I welcome to the House the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Seán Power.
Vol. 190 No. 3
I welcome to the House the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Seán Power.
Amendment No. 29 is being discussed with amendments Nos. 32, 35, 36a, 36b and 36c.
I was in possession and reported progress on the last occasion. Amendment No. 29 proposes an amendment to section 41 after subsection (6).
I should point out that a section on alcohol advertising taken from EU directive 89/552 EC is required to be dealt with by codes under section 42 of the Bill. That section provides that broadcast advertisements providing alcoholic beverages shall comply with the following criteria: they shall not be aimed specifically at minors or, in particular, depict minors consuming these beverages; they shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or to driving; they shall not create the impression that the consumption of alcohol contributes to work, social or sexual success; they shall not claim that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or that it is a stimulant, a sedative or a means of resolving personal conflicts; they shall not encourage immoderate consumption of alcohol or present abstinence or moderation in a negative light; and they shall not place emphasis on high alcoholic content as being a positive quality of the beverage. That is from Article 15 of the said directive and it is more comprehensive than the amendment. Those are the provisions that are required to be dealt with by codes under section 42. Whereas it could be said that they are more comprehensive than what I have proposed for direct insertion into the Bill under section 41, I have sought to introduce a watershed so that a broadcaster shall not broadcast before 9 p.m. an advertisement promoting alcoholic beverages. There is an argument for the direct incorporation into the Bill of some or all of the broadcasting code set out under the directive I read out. It might be argued that this would be technically superfluous but it would give the issue more prominence.
That leads me to my point of conclusion on the previous occasion. The issue arises as to how serious we are about the consumption of alcohol, especially by younger members of society. Legislation is on the way that will seek in some way to tackle the supply of alcohol. There has been much discussion recently about the growth in the number of off-licences and the number of under age people drinking. Anecdotally, we are all aware of situations where younger people are drinking enormous quantities of alcohol. One wonders about the problems they are storing up for themselves in later life as they acquire a dependency not just on alcohol but on very high quantities of alcohol. That will have implications not just for them personally but for their families and family life and also for the Exchequer and the health service. Those are important considerations.
The question is whether we are content to seek to tackle the supply of alcohol or if we should also seek to change attitudes so that we tackle the demand. That is a more difficult issue because we live in a society where many competing messages are directed at people, especially young people. Despite the fact that we have existing broadcasting codes that try to limit the seductive appeal of alcohol it is none the less a fact that the depiction of alcohol in advertisements on television, for example, is very much associated with social success and people who have attractive personal characteristics. I do not need to rehearse here the concepts of the type of advertisements we see for various alcoholic beverages. The question is whether we can be more regulatory in this area.
Bearing in mind that we are legislating in the public interest and that the Bill has to do, inter alia, with the television channels people receive into their homes by dint of paying the standard fee for the basic television package, I have a caveat to my proposal, namely, that I am aware that the concept of a television watershed is becoming increasingly theoretical in value given the lifestyles people lead, especially young people, given the changing structure of the family and a certain lack of parental oversight that is widely noted. It is fair to say that many young people watch television after 9 p.m., particularly the kind of young people we might have in mind as we discuss alcoholism in society. That said, it is time we made a start.
Senator Norris takes a more radical view on this occasion than I in that he proposes a complete ban on the advertisement of alcoholic beverages. I am inclined to support him. Amendment No. 29 represents a limited strike. I hope it is considered favourably because we have to make a start in terms of controlling the message going out to people, especially young people, about alcohol. We have had discussions and we need to have more discussions about the role of alcohol in the sponsorship of sporting events, especially events that are attractive to young people. I refer specifically to television advertising, as television is a significant part of people's lives. Given the fact that the earlier the advertising on television the greater the likelihood it will reach people who are at a formative stage of their lives, it is necessary at the very least to consider a watershed despite the limitations I have acknowledged on watersheds in the modern context. It is time we made a start and it is on that basis that I make this proposal.
A watershed represents a good start in terms of alcoholic beverages. We must have a philosophical discussion in the House about whether we want to prioritise economic issues and the economic benefits to broadcasters and therefore to refuse the amendment or whether we intend to identify in a principled and clear-headed manner where the interests of young people lie, especially those young people who might be vulnerable to alcoholic excess. It is a question of making a start and of seeking to shape public attitudes, especially of younger people who are at a formative stage. The point of inserting the amendment directly into section 41, as distinct from the incorporation of the codes under the European directive under section 42, is to seek to give the issue the kind of prominence it needs if we are to make serious inroads into the problem of alcohol abuse among young people in society. Go raibh maith agat.
I am not sure about the amendments under discussion as additional amendments have been tabled. I only have the original printed version on yellow paper and they are not included in that, which is a bit confusing. Will the additional amendments be available? They are not on the table.
We got them by e-mail.
I did not. They were not there when I looked a minute ago.
The list of additional amendments is printed on a white sheet. Someone might be able to get it for Senator Norris.
I thank the Acting Chairman for his help.
There are two lists.
I have the list showing the grouping of the amendments.
I refer to the lists of additional amendments.
I will do a bit of research when I have had my say. I thank the Acting Chairman.
I am generally in sympathy with the argument made by Senator Mullen but, as he indicated, mine is slightly more radical. In fact it is considerably more radical because it looks for a total ban on alcohol advertising and proposes a substantial fine. The reason for this is that the abuse of alcohol throughout society, not just by young people, is a very costly business to the Exchequer and is very damaging to the health of the nation. We are in the middle of a crisis in this country because of the excessive consumption of drink. We have one of the worst rates of binge drinking in the entire world and that is partly driven by advertising. We know it is an extremely serious health problem and it draws on the resources of the State to deal with the consequences of drink. The situation has a direct parallel in the impact of smoking. The Government took an enormously courageous decision to make an outright ban on the advertising of cigarettes. It moved then to limit the places where one could smoke.
I am not talking about limiting the places where people can drink or even limiting the availability of drink, although I have said many times that one of the factors that has led to this situation is the extraordinary proliferation of licensing of small retail outlets such as corner shops, supermarkets and mini markets. However, I am not dealing with that. I am simply dealing with the advertising of alcohol. What we have done with cigarettes we can do with alcohol. Anything less is a half measure. Television advertising in particular would be affected by such a change as there are not that many drink advertisements on radio. The reason is that companies use the massive visual appeal of television and they have the money so to do. We are dealing with a completely unscrupulous drinks industry that deliberately targets young people. We have seen that with alcopops and the new alcoshots that are highly concentrated.
I am not impressed by the group, MEAS, which is the Irish for respect. I have no respect for it. I know exactly what it is. I have watched its spokespeople on television defending the drinks industry. It is a fig leaf. It is a cosmetic operation by the drinks industry to conceal what it is doing.
My amendment proposes discontinuing the broadcast of advertisements for alcohol. That is a clear, clean, simple and radical step. It will be problematic but if the Minister of State accepted it he would get the kind of kudos that the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, got for introducing the smoking ban.
My amendment sets out to achieve the objectives of the two previous amendments. It is a question of the best method to achieve the objective. It is important to restate that we have an alcohol problem. We have a problem with binge drinking. There is a frightening culture of drinking among our youth, which has enormous health and social implications. The progression to other forms of substance abuse begins with abuse of and dependency on alcohol. It is progressive and there is a link. Those who tabled the previous two amendments made it clear that we have a problem with alcohol in our society.
Implicit in the Bill's proposed ban on advertising of junk food is an acceptance of the power of advertising. We do not necessarily need empirical research to establish that advertising is extremely powerful on both radio and television because we know the companies that invest in it would not put that money in if it was not creating a return. The advertising is effective. We first need to establish those two principles. We have a problem and advertising is effective in perpetuating the problem.
My amendment is a pragmatic, sensible and workable proposal to draw up a broadcasting code by the new authority in collaboration with the drinks industry, the temperance organisations, including the Pioneer Total Abstinence Organisation which does great work in this area, and youth groupings. They are all stakeholders with an interest in the area. Those people should be consulted and the authority should establish a broadcasting code for drink advertising. That code should focus on audience age at a given time of day. I take the point made by Senator Mullen that there is a blurring, and in contemporary society the watershed times are hard to establish, as there is an overlap between viewing times of different age groupings. Things are not as clear-cut as they might have been. However, the code should address the issue of audience age at a given time. It should be mindful not to have advertising available at a time when the audience of young people is maximised.
It should consider the nature of the advertisements, particularly television advertisements. It should consider whether those advertisements suggest a link between alcohol, and sexual prowess and glamorous sex lives. It should also address the exploitation of women that is also involved in those advertisements and the degree to which they perpetuate the drink culture and problem. The code should propose the elimination of sexually explicit advertisements that are an insult to womanhood and represent a problem in the drink area.
The code should address sponsorship that provides subtle advertising. Some of the most effective subliminal advertising is where the drinks industry has links to particular programmes, and sport and cultural youth events, including song and music contests and drama. These are called "stings" and such advertising should be reviewed. The code should regulate that aspect and also the target age group, the nature of advertisements and the type of sponsorship allowed. It should also regulate the amount of alcohol advertisements. The code should specify fines and disciplinary procedures for breaches of the code to ensure compliance with the code.
I regard this as a pragmatic and sensible amendment. I appeal to the Minister of State to accept it as a method to achieve the objective of us all, which is to protect vulnerable people from being influenced by pernicious advertising that could damage their future.
The amendment specifies that if agreement cannot be reached between the authority and the stakeholders — the drinks industry might not agree even though there is no reason it should not and it would if the imperative was there — then the authority would have the right to act unilaterally and ban certain advertisements at a given time as it saw fit and to deal with the issue on its own with professional advice. A voluntary code is always more workable. However, if a voluntary code cannot be agreed — I believe it would — the authority would have the ultimate sanction to impose the regulation.
