ask the Senator to speak to the motion.
I did not mention his name.
This is a timely motion and I applaud Senator Cassidy for bringing it before the House. I also compliment the Minister on his speech, and perhaps I should repeat what he said: "I share the Senator's distaste of and distress at the transmission of pornographic material on satellite television channels."
I have a copy of today's Daily Telegraph and I am grateful to the journalist, Nicola Tyrer, for outlining a litany of horrors. I am not talking about Red Hot Television, I am talking about the existing satellite channels that are available without a coding card. I fear for the future of terrestrial television transmission. By the next century, we will be enveloped by satellite transmission. Indeed, Miss Tyrer refers to this in her article and says that, in the past week, and I quote:
I have watched people being slit open by circular saws, a woman's eye pierced by a harpoon, a red hot poker being plunged into a woman's body, a close up of a man's neck being broken complete with crunching sound effect, a man having his head crushed so violently his eye bursts from it socket.
These, she says, were highlights of her television week, and she was not viewing Red Hot Television.
I get angry when I hear the liberal intelligentia acting as apologists for what they call the free and liberal society. There are constraints in these societies and in every democracy. The Minister said one must seek a balance between hard-won freedoms of expression and the common good. I will always come down on the side of the latter when it comes to pornography, because children will be affected.
In this House it was said that satellite television has small audiences only and that it was not of major concern. Sky Television has 2.2 million subscribers and more than 250,000 of them are Irish. Although Sky channels are available by subscription only and the films shown are available in video shops, Sky denies that Sky Movies Plus concentrates on violence. However, it is interesting to note that Sky Movies stopped submitting their films to the British censor four years ago because the cuts being called for by the UK censor, Mr. Ferman, were unacceptable. Mr. Ferman, who, incidentally, has initiated the first study in 20 years of what young offenders watch on television, has been told by a psychiatrist who works with convicted killers that these young people often have obsessive video viewing habits, watching films all through the night and sleeping in daylight hours. Apparently, the Kung Fu series is a great favourite.
It is interesting that Mr. Curran, an exprisoner who served a life sentence for murder, is so convinced there is a connection between screen violence and behaviour that he recently appeared on Central Television to warn broadcasters that they were playing with fire. He says that prisoners had access to any films they wished to watch. Interestingly enough, they did not watch Red Hot Dutch or films showing sexual violence or gratuitous sex that Senator Norris and others talked about. It was the nightmare films like the Freddy series that proved popular with prisoners. These films are freely available to children to buy or rent in video shops without their ever watching satellite television.
Mr. Ferman, the UK censor said:
What we are watching is the beginning of the media society which is what life will be in the 21st century. Films will be beamed in at all hours because they will be coming from parts of the world operating on different time zones. They may well include video nasties. We won't be able to regulate what comes from other continents. We will have to begin to think how we are going to raise our children and grandchildren so that they can survive a world like that.
Miss Tyrer says that her week's viewing left her "shocked at the horrifying images we deem entertainment for adults, let alone the unsupervised, unloved children who undoubtedly are also seeing them". She is shocked, too, at the duplicity of our so-called moral guardians, a duplicity that mirrors the Janus-like personality of Mr. Murdoch who owns Sky Movies, a man who refers to himself as a born again Christian.
Perhaps he is.
It is somewhat spurious of Senator Norris to refer to the illegal activity of Radio Caroline.
I ask the Senator to refrain from mentioning people who cannot defend themselves.
A Senator on the other side of the House made a comparison between Radio Caroline and pornography. I hardly think the musical activities of Radio Caroline which I, too, enjoyed could be in any way equated with screen pornography.
Mr. Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the EC Commissioner for audio-visual policy said that the measures outlined by the United Kingdom Government in relation to the proposal to ban the Red Hot Dutch channel were compatible with EC law and that Brussels would not be raising any objections. I understand that Red Hot Television, which was originally called Red Hot Dutch, is thought to be transmitted via satellite from Denmark, and is received by subscribers using decoders sold under licence from a Dutch-registered channel. To date the Commission has been unable to confirm where the broadcast is established, or which member state has jurisdiction over the channel, but Mr. de Deus Pinheiro said that member states are obliged to take action against broadcasts which, and I quote, "might impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors, in particular those that involve pornography or gratuitous violence".
