That for the term of the present contract for televising of the proceedings of Seanad Éireann, Seanad Éireann resolves that the proceedings of Seanad Éireann be recorded on sound and televised in-House each day from the commencement to the adjournment of the proceedings and that—
(a) three Members of Seanad Éireann be appointed to the Broadcasting Control Committee established by Dáil Éireann on 8 July 1993;
(b) Seanad Éireann authorise, on payment of such fees as may be determined by the Broadcasting Control Committee from time to time, the broadcasting on sound and vision by national, local and foreign broadcasters of the proceedings of the Seanad subject to the following conditions:
(i) that recordings or extracts of the proceedings should not be used in programmes of light entertainment, political satire, party political broadcasts or in any form of advertising or publicity, other than in the form of news and current affairs programme trailers;
(ii) that broadcasters be permitted on request to carry live coverage of any item of business subject to the following provisos:
(I) that such item be broadcast in its entirety and not be interrupted by commentary, analysis or commercial breaks;
(II) that such item may not be rebroadcast in whole or in part except as permitted in and subject to the terms of this Order;
(iii) that broadcasters ensure political balance in the material they use;
(iv) that the Rules of Coverage be determined by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges;
(c) that the necessary monitoring, administrative and financial arrangements for televising and for broadcasts, televised broadcasting and sound broadcasting be discharged by the Broadcasting Control Committee;
(d) that copyright of all audio and televised material be vested in the Cathaoirleach on behalf of Seanad Éireann;
(e) that the contractor establish and maintain an archive of proceedings in accordance with the Rules of Access laid down by the Broadcasting Control Committee.
I have pleasure in moving this motion and, in doing so, I express the consensus of the House that the operation of television coverage is working well. For some, the arrival of television cameras in this House was a painful transition to the technological age. However, the misgivings expressed at the time have largely evaporated in the light of experience. The presence of cameras are generally ignored by most Members making contributions and in the normal cut and thrust of debate. That is how it should be because we are about serious business in this House. It is not a television show as some Members of the House might interpret their activities. There are performers and posers in every profession and Members of this House have no monopoly in this regard. This opinion is not always shared by the public at large but it is an aspect of political life that comes with the territory.
As a member of the Broadcasting Control Committee, I participated in the committee's deliberations subsequent to the decision of the Oireachtas to introduce television coverage of its proceedings. Concerns at that time have proven to be largely groundless. For example, the question of whether those with a natural aptitude for the camera would somehow dominate the proceedings of the House and diminish the contribution of those shrinking violets among us was raised on a number of occasions. I am sure all sides will agree that debates or the contributions of Members have not been in any way diminished as a result of the presence of television cameras.
The overriding concern of the committee and of the Members of both Houses at the time of the general debate on whether television cameras should be introduced centred on the maintenance of the dignity of the Houses. It was interesting that comment seemed to centre on whether in some way the dignity of the Houses of the Oireachtas would be eroded as a result of the physical introduction of television cameras. I am sure all sides will agree that experience has proved that this concern is without foundation. It is a tribute to the technical expertise that was available to the Broadcasting Control Committee that although there were some initial difficulties about the location of the cameras, these have been ironed out. Given that technology is moving so fast in this area, if the debate had taken place ten or 15 years ago, the technology at that time would definitely have intruded on the workings of the House.
I was one of those who believed that we did not go far enough. For example, in other parliaments and institutions, such as the European Parliament, although it is a much larger Chamber than either the Seanad or the Dáil, the use of cameras on the floor has proved to be of benefit in conveying the message of the activities of the Parliament to the public at large. This move was debated at the time and ruled out because it was felt that it would be an intrusion on the dignity of the House. In the light of experience I am not so sure whether that is necessarily true in relation to this House, where we are confined in terms of space, but it might be of interest in regard to the Dáil. I raise this aspect of the technical side of television coverage of proceedings because the use of a floor camera was precluded. Due to the location of the overhead cameras, in some cases when a Member is making a contribution on his or her feet viewers see the top of the Member's head rather than his or her face. This does not benefit the contributions and may detract from the message the Member is attempting to convey within the House and to the wider television viewing public. This aspect of coverage might be re-examined in the light of experience.
I pity those who have difficulty with the upper regions of their anatomy. I will not go any further than that. I am sure Members get the message. I am not suggesting that make-up artists should be brought into the House to improve Member's images. If image is everything then perhaps there is a question to be addressed about the introduction of make-up artists into the House prior to contributions being made by the Members to whom I have referred in as oblique and diplomatic a way as I can.