I appeal to the Minister of State to accept this amendment as a pragmatic and sensible way to deal with the difficulty. While it could be subject to review in the future, I believe it could work to realistically deal with a very difficult issue in a slightly incremental but nonetheless effective way.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I have two amendments in this grouping, Nos. 36b and 36c. Similar issues arise in the next grouping of amendments. An rud atá i gceist agam anseo ná go mbeadh tacaíocht agus tuiscint ann do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí agus do Ghaeilgeoirí. Níl sé ar intinn agam aon strus nó stró a chur ar RTE nó ar aon ghrúpa a bheadh ag craobhscaoileadh tríd na meáin. An rud atá i gceist ná go mbeadh seans ag gnáth muintir na nGaeltachtaí a saol a chaitheamh trí Ghaelainn, maireachtaint trí Ghaelainn agus gnáth rudaí a dhéanamh trí Ghaelainn agus go mbeadh an Ghaelainn ar fáil dóibh ar bhonn réasúnta agus praiticiúil. Nílim ag iarraidh aon rud nua a chur chun cinn. Níl aon rud sa mholadh seo a cuireann deacrachtaí roimh an Aire. Níl i gceist agam ach go mbeadh seans ag muintir na nGaeltachtaí agus ag Gaeilgeoirí a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaelainn. Mar shampla, séard atá ar siúl leis na leasuithe os ár gcomhair sa ghrúpa seo ná go mbeadh rudaí mar teletext agus subtitling ar fáil i nGaelainn. That is not difficult to do. The technology exists. Úsáideann TG4 an teicneolaíocht sin i gconaí. Watching a programme on TG4 it is very easy to press the button. When we passed the legislation several years ago for the establishment of TG4 we knew it was possible to get an Irish language translation.
Cad atá i gceist agam anseo? Tá sé i gceist agam go mbeadh tuiscint againn ar cad atá ar fáil. Ar thaobh an oideachais de, mar shampla do rang scoile, múinteoirí, scoileanna nó lucht féachana na teilifíse, is é atá i gceist ná go mbeadh áiseanna ar fáil dóibh i nGaelinn agus go mbeadh siad ar fáil dóibh ar fad. Ní haon rud mór é seo. Ní dóigh liom go gcuirfeadh an rud atá a mholadh agam an iomad struis ar an Aire. What stress will it put on the Minister to provide subtitles in Irish for people from the Gaeltacht if they press the button? I hope the Minister will be open to this. Later today or this week one of the committees will deal with the requirements of the Acht Teanga and the requirement to have things ar fáil i nGaelinn. Tá an moladh atá á dhéanamh agam anseo i bhfad níos simplí ná seo. Tá an teicneolaíocht ann agus ba chóir go mbeadh sé ar fáil.
In the next group tá leasuithe molta agam i dtaobh daoine atá ag cur insteach gearáin, complaints, to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. Má chuireann siad isteach gearáin trí Ghaelinn, ba chóir go dtiocfadh na freagraí ar ais chucu i nGaelinn. I feel very strongly about this. When I was at school, half my class were Gaeltacht people. When people deal with new language and technology they are not in the habit of making complaints every day and will revert to the language in which they are most comfortable. Má tharlaíonn sé go bhfuil siad i bhfad níos compordaí ag úsáid na Gaeilge, ba chóir go mbeadh aon tacaíocht atá ann ar fáil dóibh chun é sin a dhéanamh. It is not too much to ask.
I am very clear about this and I have tabled an amendment that the annual report be available in Irish. I want to short-circuit all the arguments against this. That is already covered by a regulation under one of the Schedules of the Acht Teanga so there is nothing new here. I do not want people coming to me and saying I am putting forward a proposal that will cause great problems and time delays. Having it here means when people set out the annual report on day one, they will know it will have to be ar fáil i nGaelinn, so the print design can allow for it to be easily produced in Irish or English. I do not need to have hard copies printed in Irish, but I want it translated and available at least as a Web publication in order that all the work and design goes into it and is there. I am not asking that we publish thousands of copies that will never be opened or read, although where there is a demand it should be made available. In the first case, I will be satisfied with Web publication if that is required. What is killing Irish language policy is that ordinary people who do their work and live their lives through Irish hit a full stop when they deal with aspects of the State.
I do not wish to come across as some kind of zealot. I have very little sympathy with some of the fascistic aproaches to the Irish language. That is not where I come from. I do not go along with the view of using a language as some kind of ammunition against other people. Táim sáite sa chultúr Gaelach. Rugadh agus tógadh mé i measc daoine a raibh Gailege acu ón gcliabhán agus bhí mo chuid oideachais ar fad trí Ghaeilge. Do dhaoine mar mé féin, gur bhreá leo anois is arís a gcuid oibre a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge, ba chóir go mbeadh an seans ann é sin a dheanamh. Ní rud mór é sin.
I regularly spoke to the Minister's father in the Irish language and he was a great lover of it. In his memory, as a man who also shook the chalk dust from his hair at 3 o'clock of an evening, taught the Irish language in the midlands and spread the good word, I expect the Minister to at least be open minded on this matter. Deirim leis an Aire go bhfuil sé seo tábhachtach. I do not want the Minister to see this as something he can deal with, examine the cost involved and get rid of it or not. This is very important to a small number of people who are important in this country. Gaeltacht people are always watching this and asking whether anybody really cares about them. They do not ask for much. Táimíd ag caint anseo faoi chéad theanga oifigiúil an Stáit agus is cóir mar sin go mbeadh Gaelgeoirí in ann a gcuid oibre a dhéanamh, a shaol a chaitheamh agus maireachtaint trí Ghaelainn más mian leo é sin a dhéanamh. It is not too much to ask.
I am working hard to get the Minister to nod his head somewhere along the way. I am not getting any positive vibes. I am feeling negative and discouraged. Next week we are to discuss the new set of regulations on the Irish language. If the Minister cannot accept this today, can he guarantee that somebody from his Department will raise this with the Irish language commissioner and ask his view on this and how it ties into the Acht Teanga? I am the greatest supporter and critic of the Acht Teanga. People have had to listen to me here over the past five years talking about what is wrong with it and what it tried to do to my home town of Dingle and I have very clear views on it. I also take a practical view. An rud atá a mholadh anseo agam ná go mbeidh an seans ag gnáth muintir agus saoránaigh na tíre seo, Gaelgeoirí nó muintir na nGaeltachtaí, gur mhaith leo a gcuid oibre a dhéanamh — gearáin a chur isteach nó féachaint ar teletext nó subtitles — go mbeadh sin ar fáil doibh as Gaeilge. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an tAire oscailte don mhéid sin.
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach chun an Bille seo a phlé. Ba mhaith liom aontú le mórán a bhfuil ráite ag an Seanadóir O'Toole. Aontáim leis gur cóir go mbeadh muintir na nGaeltachtaí agus Gaelgeoirí úsáid a bhaint as ár dteanga dhúchais i gcónaí. Tá dualgas orainn go léir atá ag obair sa Stát Seirbhís ní hamháin an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ach í a choimeád beo agus a chosaint, go mór mhór sna Gaeltachtaí.
On the other amendment regarding advertising, I am not sure of the mechanics of some of the amendments proposed and how effective or otherwise they would be in practice. However, I am taken by the sentiments expressed and Senator O'Reilly's suggestion could be taken on board. Section 42(4) specifies:
A broadcasting code prepared by the Authority under subsection (2)(g) may prohibit the advertising in a broadcasting service of a particular class or classes of foods and beverages considered by the Authority to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children.
That is commendable and I welcome it in the Bill and, hopefully, in the Act. Although it refers to "foods and beverages", it also specifies "in particular those which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars" but does not mention alcohol. That should be examined. Obesity is a recognised problem in society. The solution needs to begin at an early age and children need to be encouraged to be active. Many schools are taking initiatives in that regard, and this is welcome. Equally, there is now clear recognition that the temptation for youngsters to become involved with alcohol at an early age is neither good for them, for their health now or in the future, nor for society. As food and beverages, including the sugar content of some of the minerals that youngsters drink, are dealt with, there is a corollary that it would be a contradiction to exclude alcohol. Advertising is not the sole influence in regard to drink but it is a significant factor.
I tend to disagree with some of the comments made in criticism of the drinks industry. The drinks industry has a duty to itself commercially and to its shareholders to promote the sale of its products in the same way any other product is promoted. However, there is an onus on us, as legislators, to consider the health effects and to ensure appropriate measures are put in place. Leaving a code to the authority in the first instance would be a good first step in this regard.
I have difficulty understanding why alcohol is excluded in the last line of this subsection, and while there may be a good reason for this, it is not apparent to me. This issue should be considered and the general sentiment of what is being expressed could in some way be incorporated before Report Stage so the authority would be empowered, if it sees fit, to make provisions in a code which would influence a more mature and responsible engagement with drink, particularly for those at a young age and in adolescence.
Ba mhaith liom labhairt mar gheall ar leasú Uimh. 36a, a bhaineann leis na horduithe agus an cód. Beimid ag cur isteach cód úr a leagfaidh amach na riachtanais a bheidh ar chraoltóirí agus iad ag brú ábhair difriúla, go háirithe ar pháistí. It basically states that in the broadcasting codes we would also include the likely effect which the promotion of overtly consumerist attitudes in the promotion of commercial products within programme content will have on the target audience, particularly where the content is targeted at children.
We can all agree that this is not a major problem with RTE or TG4. However, if one looks at some of the other services or broadcasters, particularly children's broadcasters and channels, it is a problem where advertising for toys and other goods, and even for mobile phone text providers and ringtone providers, seems to dominate, and where programmes are directly linked with the selling of commercial products. This is an issue of which I am sure RTE and others are aware but it might be advisable to have it included in the text of the Bill so it forms part of the statutory guidelines.
Any parent of young children will tell of the pressures they are under when some of these other channels are involved in promoting consumerist attitudes and targeting young children. It is an issue on which we could all agree, and it could be included in the Bill.