In asking the House to support this motion I have to say that I am very disappointed with those who have supported the amendment and who have tried to separate an issue on educational television from a very serious debate on pornographic material being transmitted via satellite.
I would like to share my time with Senator Henry.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him well in his office. I find myself in broad agreement with much the Minister has told the House this evening. I will not refer to Senator Roche and Senator Magner because they are not here other than to say that I agree with some of the remarks that were made earlier. It is dangerous for the State to get involved in areas of personal morality where civil liberties might be infringed. However, having said that, I accept that society has a right to regulate how in its broadest terms it conducts itself; we have to accept certain limitations on our freedom for the good of society.
There is public disquiet about this matter. On a local radio station at home there was a debate on it several weeks ago and it became apparent that some people are confused as to the difference between satellite television, cable television and video recordings — they have jumbled them all together.
That is obvious.
We have a law regulating the licensing of outlets and so on, namely, the Video Recordings Act, 1989 and there is an adequate degree of regulation provided by that legislation to deal with video nasties. We must also consider the area of television.
I also find it offensive to suggest that the people of Denmark, Holland or other European countries are in some way not as civilised or as good as the people of Ireland. I have seen no evidence on my travels in Europe that the people in any of these countries are less civilised or less good than people in Ireland.
The difficulty in defining pornography has been apparent during this debate. What is pornography? Senator Cassidy's definition of pornography, my definition of pornography and the definition offered by Senator Norris, whom I am not allowed to refer to because he is absent, are vastly different definitions of pornography.
Maybe his absence is deliberate.
The definition of pornography and the extent to which the State can regulate it are very subjective matters. At one time Lady Chatterly's Lover was regarded as pornography and there was a famous court case which established that objectively it was not pornography.
Stick to the motion.
Obscenity is precisely the point I am coming to. We need to draw certain distinctions here. It is obscene to see the crumpled body of a child on a street in Warrington; it is obscene to see people starving in the Third World; and it is obscene to see what is happening in Bosnia. We are subjected to such obscenity on prime time television during news bulletins and nobody can tell me that has no effect on young impressionable minds. Let us get our perspective in order. Of course, there are distasteful things: it is obscene to talk about "snuff" movies and so on. Yet, where does one draw the line? That is difficult. Let us put into perspective our definitions of obscenity and pornography.
I have more confidence in our young people than some of the Members of this House, as I said previously when the Seanad were discussing the availability of condomns. There seems to be a presumption abroad that young people either do not understand or are not aware of these matters. For goodness sake, let us live in the real world.
The violent society is the real world.
We are the people who created the violent society in which these young people are forced to live. We are the people responsible.
We are trying to stop it here tonight.
Has TV no role?
TV is a persuasive medium and it is obviously something we need to be concerned about but I have difficulty in supporting the motion. There is a simple solution to these problems. As a previous speaker said, one has to make a conscious decision to allow these things into their home. What about parental responsibility; is the State always to be in loco parentis?
In this instance, yes.
Of course it is.
Is it appropriate that parents may, at their will, leave their home to go to the public house and come home polluted while their children watch these matters on television? There is a simple solution: press the button and turn the television off. The parents are in the pub and we are going to decide for them.
Senator Cassidy had no knowledge whether I was going to support this motion. I submit it is possible to support both the motion and the amendment. I do not see the relationship between the two other than to say that last week's motion and its amendment may be related to the fact that we have an amendment to this motion this evening.
The motion was put down three weeks ago.
The amendment was not. If it is true that we cannot prevent transmission of this kind, and I accept that this is probably the case under European law, there are individual responsibilities involved. That is not to say the State should not examine these matters closely.
As a woman I am against pornography because most of it is directed against women and children. The main problem is the way in which it links violence and sex. I am very anxious to know how much research has been done by those who put down the motion. Erotica should not be confused with pornography. I would like the results of the research into this motion to be produced before we make a definite decision.
