I move amendment No. 3:
In page 33, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:
"35.–Section 5 of the broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1993 is hereby amended–
(a)in subsection (1) (a) by the indention of the following subparagraph after subparagraph (iii):
‘(iv)the persons who undertake the distribution and exploitation of the said programme, other than its broadcast by the broadcaster itself, and any simultaneous re-transmissions thereof,',".
I moved this amendment on Committee Stage. It concerns the fact that if an independent producer gets more than 50% of money from the independent production unit of RTE they are obliged to give the distribution and transmission rights to a section known as RTE . When I spoke on Committee Stage the Minister said there was no such legal regulation and appeared to be so advised by her officials. She will now have received from me copies of draft contracts which RTE obliges independent producers to sign.
The situation is therefore that independent producers have to sign over distribution rights to RTE. I quote from the general terms and conditions of the contract:
Distribution: Unless otherwise agreed between the parties, RTE shall have distribution rights for a term of five years from the date of first broadcast in Ireland. On expiry of the five year term, the Contractor shall be assigned distribution rights unless otherwise agreed between the parties. 70% of the net receipts shall accrue to RTE after the deduction of print and post production costs, agency sales commission (normally 30%), freight and customs charges, copyright license fees, promotion and publicity costs and such other charges deemed by RTE to have been necessarily incurred in the selling of recordings of the Programme. The balance of the 30% shall be paid to the Contractor.
It can be seen that the contractor is not going to do terribly well. The more recent draft regulations regarding distribution state:
Unless otherwise agreed RTE will normally retain distribution rights in programmes where RTE provides at least 50% of the funding for a period of five years from the date of first broadcast in Ireland. Such distribution may cover TV broadcasts world-wide and subject to agreement between RTE and the producer and subject to availability of such rights in connection with the project theatric, non-theatric, cable and satellite sales, and in addition the exploitation of books, records, video, merchandising and other ancillary rights. The producer will warrant that required rights are cleared to enable RTE to transmit the programme twice within five years and where applicable to exploit and distribute the programme.
Things are very heavily weighted on the side of RTE.
RTE is an absolutely splendid institution but for independent producers to be really independent and to enable them to have their product transmitted internationally it is essential that they not have to go through RTE . This is one of the few areas in which the RTE management would be willing to agree that they do not have a great deal of expertise and personnel.
Senator Mooney spoke about the shortage of staff in the subtitling division. Apparently in RTE two people are employed. This is to cover the sale of all independently produced films to the rest of the world. They are in competition with specialised sales units in the UK which have some of the most sophisticated operations in the world and our small independent producers will not get a fair opportunity to have their product transmitted internationally. They should be allowed to choose an independent sales promoter here or to work with companies in the UK.
It is a very specialised area. There are specialised companies dealing in children's programmes which must surely interest the Leader of the House as it must Senators Mooney and Labhrás Ó Murchú. We want to give our producers the very best chance to sell their work internationally. There was a programme recently which has been a huge international success. "Irish Empire" about the Irish experience around the world was a co-production and so was able to be sold everywhere. It has been a great financial success. Other programmes have had a far more limited distribution. I do not wish to name them as that would be invidious but some people have been extraordinarily disappointed in the distribution they managed to get for their programmes.
In terms of books and merchandise there is a question of quite a lot of money. It is not only the money of course. Independent producers have to make a name for themselves. They have to do this internationally. The contracts they are obliged to sign with RTE stymie the independent producers. I realise the Bill covers all television stations but we are funding RTE and I urge the Minister to make this change.
RTE is trying to handle a brief which is really too wide. It has a very important job to do and should allow specialised companies to deal with sales promotion. Independent producers must be given some latitude. I note that a Government amendment has been tabled which means the Bill must go back to the Dáil. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment. Our independent producers have produced very good work – I spoke earlier about the programmes on TG4 – and it is important that they are allowed to be really independent. I am sure that the taxpayers who fund RTE would like to see independent producers being provided with the best opportunity to sell their product.