Tacaím go láidir leis an dá leasuithe — 36b agus 36c — atá molta ag an Seanadóir O'Toole. Mar a dúirt sé, tá sé ag iarraidh cearta a thabhairt do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus gach éinne eile a labhrann an Ghaeilge. Táimid ag dul isteach go dtí an choiste anois. Beimid ag labhairt leis an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, mar gheall ar na horduithe ó thaobh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 de. Ba cheart dúinn an rud céanna a dhéanamh anseo ó thaobh RTE de. Ba cheart chomhfhreagras i nGaeilge a bheith ann. Má bhfaightear litir i nGaeilge, ba cheart litir i nGaeilge a seoladh ar ais. Ar an gcuma chéanna, ba cheart do RTE seirbhísí teletext agus a leithéid a chur ar fáil i nGaeilge freisin. Ar a laghad, ba cheart do RTE iarracht a dhéanamh é sin a chur ar fáil. B'fhéidir nach dtarlóidh sé thar oíche. Beimid ag déanamh iarrachta é sin a chur chun cinn. Má tá rud éigin den sórt sin scríofa isteach sa Bhille, cuirfidh muintir na Gaeilge fáilte roimhe.
Bhí ar an Seanadóir O'Toole imeacht os rud é go bhfuil cruinniú eile aige. D'iarr sé orm a rá leis an Aire go mbeidh sé ag coimeád súil chúramach ar an dteilifís ina oifig chun an freagra a gheobhaidh se a fháil amach. Beidh sé ar ais.
We have discussed the question of alcohol advertising in the House on many occasions and I have expressed my view very strongly that we need to take a serious look at the advertising of alcohol on television. This extends to a wider debate on alcohol sponsorship throughout our country and society, particularly in the area of sport and related leisure activities. It is a huge problem and a major issue which needs to be addressed and confronted. We all agree that this needs to be done.
Some of my colleagues have brought forward amendments, some of them mandatory in form in respect of a ban and a very large fine, and others which are a variation on the theme. I am inclined to support the sensible position adopted by Senator Joe O'Reilly, namely, that as far as possible the detail should be determined in a code of practice and the widest possible amount of agreement should be secured throughout the industry before we resort to the approach of a mandatory ban on advertising of particular products.
While I share the views of those who have said that there ought not to be advertising of alcohol on television, we live in a world where there is a proliferation of television advertising which does not just originate in this State or across the water, as was the position up to a few years ago. Television stations are now beamed in from all over the world. We must have regard to the world we live in. While I do not say this to lessen my earlier point on alcohol advertising, it is a more complex problem than simply saying we should impose a ban and a fine — I say this with all respect to the proposals of Senators Norris and Mullen in this regard. This question probably belongs better in the context of a discussion and, hopefully, an agreement on a code of practice, which is the way this type of issue has been dealt with in the past.
To be fair to the Minister, that would appear to be the context in which he intends to deal with this issue. There is fairly detailed provision in section 42 in respect of broadcasting codes. I presume it would be the intention of the Minister to include this question, or at least it would be a view of the Minister that this question needs to be dealt with in the context of the enabling provisions in the Bill for the promulgation of codes of practice and advertising. Senator O'Reilly's amendment on that issue is probably the one I would prefer over the others for the reasons I have outlined but I also believe, in fairness to the Minister, that this issue is allowed for in the text of the Bill. That is probably the best way to proceed.
We can put measures into legislation that make us feel we are doing something or that we can have an impact on a particular problem, but the question is whether in fact we would have that effect and-or whether it would not be better to take the issue apart and deal with it with all of the interested parties concerned, and hopefully reach the outcome we wish to achieve in regard to the advertising of alcohol.
With regard to amendments Nos. 29, 32 and 35, the regulation of alcohol in the State is a matter which falls to be addressed on a cross-departmental basis. The Department of Health and Children, which is the lead Department on the health-related issues of alcohol, has, as Senators will be aware, recently reviewed the voluntary code to reduce the exposure of young people to alcoholic drink on television. This was agreed with the drinks and advertising sectors back in 2005. The revised codes on alcohol, marketing, communications and sponsorship represent a strengthening of the existing codes.
In April, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform published the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008, which addresses the promotion and sale of alcohol, opening hours and public order issues. It was the intention to take that Bill in the Dáil tomorrow, although the schedule has been changed and it may instead be introduced next week.
In respect of broadcasting legislation, we have provided in section 42 for a requirement on the broadcasting authority of Ireland to prepare codes governing the standards and practices to be observed by broadcasters. Senators will be aware that section 42(2)(h) approximates and develops the previous provisions under which the BCI prepared the general advertising code. This code specifically addresses the points made in regard to the advertising of alcohol. We have provided under section 42(9) for the continuation of this code. I consider that section 42 assists the whole of Government approach needed to adequately address the concerns raised by Senators and, as such, I do not propose to accept the amendments.
With regard to amendment No. 36a, I have provided under section 43(4)(j) that broadcasting codes shall provide for the matters required in chapters IIA, IIB, IV and V of the audiovisual media services directive. Senators will be aware that under chapter IIA, article 3(g)(1), commercial communications involving product placements are prohibited. While derogations may apply in respect of certain categories of programming, including cinema, series made for television, sports programmes and light entertainment, this derogation does not apply to children’s programming. Senators will be aware that the product placement provisions of the existing Broadcasting Commission of Ireland codes, specifically its general advertising code, prohibit product placements. We have provided under section 42(9) for the continuation of these codes. The advertising code prohibits commercial communications for drinks which contain alcohol content of 25% or above. That means drinks such as vodka, whiskey, rum, gin and brandy are prohibited. The same applies in respect of alcopops. The code also states:
Commercial communications for alcoholic drinks shall not encourage children or other non-drinkers to begin drinking. It shall be cast towards brand selling and identification only.
Broadcasters shall ensure that commercial communications for alcoholic drinks are not transmitted in or around programmes primarily intended for children and shall take account of the age profile of the viewers and/or listeners to ensure they are communicated, so far as it is possible, to adults.
That makes clear what we are trying to do.
Section 42 also requires the broadcasting authority of Ireland to prepare codes governing the standards and practices to be observed by broadcasters. Section 42(2)(g) provides that advertising and teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion implied in any broadcasting service, in particular those which advertise activities likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children, protect the interests of children and have regard for their general public health interests. Furthermore, section 42(4) provides that a broadcasting code prepared by the BAI under section 42(2)(g) may prohibit the advertising by a broadcasting service of a particular class or classes of food or beverage considered by the authority to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children, particularly products which contain fat or trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars. As I consider these provisions to adequately address the concerns raised by Senators, I cannot accept the amendment.
In respect of amendments Nos. 36b and 36c, section 43 requires the BAI, inter alia, to prepare rules for broadcasters in respect of access to broadcasting services by persons with hearing impairments. These provisions approximate and develop the previous provisions under which the BCI prepared the access rules. Section 43(7) provides for the continuation of these codes. The BAI is the appropriate body to consider and decide on the matters raised in these amendments. I can see the merit of the proposed amendments but I am sure Senators will agree that the practicalities of implementation are more appropriate to the BAI, which can take all relevant matters into consideration in developing the access rules. Section 43(6) provides that the BAI must review a broadcasting code made under subsection 43(1)(c) every two years or such lesser period as it may decide. Furthermore, section 44 provides that draft broadcasting rules prepared by the BAI are subject to public consultation. I consider these processes to provide ample opportunity for input into the development of access rules, including the issues raised by Senators. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept the amendments.
Senator O'Toole asked me to have an open mind. I like to think I always have an open mind. We do not have a monopoly on wisdom and are prepared to consider good amendments. We see some merit in what has been proposed. TG4 has an Irish language teletext service and a bilingual Internet service, although it does not provide Irish subtitling. If a programme were broadcast as Gaeilge with subtitling as Béarla, it might be helpful from the point of view of learning Irish. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland have published key documents in response to correspondence in Irish.
There is always room for improvement, and I listened attentively to Senators' arguments and will consult my colleagues when we have finished our debate in this House. However, I will have to disappoint some Senators because I am not in a position to accept their amendments as presented.
While I thank the Minister of State for his reply, I am disappointed he will not accept amendment No. 35. Senators Alex White and Walsh endorsed the amendment and acknowledged its practical wisdom and other colleagues have informally expressed their support for it. The purpose of the amendment is to place a specific requirement on the BAI to draw up the code in a consultative manner. The authority could use the ultimate stick of banning advertising if the code could not be agreed because people are obstinate or difficult, although I do not anticipate such a scenario arising. It is a pragmatic and practical amendment and I will have to press it.
Tá díomá orm fosta nach bhfuil an tAire ag glacadh go hiomlán le leasuithe an tSeanadóir Ó Tuathail. Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt do na leasuithe sin mar is leasuithe réasúnta iad. Tá an teicneolaíocht ar fáil chun subtitles a chraoladh as Gaeilge. Tá cearta daonlathacha ag muintir na nGaeltachtaí agus tá dualgas orainn sa Teach seo cothrom na féinne a thabhairt dóibh. Molaim na leasuithe don Aire, ach is trua nach bhfuil sé sásta glacadh leo. Iarraim ar ath-smaoineamh a dhéanamh orthu agus glacadh leo.
I insist on pressing amendment No. 35. Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Minister of State to accept the amendment.
Having listened to the various contributions, I am disappointed the Minister of State will not be accepting my amendment. I am particularly disappointed that he will not be accepting amendment No. 35 in the name of Senator O'Reilly.
I listened with interest to the comments of Senator Alex White, who appears to be concerned with regard to provisions in legislation being either too prescriptive or overly draconian. I presume he is particularly concerned about Senator Norris's amendment which would lead to the imposition of a complete ban on the advertisement of alcohol, and that in my name which proposes a watershed of 9 p.m. We must consider what is the role of legislators. It is true that we should never make legislative provision or amend legislation lightly. However, we are debating an issue, namely, alcohol, which is continually discussed as being of concern in society. There comes a time when we must stop talking and start legislating in the public interest.