Concern has been expressed for minors but most pornography is bought and watched by middle aged males. Children have very little interest in pornography. The worrying thing about pornography is the expression of violence in association with sex which naturally none of us wants to see. The suggestion has been made that middle aged male parents will go out to the pub, leaving their children at home where these channels are being beamed in. As Senator Dardis said, it is possible to turn off the television. Technology has gone even further. It is now possible to buy equipment which when linked to the television allows certain channels to be made non-operational so that only suitable channels can be watched in the absence of a parent or guardian.
I admit to having bourgeois habits and when our family eats dinner in the kitchen we often have the television on in the background with the sound turned down. Sometimes the conversation in the kitchen coincides with something interesting on the television and we can turn up the sound. Last Sunday night at 9 o'clock in a programme which was supposed to be about male sterility there was a shocking scene which this House would have found extremely objectionable, and that was on a channel which is beamed into everyone's home.
Since I have come into this House we have discussed sex on several occasions and every time it has been in association with violence. Tonight it has been in association with sin. We should make a determined effort to get away from associating sex with violence and sin.
I must ask the Senator to conclude.
Naturally I would not want pornography on Irish television but let us assess what pornography is and also look very carefully, as people in Cork have done, at the possibility of having educational channels on Dublin television.
I support the motion. I am disappointed that there is an amendment to it and that the amendment changes the motion radically. It has been an excellent addendum rather than an amendment. I wholeheartedly support any move towards broadening the education field. It worries me to have to choose between the amendment and the motion. The motion is very serious. Until Senator Henry's contribution I thought I was in a little boys' club to judge from the flippant and nasty irrelevant remarks that were flying across the House.
On both sides.
Statements were made such as "this motion was absolutely irrelevant to Irish society today" by one speaker on the opposite side; another comment was "not creating a problem in Ireland today". I wonder if they are living in the same country as I, where day after day we see in our papers accounts of rape trials, attacks on women and so on. Why is there this outburst of violence against women all of a sudden? It must be prompted in some small part by what people, as Senator Henry said, particularly middle aged men, are watching on television. I am not worried about pornography in the privacy of one's own home where it can be controlled. My main worry is that this pornography is shown regularly on large screens in public houses, usually after closing time. I found myself in such a public house in a rural part of County Limerick. I was very embarrassed as one of the few women there at the time. I found the comments being passed on women in general degrading. I could not see how any man, after watching that programme, could have respect for women. The Minister said:
I would prefer to see a world where pornography, and I include gratuitously explicit violence as well as sexual pornography, was not made, was not transmitted and where there was no demand. I believe that such material degrades makers, participants and viewers.
The average pornographic movie shows women as totally mindless and exploited. There is an element of sado-masochism in pornography. The image portrayed of the women in the movies is that they actually enjoy the violence inflicted on them.
The women who take part in these movies are drugged and do not know what is going on. The impression given to the viewer is that all women behave like that, that all women like violence connected with sex. What is also very worrying is that many of the makers of pornographic films are now resorting to younger and younger women to the extent where child abuse as distinct from sexual activity is now featured.
I recognise that it is very hard to define the difference between erotica and pornography, but if you see pornography you will recognise it. Pornography can be identified by its attitude to women. There is no respect shown to the woman involved in pornography. It does not have to be described because instinctively you know that this lack of respect of women is part of the culture of pornography.
I was saddened to find that one of the prominent speakers in the Chamber did not condemn hard core pornography. One speaker agreed with pornography but later reversed this view and agreed that he did not approve of hard core pornography. I was disappointed by the attitude from the opposite side of the House in not seeing this as a serious problem that is affecting our society. I do not want to see and I do not want my daughters to see, these films. If there is some way we can ensure that these films are not shown on large screens in public places, if there is some way we can express our abhorrence of this kind of pornography, without infringing on civil liberties, I would agree with it.
I welcome the Minister to the House. The debate has been quite interesting and there are a few points I would like to make. We do not want too much censorship, we do not want pornography but, at the same time we do not want to limit the freedoms we enjoy. I welcome the Minister's approach to this matter. Censorship must be handled very carefully. The State has a bad history in the whole area of censorship; not alone has it banned books and films but at certain stages university students were not allowed to express views against the Establishment. We do not want to go back to that stage. A more liberal regime in the whole area of censorship is welcome but it has to be qualified with common sense and sensitivity.