I am concerned in respect of the emergence of a certain quango-itis, so to speak, whereby we become nervous about proposing specific legislative provisions and state that a particular issue is a matter for some quango or an authority we intend to establish, or that it should be dealt with under a code. There is a place for quangos, authorities and codes. When people say that a matter would best be dealt with under a particular code, what they really mean is that it would best be dealt with in a way that gives something to everyone. Sometimes there is a need for clearer intent at the heart of legislation.
Senator O'Reilly proposes a code in respect of the advertisement of alcohol which I am happy to support. The code in question represents a more limited strike than Senator Norris or I would have made in respect of this matter. None the less, the relevant amendment is very thoughtful and challenges to the Government to take the issue of the advertisement of alcohol as seriously as it does that of the advertisement of junk food. It is stated in section 42(2)(g) that broadcasting codes shall provide:
[T]hat advertising, teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion employed in any broadcasting service, in particular advertising and other such activities which relate to matters likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children, protects the interests of children having particular regard to the general public health interests of children[.]
Who could disagree with that? Section 42(4) provides that:
A broadcasting code prepared by the Authority under subsection (2)(g) may prohibit the advertising in a broadcasting service of a particular class or classes of foods and beverages considered by the Authority to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children, in particular those which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars.
A standard is being set down by the Government. It is not proposing a specific ban. However, it is proposing to enable the creation of such a ban in legislation. It is interesting that the phrase "a broadcasting code shall prohibit such advertising" is not used in the Bill. However, it is stated that such a code may prohibit advertising of this nature. I am concerned that people are scared to legislate and would be happier to refer certain matters to quangos. Those to whom I refer are terrified of taking a principled decision and running with it.
It is not as if legislation, should it prove counterproductive, could not be amended or repealed subsequently. There are enough resources available to the Government, in the context of intelligent personnel who will research the issues, for it to have a clearer view at this stage with regard to the issue of the advertisement of junk food. However, that is not my main point.
That matter is dealt with in a later amendment in the Senator's name.
Yes, that matter will be the subject of discussion in respect of another amendment. To return to Senator O'Reilly's amendment, if we apply the logic of what the Government has done in respect of junk food, why should we not provide that a broadcasting code relating to the advertisement of alcohol should be drawn up? In addition, why should we not provide that, in the absence of such a code, the authority may prohibit the advertisement of alcohol products? Are we speaking out of both sides of our mouths? Are we willing to state how worried we are regarding the drinking of alcohol to excess, particularly among young people, but that in the final analysis we are afraid to tackle the vested interests or challenge the industry?
No one is suggesting that we ban the sale of alcohol products. We are proposing the banning of the advertisement of alcohol products, enabling such a ban to be put in place or enabling — as in Senator O'Reilly's modest but none the less thoughtful and welcome amendment — the establishment of a code under which the advertisement of alcohol could be banned in certain circumstances. I commend Senator O'Reilly on tabling his amendment. I will not be pressing my amendment but I will support the Senator's, if necessary in a vote.
Senators O'Toole and Doherty also tabled amendments in respect of this matter. That in the name of Senator Doherty is extremely thoughtful in nature. It goes to the heart of an issue of great relevance to our society, namely, the promotion of consumerist attitudes, particularly in circumstances where broadcasting content is aimed at children. I have stated on many occasions that I regard the law as an educator. That which the law provides has the effect not just of preventing certain behaviours but also of fostering particular attitudes.
Under the proposed new paragraph (g) in Senator Doherty’s amendment, the authority would be obliged to have regard to the matter to which I refer in preparing or revising a broadcasting code. That is highly relevant. Many people are concerned with regard to consumerist attitudes. I am not referring to harmless advertisements such as that relating to Terry’s chocolate orange where a woman says “It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine”, rather I am talking about a more insidious consumerist attitude that is fostered in programme content and certain advertisements. The amendment in Senator Doherty’s name does not propose the imposition of anything, it merely refers to a matter which the authority should be required to take on board. What could be more reasonable than that?
Tá mé go huile agus go hiomlán i bhfábhar na leasuithe atá molta ag an Seanadóir O'Toole. Is minic a breathnaím ar TV5, staisiún teilifíse na Fraince. Bhí sé ar fáil saor in aisce i mBaile Átha Cliath, ar a laghad, ach ní mar sin atá sé anois. Caithfimid íoc as faoi láthair. Tá sé iontach go bhfuil daoine in ann breathnú ar scannáin Francacha, leis an gcomhrá agus na fotheidil i bhFraincis, ar TV5. Cabhraíonn sé sin go mór le daoine atá ag foghlaim na Fraincise. Tá siad in ann éisteacht leis na focail, agus iad a léamh ar an scáileán ag an am céanna. Is iontach an seirbhís é sin do dhaoine atá ag iarraidh an Fhraincis a fhoghlaim. Ní ionann an rud atá molta i leasuithe an Seanadóir O'Toole agus an rud atá á rá agam anseo. De réir leasú Uimh. 36b, beidh fotheidil i gceist i gcomhthéacs cláracha teilifíse.
Nuair atáimid ag caint mar gheall ar pholasaithe i leith na Gaeilge, ní mór dom a rá go bhfuil an-chuid rudaí iontacha déanta ag an Rialtas. Tréaslaím leis an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, ní hamháin as ucht an suim atá aige i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge ach freisin as ucht an infheistíocht pearsanta atá déanta aige san ábhar sin. D'fhéadfainn labhairt ar feadh an lae ar fad mar gheall ar an méid atá déanta. Bhí Seanadóirí ag caint mar gheall ar an cheist seo ar maidin. Dúirt an Seanadóir Doherty ar maidin go bhfuil sé in am dúinn stádas agus chur chun cinn na Gaeilge sa sochaí a phlé mar dhíospóireacht iomlán sa Teach seo. Tá mé go mór i bhfábhar an moladh sin.
Tá go leor rudaí maithe tarlaithe ó thaobh reachtaíochta de chun na Gaeilge a fhorbairt. Tá sé fíor-thábhachtach go mbeadh an Ghaeilge sofheicthe sa sochaí. Molaim é sin i gcónaí nuair atá mé ag caint mar gheall ar chúrsaí Gaeilge. Ba cheart go mbeadh an gnáth-duine in ann an Ghaeilge a fheiscint. Tá sé go maith go bhfuil cáipéisí móra á aistriú ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge. Má tá na cáipéisí sin le bheith ann i mBéarla, ba chóir go mbeadh siad ann i nGaeilge. Tá mé ag caint faoi cháipéisí oifigiúla an Stáit. B'fhéidir go bhfuil sé níos tábhachtaí go bhfuil comharthaí — go háirithe comharthaí na heagrachtaí Stáit — i nGaeilge chomh maith le i mBéarla. Ba cheart go mbeadh na comharthaí cruinn agus chomhsheasmhach i gcónaí. Is minic a bhíonn an aistriúchán Ghaeilge a dhéantar ar chomharthaí iontach, ach ó am go ham bíonn sé go dona.
Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar bhealach nádúrtha i gceist. Baineann se sin le scoileanna agus eagraíochtaí Stáit, srl. Ba chóir i gconaí go mbeadh foirmeacha atá ar fáil i mBéarla ar fáil i nGaeilge freisin. Ba cheart go mbeidís ar an taobh eile den leathanach, chomh fada agus is féidir. Is rud iontach tábhachtach é an teilifís inár gcultúr. Ba chóir go mbeadh fotheidil ar fáil i gcónaí i nGaeilge. Tá a fhios agam go mbeadh deacrachtaí ann le craolacháin beo, ach tá mé ag caint faoi gach clár eile. Ba chóir go mbeadh deis ag lucht labhartha agus foghlamtha na Gaeilge fotheidil a léamh i nGaeilge nuair atá cláracha Béarla á chraoladh. Dar ndóigh, baineann sé sin le seirbhísí teletext freisin.
This is not a Second Stage debate. We have spent over an hour and a quarter already on this amendment.
My understanding is there is no limit to the time which can be spent in discussing matters on Committee Stage. It is not my intention to go on at length. We are taking five or six items together.
I appreciate that.
It is important we thrash out the issues in full.
The Senator is quite correct but he was going into what was basically a Second Stage debate. The question of road signs in Irish has nothing to do with this debate. There are many amendments to be discussed relating to this legislation and it is very important everybody has an opportunity in getting this Bill through. It is only a suggestion on my part and the Senator may speak for as long as he likes. I cannot restrict him.
It is important as this has arisen before. I will not fight with the Acting Chairman over technicalities. On Second Stage, the time in which one can speak is quite limited and one may speak to the general provisions. On Committee Stage it is important the issues would be thrashed out in full.
We are dealing with amendments, specifically those listed.
I have been speaking to those amendments.
In so far as I made general philosophical points about the Irish language, they are relevant because the issue is whether the Government, in its legislation, is going to take as seriously the rights of Irish speakers as it does those English speakers. It is important to reason by analogy, and it is important to speak about issues such as road signs in Irish precisely because what we are trying to do is bring forward a culture in Ireland where people find it as easy as possible to learn and cherish Irish.
We must have consistency in that. In so far as we have legislation that provides for certain actions for the sake of the Irish language community, it is important we have joined-up thinking so that at the level of broadcasting also we would have that consistency.
I respect that the Acting Chairman is trying to move the proceedings. I am worried that when we raise time issues, it would have a chilling effect on Senators as they seek to thrash out the issues in detail.
They are not that easily chilled.
The only opportunity we get to do so is on Committee Stage. I ask the indulgence of the Acting Chairman in the matter.
I call Senator Jim Walsh. We are giving this issue plenty of time but repetition is not——
I will be here in July. I am not planning any travel throughout that month and I am available to serve my country. I am sure my colleagues are as well.
July and August.
We are delighted to hear of the Senator's arrangement.
I will draw the line at August.
There are 59 other Senators.
I will be brief. Around the House we are ad idem on the dangers of drink advertising. I was generally supportive of Senator O’Reilly’s amendment, particularly when reading subsection (4) which deals with junk food. The Minister of State has clarified this pretty well in that under section 42(9), the advertising code remains operative. As such, the introduction to section 42 allows the authority to amend and revise the code.
It may be argued that the code requires strengthening in areas but that is a different argument. The main thrust of what is being indicated, particularly in Senator O'Reilly's submission but also in the general sentiment, is covered by that. My understanding is there are very heavy penalties of up to €250,000 for non-compliance with those particular sections.
On reflection, we might give some credence to the existing advertising code which prohibits, for example, the advertising of vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum, gin and brandy which is in excess of 25% alcohol content on broadcast media. One could argue this should apply to drinks with less than 25% alcohol content.
Equally, Senator White's comment is relevant in that this will really only apply to the Irish broadcast media, although we have a plethora of multinational and foreign channels beamed into this country. That will uncover all this quite legally. There is probably a balance to be taken on this. That the code exists satisfies me that there is provision for the authority to strengthen the advertising code, which I would like to see. Any initiative taken should at least be comparable with that taken in regard to junk food, as the same or possibly greater risks and damage to exposed children would be evident in the case of alcohol.
Amendment No. 30 has already been discussed with amendment No. 1. Is Senator Mullen pressing it?
No, although I may bring it forward on Report Stage, with the consent of the House.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 44, subsection (2), lines 15 to 23, to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute the following:
"(a) that all news broadcast by a broadcaster is reported and presented in a balanced, objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster's own views,
(b) that the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate, is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in a balanced, objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster's own views;".
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 44, subsection (2)(f)(ii), line 41, after "children" to insert the following:
"and the impact of such programming on members of the audience for such material".
I move amendment No. 35:
In page 44, subsection (2), between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:
"(g) A broadcasting code on alcohol advertising, or related matters, shall be drawn up by the Authority in consultation with the relevant industry representatives. If such a code cannot be drawn up, the Authority may, as a matter of last resort, prohibit the advertising of alcohol products in such manner and at such times as the Authority deems necessary.".
Does Senator O'Toole wish to press amendment No. 36b, which has already been discussed with amendment No. 29?
No. I will think about what the Minister said and come back on Report Stage with something similar.
Amendments Nos. 37, 37a, 38, 40a, 41a, and 42 to 46, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 37:
In page 48, subsection (1), line 29, to delete "on" and substitute "including".
This reminds me, in view of our recent discussion, of the Carlsberg advertisement which states "Worth waiting for". I proposed these amendments in the name of the Labour Party Senators and I will outline the thinking behind them. Amendment 37 proposes that broadcasters give due consideration to any complaint received, whether or not it falls strictly within the remit of section 48. Amendment No. 38 inserts in page 48, after "complainants", "which shall include a facility for communication of the complaint by electronic mail".
We have heard time and time again about the use of electronic mail in various forms of legislation. For example, it is used in job applications on publicjobs.ie. There is no other way of applying for a position in the public sector. Thus, at one level the State is promoting the use of electronic mail. Given that we are here initiating legislation and trying to amend it so that we can ensure it is not rushed and that it is good law, it is important we include this amendment. Broadcasters should not be permitted to make life difficult for those who wish to lodge a complaint by electronic mail. The amendment is self-explanatory and given the era in which we are living it should be favourably received by the Minister of State. I therefore expect he will accept it.
In amendments Nos. 43 and 44 we propose the provision of a general time limit of 30 days under section 49 to avoid public confusion as to the time within which rights must be exercised. A time limit of 30 days applies under sections 47 and 48. Therefore, there would seem to be a case for maintaining consistency, to borrow the logo of a drinks company in this country. There is a case for maintaining consistency by also providing for a 30 day limit under section 49.
Amendment No. 46 relates to paragraph (m). There is a large loophole in the right of reply system. If the injured party agrees to a single sentence by way of a contribution from him or her, that would preclude any right of reply to, say, an hour long programme which contained a mass of incorrect allegations.
I support the amendments. They are worthwhile and self-explanatory and were well proposed.
Section 47 requires broadcasters to develop and apply basic procedures in respect of complaints handling, including providing information to the viewing and listening public as to how to go about making a complaint and giving a sense of how long they can expect to wait before receiving a response from a broadcaster. It limits the duty of broadcasters to consider complaints made in writing and complaints that fall within one of the grounds for complaints of the compliance committee under section 48. It does so in order to ensure that the burden placed on broadcasters is proportionate and not undue or unnecessary.
Amendment No. 37 proposes to broaden the scope of complaints that must be addressed in the first instance by the broadcasters. This amendment would impose an unnecessary burden on broadcasters, in effect, requiring them to consider a wider range of grounds for complaint than currently exists for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission or for its successor the compliance committee under section 48. As such, I do not propose to accept that amendment.
While amendment No. 38 has good merit, from the point of view of clarity, I cannot accept the text as drafted. I therefore propose to review the text of section 47(3) with a view to bringing forward an equivalent amendment on Report Stage. The requirement that would be imposed by the acceptance of amendment No. 37a would give rise to an undue burden on small and non-public service broadcasters and, as such, I do not propose to accept the amendment, as drafted.
In regard to amendments Nos. 40a and 41a, at present the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission are listed bodies in the Schedule to the Official Languages Act 2003. The BAI, as a successor body to these bodies, will be subject to the requirements of the Official Languages Act. In addition, both the BCI and BCC have an existing policy of publishing codes and rules in both official languages and respond in the Irish language to complaints and correspondence made in the Irish language. As such, I do not propose to accept these amendments.
In respect of amendment No. 42, the existing text of section 48(15) achieves the same end as the amendment proposed by Senator Mullen. As a consequence, I do not propose to accept this amendment.
Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 propose to extend the time period allowed for the making of requests for a right of reply to a broadcaster and the compliance committee from ten to 30 days. It is my view that for the right of reply to work effectively it must work quickly. Section 49 places strict timescales on applicants, broadcasters and the compliance committee in order to achieve this aim. While I do not propose to accept amendments Nos. 43 and 44, I intend to reflect on the timescales in section 49 before Report Stage in light of the concerns expressed by the Senator McCarthy. In addition, I propose amendment No. 45, which is a drafting amendment necessary to address a deficiency in the wording of paragraph (b) of section 49(21).
Amendment No. 46 would serve in an limited manner to circumscribe the discretion of the compliance committee in respect of the grant of a request for the right of reply. While I do not propose to accept the text of amendment No. 46, I intend to reflect on the text of subsection (21)(m) before Report Stage in light of what the Senator said.
I thank the Minister of State for his thoughtful reply. I appreciate that he will willing to give these proposals further consideration between now and Report Stage. I too shall probably have sleepless nights between now and then. I am sure that if the Minister of State does not, we would be more than happy to be enthusiastic about pushing similar amendments on Report Stage. I thank the Minister of State for his response. I will withdraw my party's amendments on the basis that the door is still half open.
That also applies to the mind.
I understand from what the Minister of State said that he regards the import of what I proposed in amendment No. 42 to section 48 has already been covered elsewhere. However, I am not satisfied that is the case. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider it.
I spoke on a previous occasion on this Bill about instances where there had not been an appropriate level of fairness and balance, particularly in the context of a referendum campaign. I gave the example of the abortion referendum in 2002. I had concerns about a broadcast on the RTE Radio 1 programme "Liveline", which sought to introduce into public debate a very emotive topic on the day prior to the moratorium on debate on the referendum. I am not saying that it applied on this occasion, but one wonders whether there can be a certain cynical intent sometimes in that one can have certain materials and debates broadcast, which might not be fair or impartial, as required by the codes, but in the context of a referendum or election campaign it would be too late to secure any significant redress. That is why the issue of urgency in terms of the compliance committee carrying out its task of investigating a complaint is a particularly relevant one. It is also why specific emphasis should be placed on that point. I ask the Minister of State on that basis to reconsider including a specific legislative requirement, as proposed in my amendment, that would impose an obligation on the compliance committee to deal with complaints with due regard to the urgency of the complaint where appropriate.
I mentioned that I considered the existing text of section 48(15) achieves what the Senator is seeking to achieve in this amendment. In view of what he said I will consider the matter and come back to him on it.
I thank the Minister of State for that.
Is amendment No. 37 being pressed?
I will withdraw it.
Amendments Nos. 47, 47a and 48 to 58, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Amendments Nos. 47 and 48 to 58, inclusive, relate to the enforcement provisions proposed in the Bill. In the interests of fair procedures, amendments Nos. 47 and 48 require the compliance committee to afford a broadcasting or multiplex contractor who is the subject of an investigation under section 50 the opportunity to respond to the compliance committee in respect of the matter under consideration. Amendment No. 49 removes the onerous requirement on broadcasting and multiplex contractors to pay the cost of any investigation into their affairs.
Amendments Nos. 50 to 55, inclusive, provide for an appeals process in respect of procedures surrounding the termination or suspension of a broadcasting or multiplex contract. Where the compliance committee has made a recommendation to the broadcasting authority of Ireland, BAI, as to the termination or suspension of a contract, the membership of the BAI, in considering the compliance committee's recommendation, must not include any member of the compliance committee involved in the original recommendation. The broadcasting or multiplex contractor may make further submissions to the BAI and the latter may decide on suspension rather than termination of the contract.