We have censorship laws; for example, some years ago we passed the Video Recordings Act. The dilemma is that some of the material coming in would not be allowed in video form because it would contravene the Video Recordings Act, 1989. Our laws do not allow these videos to come in but, on the other hand, they can come in over the airwaves. Censorship should not limit freedom but it should be applied with common sense and sensitivity. Channels featuring explicit violence and depicting women in a degrading and dehumanising way are unacceptable. It is not right that women are portrayed at the receiving end of the most brutal and sadistic treatment. We cannot accept, no matter what levels of freedom we aspire to, that this should be the case because we are living in what we believe is a civilised society. Society must set its standards in this area and we must try to introduce controls to meet those standards as far as possible.
I would like to refer to one matter which has been highlighted, that is taking responsibility for the viewing habits of young people. The primary responsibility lies with parents. The State cannot do the parents' job and we must not take over their role. Perhaps we should advise parents that they have a responsibility in that matter but we cannot, through our laws, take over their responsibility. Parents should be aware of what their children are viewing and control it. To limit the freedom of individuals generally, because parents are not doing their job, is hardly the way to go about it.
Many of the films are uninhibited in their depiction of violence. They are also realistic and there is no doubt they have an effect on impressionable young people and, sometimes, on mature people.
They can lead to crime against innocent people. They can create a tolerance level whereby violence becomes acceptable so you are naturally going to have more violence. We need certain controls but it is difficult to get the mix right. We should not limit freedom and we must ensure that the primary responsibility for the viewing habits of young people lies with parents.
If Senator Lydon wishes to come in at this stage, he has about four minutes.
I was listening here to the champions of pornography who make out that what they are trying to remedy are the inhibitions on our instincts because of prudish traditions from which they are trying to release us. They are trying, they claim, to enable us to be more vital and feeling, to be ourselves in the sexual realm; yet, what pornography achieves is the opposite. In it, the images and words usurp the natural functions of instinct and instead of natural loving feelings moving towards meeting another human being, we have an intense mental concoction of often brutal imagery, as in the films on these satellite channels where rape and other gross acts of sadism are frequent. The effect of these mental brutalities is to disregard the person as being one of the characters. We can see in girlie magazines the titillating way in which the girl is discussed; the photographic exploitation of her as an object destroys her as a person of equality——
On a point of order, I do not mind us going back to the Middle Ages but I ask Senator Lydon not to read from a script.
Somebody mentioned D. H. Lawrence——
Is Senator Lydon reading his speech?
I ask you to resume your seat for a moment, Senator Ross.
D.H. Lawrence said:
Even I would censor genuine pornography rigorously. You can recognise it by the insult it offers in a variable dissention of the human spirit. Pornography is the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it, the insult to a vital human relationship, ugly and cheap. They make the human nudity ugly and degraded and they make the sexual act trivial, cheap and nasty.
There is an increasing body of evidence that shows, without a shadow of doubt, that pornography has a terrible effect on society and on human beings. I do not want to go into a long debate at this stage but it is accepted that pornogrphy has this effect. It is up to the Minister responsible to take action. I guarantee that if there was a war and some channel was beaming propaganda in from outside, it could be blocked. We have to take this action.
There is no doubt in my mind that pornography dehumanises persons, particularly women who are generally the object of violence and sex. We have only to watch the effects of it on British society as Senator Mooney mentioned. If we allow it in here the same thing will happen. We must take a stand and stop these films being beamed in. I do not know how to do it but I know it can be done. If there was a will to do it it would be done. I ask the Minister to take action in the matter.
I am delighted I proposed the motion because many genuine fears and concerns have been expressed in the House. This problem is something that can be tackled in the new broadcasting legislation. I have every confidence the Minister will take on board the serious views expressed in relation to what is going on. Since we started this debate I checked to see if my facts were correct in relation to the signal and its operation. I want to place on the record that in order to watch Sky television in the midlands, and in all rural Ireland, viewers must have a card for the News, Films, Gold and Sport channels. I ask the Minister to take these facts on board because many Senators seem to be confused about a satellite dish receiver and cable television. Under the cable system a card is required to receive all channels.