Amendment No. 54 is a minor drafting amendment intended to reduce superfluous words from the text of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 56 to 59, inclusive, are intended to achieve two outcomes. The first is to ensure that a broadcaster will be automatically offered the opportunity of availing of the non-judicial procedure outlined in section 55(2) as an alternative to court proceedings in respect of the imposition of a financial sanction under section 65. The second aspect of these provision is the requirement that the BAI must indicate to the broadcaster concerned the amount of any financial sanction imposed if the broadcaster elects to have the matter dealt with under the procedure outlined in section 55(2). Amendments Nos. 56 to 59, inclusive, are intended to increase the operability of the non-judicial procedure outlined in section 55 (2).
Amendment No. 47a, in the name of Senator O’Toole, proposes the insertion of additional text in section 5(2)(a) in respect of how the compliance committee may have reasonable grounds for believing that a broadcasting or multiplex contractor is in breach of the terms of its contract with the BAI. The proposed wording is unnecessary and restrictive. For example, it does not encompass communications to the compliance committee from public authorities such as the Commission for Communications Regulation or from another broadcasting or multiplex contractor. The existing text of section 50 (2)(a) does not preclude a complaint from a member of the public alerting the compliance committee to a possible breach. I do not propose to accept the amendment.
Amendments Nos. 83 and 108 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 83:
In page 74, subsection (9), line 14, to delete "5" and substitute "7".
This section deals with a situation where a licence is due for renewal and there is no realistic challenge to the current licence holder. I welcome that the section provides adequate opportunity for challengers. There is a process whereby challengers can emerge from broadcasting organisations for the licence in an area. The section provides that a report on the incumbent's compliance with broadcasting codes and regulations be sought. If the incumbent is not challenged, there is provision in the section to vet the incumbent and their degree of compliance with codes and regulations and their competencies. In other words, the incumbent does not get the nod automatically; there is a process to ensure they are up to scratch, although that would be visible anyway from non-compliance issues having arisen previously.
When the incumbent is established to be in order, the section provides for fast-tracking of the application and permitting a five-year automatic extension of the licence. All Members involved in this debate met people in the industry in private discussions and negotiations before the Bill was brought to the House. The representatives of the industry make a cogent, well-argued and professional case for a ten-year extension. In this amendment I propose a seven-year extension, which is a reasonable compromise between the position put by the industry and the five-year option adopted by the Minister.
There are a number of salient reasons for supporting this proposal. Operating a radio station or a broadcasting station of any type involves constant capital investment in terms of new equipment, offices and so forth. That is true of any industry but the broadcasting industry requires particularly expensive equipment and facilities. If there is a capital investment requirement, there must be security of tenure and good prospects for that investment from the point of view both of the financiers who provide the capital and of the investors or risk takers themselves. There are also the issues of long-term planning and maintenance of investors. There must be long-term planning in terms of planning capital investment, broadcasts, programmes and seeking capital for expansion and development. There are planning issues in any business but particularly in the complex and volatile area of broadcasting, with its many daily challenges both domestically and internationally. In fact, it is not always easy to maintain investors due to the mercurial nature of the business, so maintaining investors is important. A seven-year option is therefore more workable.
There is another aspect to this. If the five years is perceived by the industry as too short, it might create a phoney competition. The Minister of State and Members of the House live in the real world and are aware of what can happen. Ways can be found around legislation. In this case there is a risk of phoney applications being made, merely to create a spurious competition so the broadcaster can secure the full extension. We must guard against that as it would cause a great deal of administrative hassle and delay in addition to a waste of public resources and expertise in the broadcasting authority. That must be factored into our consideration of this. I commend the amendment as a reasonable, proportionate measure which draws a fine balance between what the Minister, commendably, seeks to achieve with the five-year extension and the cogent and comprehensive argument of the industry, whose representatives probably made a strong case to the Minister as well, for the ten-year extension. Seven years appears to be a reasonable compromise.
Amendment No. 108 refers to section 134. It is vital that all radio broadcasters, both independent and public service, get involved in digital radio broadcasting if it is to be successful in Ireland. There is a high degree of uncertainty about digital radio and its future development. It is only in its infancy and faces uncharted waters. There is a shortage of information on the technology that will be used, what radio stations will get carriage on the digital platform and how that will pan out. There is an open debate on the issue and doubts surround it. There is a lack of comprehensive knowledge as it has not yet been worked through. Every encouragement must be given to broadcasters to promote their participation in the digital project, specifically digital radio.
The Bill provides for a four-year extension to the broadcasting contract for operators who embrace digital technology and make the necessary investment in it. However, some of the arguments I made for amendment No. 83 hold for amendment No. 108. The most powerful inducement to full participation in digital radio is the extension of the contract, as is recognised in the legislation. A sizeable amount of financial and human resources is required for the development of digital broadcasting and a return on this investment is not guaranteed at this stage. The contract extension must be sufficiently significant to induce the embrace of digital technology and to get the independent sector's involvement.
I propose that the provision in the Bill which refers to not more than four years be changed to not more than seven years. This will be a good incentive to broadcasters to grasp digital technology and I believe it will work. That is the Bill's objective but I believe the amendment enhances the Bill and makes the provision more likely to work in the marketplace. Ultimately, that is the important issue. I commend both amendments and hope the Minister of State will accept them now or offer to incorporate them in amendments on Report Stage.
I support Senator O'Reilly. The provision for fast-tracking is welcome and might make the situation more efficient. However, the halving of the period to five years creates difficulties for operators in financial terms. Halving the term of the licence will force them to run their businesses on a short-term business plan, which is not good and effective planning. It also inhibits investment, as Senator O'Reilly mentioned, particularly in machinery. I occasionally participate in radio programmes and one of the stations with which I am involved tends to have dicky microphones. We cannot persuade the owners to invest. The margins are fairly tight and some stations are threatened with running at a loss. There should be a level playing field to foster proper investment in premises, equipment, staff training and so forth.
A radio station should not be punished simply because there is a lack of competition for its licence. There should be a more level playing field in this regard also. In fact, I would prefer to continue with the ten-year licence but, faute de mieux, I support Senator O’Reilly’s amendment.
I generally agree with the thrust of Senator O'Reilly's amendments because in any business one has to engage in long-term financial forecasting. It is very difficult to do that within a five-year period. There is also the issue of staff security and jobs. A person in employment would feel very insecure if he or she did not know what would happen at the end of five years. It is right and proper to link the two amendments because digital broadcasting and digital radio will be affected also because significant investment will be required to get involved in digital radio. Given that it is uncharted waters, we do not know where we are going at this stage in regard to digital radio and we do not know what the take-up will be. For those reasons the amendments make sense and I ask the Minister of State to look favourably on them.
I do not wish to prolong the debate. As I indicated on Second Stage I am broadly supportive of Senator O'Reilly's amendments. There is a need to ensure the timespan of the licence is sufficient to give security and confidence in investing in radio stations into the future. The proposed seven-year term of any contract is an issue. On Second Stage I would have said that the ten-year licence should be restricted to seven years, although that probably would not have had the support of the industry. While there is no amendment to that effect, there are issues pertaining to that aspect.
There is provision in the Bill to restrict monopoly of ownership in this area, which is essential. A colleague of mine mentioned to me today a concern he had in his area where two neighbouring local radio stations would have the one proprietor. There is mention also of common programmes and so on which could get away from the local benefit of these radio stations. That is regrettable. That licences would be sold on does not apply to broadcasting licences but to licences in other areas. The most notable one relates to the mobile phone industry where the State got a paltry return in comparison with the hundreds of millions of euro received by those who got the licence and ran the businesses for a short period and made a great deal of money out of it. I have no difficulty with people making money but from the State's perspective the asset in general will be the licence. We should ensure that is safeguarded. I am supportive of the amendment and ask the Minister of State to look at it. I accept that an increase in the five-year term to a seven-year term would be a step in the right direction.
As Senators have said, section 67 provides for a fast-track procedure in respect of radio licences where the incumbent is the only group interested in broadcasting to the chosen franchise area. This section derives from the radio licensing review in 2004. It tries to address the complaints of incumbent radio stations that they have to go to the significant expense of putting together an application for a new contract even when there is no other applicant.
It provides that if within 28 days of the publication of a public notice by the contract awards committee of its intention to use the fast-track procedure for the awarding of a sound broadcasting contract no other submission is received, the committee may invite the incumbent to make proposals to amend the terms of its existing contract. The fast-track system proposed under section 67(9) allows for a contract extension of up to five years. A member of this or the other House would be delighted to get an extension of five years. We realise we are speaking about a different situation here.
The term of five years was selected on the basis that it gave the broadcasting authority of Ireland sufficient time to review the question why there were no other applicants for the contract and to make adjustments to its licensing strategy to encourage future applications. A balance must be struck between ensuring existing radio contractors are not required to incur unnecessary expenses while at the same time encouraging competition in the sector. In view of the points made by both sides, I will discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and I hope we will be in a position to table a suitable amendment on Report Stage.
With regard to amendment No.108 on the term of any contract extension under a simulcasting contract, section 134 provides that the BAI may extend by up to four years the term of an FM sound broadcasting contract provided that the sound broadcasting contractor concerned is willing to provide its sound broadcasting service on a digital sound broadcasting multiplex. It should be noted that there is currently no proposal to switch-off FM radio and under the generous terms of section 134, broadcasters do not have to establish a multiplex platform but merely place their content on one to avail of the contract extension. Senator O'Reilly has made a very good case for that and there is much merit in his amendment. Again, I will be pleased to discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, with a view to bringing forward a suitable amendment on Report Stage.
I thank the Minister of State for his response and the positive nature of it. I am pleased he will discuss it with the Minister with a view to bringing forward the necessary amendment on Report Stage to achieve these objectives. My objective in tabling the amendments was to achieve the necessary balance. If that can be achieved on Report Stage, I will be happy with that. I see no merit in pressing them at this point. We reserve the right to do that on Report Stage. I hope the Minister of State's words will produce results.
Amendments Nos. a83a, a88a, 89a, a90a, 90b, 93a, a96a, 96b, 100a, 100b and 104a are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. a83a:
In page 75, subsection (2)(e), line 15, after “programmes” to insert the following:
"including programmes in the Irish language and programmes pertaining to Irish Culture".
An rud atá i gceist agam anseo ná go mbeadh fáil ar chláracha, fógraí agus a leithéid as Gaeilge. Labhair mé níos luaithe ar seo agus chuir mé na hargóintí céanna. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go dtuigeann an tAire Stáit cé chomh tábhachtach agus atá rudaí mar seo do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí agus do Ghaeilgeoirí.
As I said previously I do not table these amendments to give fodder or support to zealots or fascists who often shove Irish down people's throats. That is not what I am about. These are reasonable proposals. Ba mhaith liom go dtuigfeadh an tAire Stáit na moltaí seo mar sin. Táim ag smaoineamh ar ghnáth dhaoine atá ag maireachtaint sna Gaeltachtaí, daoine a bhfuil satellite television agus rudaí mar sin acu ina dtithe. Is maith an rud é go bhfuil sin acu, cé gur chuir a lán daoine i gcoinne sin. Táim go mór i bhfábhar satellite television a bheith ar fáil do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí. An rud is tábhachtaí sa mholadh seo ná go mbeadh an seans acu féachaint ar chláracha trí Ghaeilge.
I am speaking generally in regard to the first amendment and to all the amendments because they cover a wide range of issues from bilingual websites to facilitating advertising in the Irish language and programmes in Irish and in English. I ndáiríre, is í an argóint chéanna atá á dhéanamh faoi ghach moladh. B'fhéidir nach dtuigeann daoine i gcónaí an dearcadh agus meon a bhíonn ag muintir na nGaeltachtaí nuair a bhraitheann siad nach bhfuil aon duine ann chun guth a thabhairt dóibh sa Dáil, sa tSeanad and in producing legislation. People feel they are without a voice. I cannot stress this strongly enough. I know I am making no impact whatever on this.
I am not a member of the committee on the Irish language because I got too frustrated sitting on it. That committee will take decisions next week about the implementation of the Language Act. These are simple things. The Minister will note that there is very little quantification involved in what I have proposed already this morning and what I propose now. A quantity or percentage may be mentioned in respect of two issues. That is not what I am about. I am talking about recognising that Gaeltacht people, Irish language speakers and lovers of the Irish language also have an entitlement. It must mean something when we talk about the first official language and that we will put in certain boundaries, controls and conditions chun a bheith cinnte go mbeidh seans ann do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí. Is maith an rud é go mbeadh coinníollacha ann dóibh, go mbeadh seans ann dóibh agus go mbeadh fostaíocht ann dóibh. Mar shampla, féach ar an gcoinníol a dhéileáileann le fograíocht, advertising. As a sort of a diversion, seo ceann de na rudaí is tábhachtaí atá ag tarlú i dtaobh na hEorpa. When we were talking about the Lisbon treaty last week we mentioned the fact that Irish is now a recognised language in Europe and that therefore there are jobs for translators and for people working in the Irish language.
It is important for the Minister of State to recognise one thing, even if he has to lock the door on his officials and keep them inside until they understand it. People who live their lives through the Irish language are entitled to be creative and developmental in Irish and to work through Irish as well as to be educated through Irish. For teachers and other people who are ag obair nó ag múineadh sna Gaeltachtaí, is maith an rud é go mbeadh seans acu siúd féachaint nó éisteacht le clár teilfíse nó raidió a bhfuil Gaeilge ann agus go mbeadh siad in ann sin a fháil ar an web agus websites as Gaeilge a fháil chomh maith. This is not difficult stuff.
When I commented on the subtitles this morning the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, said that TG4 does not do subtitles in Irish. He is right and I apologise to the House for misleading it. I did not do it deliberately. The point I was making is that the same technology is available to put subtitles in Irish as it is English even if it were to cost a bit more. I will tell the Minister of State about one of my disappointments in this House. I am going to the opening of a school in the Gaeltacht next Monday to show support for it and to help it. We passed legislation five or six years ago about involuntarily committing people to mental hospitals. Around that time we were debating several items of legislation to ensure that immigrants and asylum seekers would get their rights in Irish. Given that I was born in a Gaeltacht town, went to school there and lived with Gaeltacht people I was able to ask that when people from the Gaeltacht were being committed to a mental hospital their rights would be explained to them and read to them in Irish. It was not a huge amount to ask. The Government of the day — the party of the Minister of State — would not accept the amendment. It is difficult to explain that to a Gaeltacht person. No costs — or only minor costs — would have been involved as somebody would have had to write out the rights in Irish only once so that they could be read out.
The Minister of State has no idea how bad is the situation and the sort of cynicism and hypocrisy that is spread by the policies on the Irish language. I am proposing a series of simple changes. I can understand that aspects of them might cause a difficulty for the Minister of State. I am prepared to listen to his reasons but I would like to hear how far he will go with the changes and that he and the Minister at least want to do this. Caithfidh sé a thuiscint cé chomh tábhachtach is a tá sé seo do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí, go bhfeicfidís go bhfuil daoine anseo atá ag faire ar a gceartanna agus ar an méid atá ar fáil dóibh. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfeicfidh siad go bhfuil daoine anseo atá freagrach agus a nglacfaidh an cúram cinntiú go gcuirfear cláracha ar fáil dóibh i nGaeilge chomh maith le i mBéarla, go ndéanfar fógraíocht trí Ghaeilge agus go mbeidh jabanna agus fostaíocht ann dóibh siúd atá ag obair sna réimsí sin, dóibh siúd atá ag déanamh fógraíochta, producers, directors, etc., agus go mbeidh obair ar fáil dóibh trí Ghaelainn. Cén fáth nach mbeadh? I want to hear a positive response. I also want to know why we cannot do it.
I invited the Coimisinéir Teanga to a meeting here recently. I am considered to be an opponent of the Irish language. The Minister of State might find that hard to believe. I am considered the enemy by many of the Irish language movements because I do not go along with a lot of the nonsense some of them come out with, but there are also very decent people with decent proposals. I discussed the amendments with Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge and I found it to be very reasonable and practical. I do not easily put forward demands on the Irish language. I only put forward proposals that I believe are practical, reasonable, implementable and useful. Braithim go bhféadfainn an sórt rialach sin a chur ar ghach aon cheann de na moltaí atá déanta agam. Tá siad praiticiúil, réasúnta, indéanta agus úsáideach do ghnáth mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí agus Gaeilgeoirí. I appeal to the Minister of State because I really feel passionate about this. I know that very often I am a lone voice on the Irish language because I oppose issues. I am the only person that I know who tries to put forward an all-island policy on the Irish language. I cannot find one person or political party to support me on that.
The Senator is a true Independent.
There are plenty of people who want access to the Irish language in the North and compulsory education through Irish in the South but one will not find anybody other than me who will take a non-partitionist view on the Irish language. Whether it be for education or watching television I want to provide every possible support for Gaelgeoirí and muintir na nGaeltachtaí. I appeal to the Minister to respond positively and support my amendments in this regard. Go raibh míle maith agat.
I am sorry for laughing earlier when the Senator was speaking but there was a drop of rain falling on Senator McCarthy.
I know, I was going to investigate it.
I would not like the Senator to think we would dismiss anything he says. Any requests or amendments he makes are always well thought out and reasonable but if we were to accept everything he proposed he would have to lose his tag of "Independent".
Accept just some of them.
We will deal with the specific amendments. Section 69 provides for the final terms to be inserted in any broadcasting contract made by the BAI. Subsection (2)(e) requires a broadcaster to make a contractual commitment to the programme offering he or she has made at application stage.
Section 66(2)(d) requires that one of the key criteria to be addressed by applicants and to be considered by the contracts awards committee in the award of a broadcasting contract is “the quantity, quality, range and type of programmes in the Irish language and the extent of programmes relating to Irish culture proposed to be provided”. As a consequence I believe that the amendment is unnecessary and as such I do not propose to accept it.
In respect of amendment a88a, I am anxious to ensure that RTE and TG4, in establishing the membership of their respective audience councils, select persons to represent the interests of the viewing and listening public rather than individual sectoral interests. An exception to this has been made in respect of ensuring that the interests of persons with a hearing or sight impairment are represented on any audience council, but this exception has been made given the critical need for feedback to public service broadcasters in respect of the particular broadcasting needs of such persons. I also point to the requirement in section 96(5) for TG4 to endeavour to ensure that the members of the audience council of TG4 be proficient in the Irish language. As such, I do not propose to accept amendment a88a.
I apologise to the Minister of State but I missed that last bit.
I do not propose to accept——
No, the previous bit.
I also point to the requirement in section 96(5) for TG4 to endeavour to ensure that the members of the audience council of TG4 are proficient in the Irish language. Senator O'Toole presented a good case for amendments Nos. 89a and a90a. There is merit in what the Senator is proposing and as such I will speak to the Minister, Deputy Ryan, with a view to amending section 101 on Report Stage.
In respect of amendment No. 90b, the annual statement of commitments mechanism outlined in section 102 is intended as an annual and more detailed elaboration of commitments made by public service broadcasters in a public service broadcasting charter under section 102. As a consequence the issues raised by Senator O’Toole are perhaps best addressed in the context of the review of the text of section 101. Therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment.
Regarding amendment 93a, section 106(6) provides that TG4 and RTE may offer terms benefiting advertisers who use the Irish language in their advertisements. I believe this is the best means of encouraging advertising in Irish on TG4 and therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment. As regards amendment No. a96a, sections 114(1)(b) and 118(1)(b) for the first time permit both RTE and TG4 to expend public moneys on the maintenance of their websites reflecting the converging nature of broadcasting and information technologies. RTE already provides Irish language content on its website in respect of its Irish language broadcasting output, in particular the Nuacht on RTE and Raidió na Gaeltachta. Therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment.