In Ireland there are now 500,000 subscribers to the cable or satellite system. I am a reasonably liberal person who has been involved in another side of this industry but I must say that this easy accessibility to pornography is bad for Ireland and for Irish society. No parent will be able to monitor a television channel 24 hours a day if the card cannot be removed from the receiver.
The biggest growth in satellite television is in sport and many families are paying for the sports channel to promote in their children an inteest in sport. We should encourage all our young people to get involved in sport and in this respect having a satellite dish is a great asset.
The problem regarding transmission to rural Ireland has only arisen in the past five months. The problem was highlighted in the UK Parliament, and I see an advantage in a second EC member state dealing with the same problem. We could support the UK in its fight. The fact that the UK has a strong voice in the European Parliament, and that two nations will be fighting for this one objective should strengthen our case.
Regarding the issue of open broadcasting, of course I am in favour of it. Anyone who takes my views out of context would be distorting the discussion. They would seek to trivialise it by suggesting that Members on this side of the House do not have an open mind. We would not have been the largest party in Ireland for the past 70 years if we had been narrow-minded.
Nobody said the Senator had an open mind.
Nobody accused him.
It is open but it is very small.
I know there are many loud speakers on the far side.
So are you.
I admire Senator O'Toole but it was irresponsible for the general secretary of one of the largest education unions to have said that this discussion was largely irrelevant to Irish society.
I thank the Minister and all who took part in this debate. I hope our views will be considered when the broadcasting legislation is being prepared. In the meantime, the transmission of these programmes must be stopped immediately.
Senator Mooney has referred to violence, apart from sexual violence, on television. This is appalling and appears to be unending. Most of these films seem to have been made in Hollywood and California where they have the advantage of extra hours of light and sunshine. Years ago only family films were made with stars like Tyrone Power and Alan Ladd. Speaking as a former film projectionist, I can say that those films passed the test of time and are still popular today. Violence and sex are short term entertainment.
On the subject of entertainment, I was delighted to hear the Minister mention the word. Many Ministers before him put legislation through this House and had matters on the Adjournment but not once did I hear them mention the word entertainment. If the service does not entertain you will not have any customers.
The Minister is anxious to bring back the film board, a move I support. The Irish film industry has a great ambassador for our tourism industry. We have expertise in this areas and we should learn from what the film industry did for Australia. I know the Minister has a certain expertise in this field and I look forward to developments in this industry. When he consults the film producers and film makers, they should be urged to make films which the whole family can enjoy. They are the people to will make the money if their films pass the test of time. However, if they produce films with violence as entertainment — and few people can identify with that — that would be a retrograde step and the industry will not survive.
This is the Minister's first visit to the House. I know many Senators welcomed him. As Cathaoirleach, I would like to express a very warm welcome to him. He spent many happy years in this House and we are pleased, honoured and proud that he is now a Minister.
- Bohan, Eddie.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Cashin, Bill.
- Cassidy, Donie.
- Crowley, Brian.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Farrell, Willie.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Tom.
- Hillery, Brian.
- Kelleher, Billy.
- Kelly, Mary.
- Kiely, Dan.
- Lanigan, Mick.
- Lydon, Don.
- McGennis, Marian.
- McGowan, Paddy.
- Magner, Pat.
- Maloney, Sean.
- Mooney, Paschal.
- Mullooly, Brian.
- O'Brien, Francis.
- Ormonde, Ann.
- Roche, Dick.
- Wall, Jack.
- Wright, G.V.
- Burke, Paddy.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Cregan, Denis (Dino).
- Dardis, John.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Henry, Mary.
- McDonagh, Jarlath.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Naughten, Liam.
- Neville, Daniel.
- Norris, David.
- O'Toole, Joe.
- Reynolds, Gerry.
- Ross, Shane P.N.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
When is it proposed to sit again?
It is proposed to sit at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 8 April.