In respect of amendment 96b, section 114(3) already requires that RTE must provide “a comprehensive range of programmes in the Irish and English languages”. Therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment. As regards amendments 100a and 100b, section 118(3)(a) already requires that TG4 must provide “a comprehensive range of programmes, primarily in the Irish language”. Therefore I do not propose to accept this amendment.
In respect of amendment 104a, section 127 proposes the establishment of the Irish film channel primarily as a mechanism for showcasing the existing archive of Irish film works. This channel in its own right will not be funding the production of films, this being a matter falling within the ambit of the Irish Film Board. While I do not propose to accept the Senator’s amendment as tabled, I propose to consider before Report Stage whether an amendment might be made to the text of the section referencing the potential to broadcast films in the Irish language where such film works are available. The point was well made and I would be happy to discuss the matter with the Minister, Deputy Ryan.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply on those issues. I take the point made by the Minister of State regarding amendment No. 104a. I look forward to seeing the Minister’s Report Stage amendment. The points he made on amendments Nos. 90b, 93a and 96b are reasonable. I welcome his proposal to amend section 101 in a similar way to my amendments Nos. 89a and a90a for which I thank him. I look forward to seeing that amendment.
The Minister of State has answered some of the questions dealing with the Gaeltacht area, Gaeilge and TG4. It was very much putting people in their places which needs to be done in certain cases. In some cases he has said that something is done through TG4 and I accept the points at which he has said that to me. My amendment No. a83a proposed to insert, “including programmes in the Irish language and programmes pertaining to Irish Culture”. The Minister of State pointed to the earlier version of what was required to be presented by the broadcaster pitching for the licence, etc., with which I do not disagree. However, in certain cases it is important to have a condition following which it would present what it would intend doing with respect of the section on which the Minister of State reflected. I do not disagree with the section on which the Minister of State reflected and its provisions are as outlined by him. However, based on my reading it does not require any condition. Section 69 outlines the conditions under which these are done. In this case I want it to be a condition go mbeadh sé mar choinníol é sin a dhéanamh.
Amendment No 88a proposed to insert the following: “including the Gaeltacht and Irish language community”. The Minister of State said he did not want to single out a particular section of the population. That is not in line with Government policy. The Government singles out the Gaeltacht time and again because that is the source of the language. For that reason Government policy since the foundation of the State has been supportive of the Gaeltachtaí in various ways, shapes and forms along the way. It is not good enough for the Minister of State to say he will not individualise a section.
With regard to amendment No. a90a, the audience council for RTE as opposed to the one for TG4 should contain some people with Gaeilge who should feel comfortable about dealing with that part of it. That is something we also need to consider and it is not just confined to TG4.
The first two amendments are the ones on which I feel most strongly. It is important to make special arrangements for the Gaeltacht, as I have sought to do in amendment No. a88a, which proposes to amend section 96. It should be a condition of the franchise or licence that the broadcaster should broadcast certain programmes in the Irish language. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil sé sásúil gur leor dóibh insint nó taispeáint dúinn na cláracha Gaelacha nó cultúrtha a bhéas á chraobhscaoileadh acu. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh sé mar choinníoll sa reachtaíocht cláracha a chraobhscaoileadh trí Ghaeilge, roimh aon cheadúnas a thabhairt dóibh siúd atá ag cur business plan le chéile whatever business plan.
It is also fairer. People can include the Irish language in their pitch. However, if we want to have a level playing pitch, just as we require broadcasters to broadcast a certain amount of news to get their licences there is no reason not to require a certain amount of Irish language. I am not talking about a large amount. However, at least when broadcasters are presenting a business plan and pitching for a licence they should all equally reflect that amount as a minimum. If some broadcasters want to do more that is their business. Tá sé tábhachtach domsa go mbeidh sé mar choinníoll go ndéanfar an méid sin. I ask the Minister of State to think again with regard to the issue that it be conditional and also that we make special arrangements for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language community.
Táim ar aon aigne leis an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail go bhfuil sé oiriúnach duine ón Ghaeltacht nó duine a bhfuil suim agus grá aige don Ghaeilge a bheith ar choiste lucht éisteachta agus lucht féachana. Blianta o shin, craoladh clár an-mhaith "Trom agus Éadrom" ar an dteilifís. Bhí suim ag a lán daoine sa chlár sin, fiú daoine nach raibh mórán Gaeilge acu. Tá sé tábhachtach go mbeidh cláracha mar sin ar an dteilifís chun an suim atá ann don teanga a chothú agus a fheabhsú agus chun na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn.
I support the Senator's request for a representative, not just of the Gaeltacht area but people who are interested in Irish, to be on the audience council. That should be a statutory requirement. We will fail in the promotion of Irish if we exclusively concentrate on Gaeltacht areas. I agree with much of what Senator O'Toole said. The Gaeltacht is under threat because of the influences of English channel radio and television stations being beamed into homes every evening. That will erode the knowledge of Irish, particularly among young people. Therefore, the country at large needs to be exposed to good quality Irish channels. Bilingual channels can be very beneficial in the promotion of Irish.
On Second Stage I mentioned Liam Ó Murchú's programme "Trom agus Éadrom" and the great benefit that was to the promotion of the Irish language. He did that in a very nice and easy way. People watched that programme which was entertaining. There is no reason we should not have such programmes on television and every reason we should. Much rubbish is beamed out on televisions. Quality programmes that promote or expose the public to the Irish language would be welcomed by the Irish speaking population and by those whose Irish is quite rusty. It will not happen unless we encourage and chart a path for it to happen. I strongly support that.
Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don mhéid atá ráite ag an Seanadóir Ó Tuathail. Táim i bhfábhar na leasuithe atá molta aige. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach cothrom na féinne a thabhairt do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí agus do dhaoine a bhfuil spéis agus grá ar leith acu dár teanga dhúchais. Is cóir sin a dhéanamh. Mar is gnáth, tá sár-iarracht déanta ag an Seanadoir le moladh na leasuithe. Nílim chun athphlé a dhéanamh orthu, ach tá muidne i Fine Gael go láidir ina bhfábhar. Molaim don Aire glacadh leo.
I have listened attentively to the three Senators and we are trying to achieve the same goal. It is a matter of how one does that. Section 66 of the Bill lists the criteria the contract awards committee must have regard to when an application is being considered, including, in section 66(2)(c) “the quality, range and type of the programmes proposed to be provided by each applicant or, if there is only one applicant, by that applicant”.
Subsection (f) refers to “the desirability of having a diversity of services in the area specified in the notice catering for a wide range of tastes including those of minority interests”. Senator O’Toole made a case for making special arrangements for people living in Gaeltacht areas. In this Bill we have taken the approach that we are encouraging applicants rather than forcing them to do something. Legislation can be over-prescriptive. I take on board what is being said. I cannot go any further than I have already done. I will discuss the matter with the Minister. The audience council is one area we could examine and we could make some new proposals on that.
I thank the Minister and welcome the openness with which he has dealt with this, which I appreciate. I take the Minister's point and I had read section 66(2)(d) which specifies regard for “the quantity, quality, range and type of programmes in the Irish language”. The only difficulty is that as that is written, one could receive a full licence without producing anything. If none of the parties making a presentation proposed any Irish language measures, the contract awards committee could not reject the applicants on the grounds that they have no proposals that satisfy section 66(2)(d). It is not a failing matter. It is the difference between an essential and a desirable qualification.
To simplify it to one line, it is like appointing somebody to a job as opposed to offering that person a contract. When appointing people to a job, certain boxes must be ticked, some of which are desirable and some of which are essential. The purpose of my amendment was to make this an essential requirement. The Minister has answered me that it is desirable. I want it to be worded in such a way that applicants must do some Irish language programming.
I am happy with the point the Minister and his officials make, that they are not quantified. I am not trying to push this over any line. However, if he could reframe one part of it so that an essential part of an organisation's pitch or presentation and a requirement of its licence would be that there would be some Irish language programming, I would be happy with that. I do not need to have my amendment accepted, but I need this to be an essential requirement as opposed to a desirable yardstick. I am happy for the Minister to take that back and discuss it. I ask the officials to take that on board. Nílim chun thuile a rá mar gheall ar sin. I appreciate the openness with which the Minister has met my points.
Amendments Nos. 85 and 101 to 103, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 85:
In page 84, before section 78, to insert the following new section:
"78.—(1) The Authority shall not conclude a satellite content contract with a person for the purpose of material being supplied for its transmission as a broadcasting service (intended for reception in the State) by means of a satellite device unless satisfied that recipients of the service will be in a position to receive by satellite device each free to air service provided by RTÉ, TG4 and the television service programme contractor as a basic programmeservice.
(2) This section applies to satellite content contracts whether concluded before or after the passing of this Act.
(3) In this section—
"basic programme service" means the programme material made available to persons by means of a satellite device at the lowest rate in any scale of charges that are made for the reception of such services by means of a satellite device;
"free to air services" includes such free to air services as are available at the date of passing of this Act.".
This amendment proposed a "must carry" obligation on satellite contractors. Satellite service contractors, under this section, will be obliged to carry RTE channels, TG4 and TV3, thus competing on a level playing field with cable operators.
I have tabled amendment No. 102 to section 121. I apologise, Senator Norris is the first speaker on this amendment.
It is no problem.
Which section are we discussing?
Is this not section——
We agreed to discuss amendments Nos. 85 and 101 to 103, inclusive, together.
I apologise for interrupting. That is okay.
On a point of order, we have not covered amendments Nos. 85a, 86b, 88a, 90a, 96a or 128a.
The amendments have been grouped. The primary amendment was not moved so those amendments are grouped and will be reached again.
Will that be the next group?
How are we on amendment No. 101? How is that grouped?
It is grouped with amendment No. 85, which has been moved.
I understand now. As my amendment is No. 101, I speak next.
Is Senator O'Reilly finished?
My amendment is No. 102.