Broadcasting Bill 2008: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on 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 programme service.
(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.".
— (Senator Michael McCarthy)

I propose to take amendments Nos. 101 to 103, inclusive, together relating to the operation of RTE's long wave service.

As the Senators are aware, primary legislation in the main outlines objectives rather than the specific technology standards and parameters needed to support such objectives. This is a logical approach given the rapid pace of technology and service development.

Section 114(1)(a) of the Bill sets RTE the objective of providing a broadcasting service to be made available in so far as is reasonably practicable to the whole community on the island of Ireland. Section 114(1)(f) sets RTE the objective of providing a broadcasting service to be made available in so far as RTE considers reasonably practicable to Irish communities outside the island of Ireland. Section 114(1)(d) gives RTE the objective of co-operating with public bodies in preparing for the dissemination of information to the public in the event of an emergency. Section 121 provides that all spectrum-based services provided by RTE shall only be provided under licence from the Commission for Communications Regulation.

The Bill as drafted sets RTE these specific objectives. It allows it the latitude to choose the most appropriate economic and technological means to fulfil these objectives and establishes various accountability mechanisms under which RTE accounts for its decisions. At present, RTE uses a wide variety of different platforms and technologies to ensure diversity of choice for the listener and to maximise these.

For the home audience, Internet, satellite, FM, long wave and DAB services are provided and for the Irish abroad, Internet, satellite and long wave services are available. In respect of satellite services, I would point out that anyone with a satellite receiver in Ireland, the UK or France can at present tune in to all four of the principle RTE radio services 24 hours a day, should he or she so wish.

In respect of emergencies, to which a number of Members referred, RTE has indicated that in the event of an emergency, it is important to have the resilience to provide its services over different broadcasting platforms and technologies, not just long wave. In this way, it is not reliant on one platform or technology but can continue to provide services even in the event of a failure in any particular platform or technology.

I have concerns about providing instructions to RTE on the type of technologies it should deploy or how these services should be operated from a technological point of view. As a consequence, I am not in a position to accept the amendments as proposed.

The Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has the power to bring RTE before it if concerns or questions arise. When the Bill is passed, the committee will also be given the responsibility for suggesting names to the Minister for the new authority. It will, therefore, play an active and important role.

I have sympathy with the proposals contained in amendment No. 85 in light of the concerns that have arisen regarding the carriage of such free-to-air services on subscription based satellite services which are not regulated in Ireland. I believe in principle that Irish public service channels should not be tied to any one platform on an exclusive basis. However, under the current situation broadcasters are free to negotiate contracts on a commercial basis with satellite providers not regulated in Ireland. Providing broadcasters with this ability is important because it ensures television viewers in Ireland can subscribe to satellite television services without having to establish a separate receiving device.

I also understand that ensuring the availability of Irish broadcasting channels as part of a basic or minimum package gives rise to certain practical difficulties relating to a satellite's footprint or coverage area. Satellites are used to provide broadcasting services in several countries, which gives rise to rights issues because Irish broadcasters have rights to broadcast certain programmes within Ireland only. Expensive encryption systems are therefore required to ensure content is only received in Ireland. Subscribers to a service would need a decryption card to view programmes.

The proposed amendment also seeks to ensure a carriage obligation in respect of Irish public service channels on satellite. This objective will be achieved under section 77 of the Bill if a satellite service comes under Irish jurisdiction. However, at present no satellite system comes under this jurisdiction. In order to continue to provide maximum choice and flexibility to Irish television viewers, I cannot accept the amendments as proposed.

Given the Minister of State's response and cognisant of the fact that we have already debated this section for several hours, I withdraw my amendment. The Minister of State has shown flexibility in regard to amendments, so I may revisit the matter on Report Stage.

I am disappointed with the Minister of State's lamentable response but I will put him on probation and will not push this to a vote. I ask him to reconsider, however. He argued that the matter is more appropriate to the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources but I disagree. RTE is to be urged to provide this signal but we know perfectly well it is not doing so at present. The evidence we are placing before the Minister of State reveals it is not happening. The signal is down to half power, so people in the south east are not receiving the signal, let alone England and elsewhere abroad. We need a requirement because urging RTE is not sufficient.

In light of the Government's planned response to a disaster, I have demonstrated with a fair amount of technical backup from broadcasting engineers, retired RTE personnel and other knowledgeable people that the system is inadequate. In the event of a national emergency, half the Government's plan would fall to pieces due to the lack of power in transmission.

It is not acceptable to say we will urge or encourage RTE because it should be required to provide an adequate signal. I will not press these amendments and I understand Senator O'Reilly agrees. We will leave them until Report Stage but I would like a commitment from the Minister of State that he will at least re-examine the matter in light of the evidence Senator O'Toole, Senator O'Reilly and I put before him today. Our arguments were strongly supported by the Leader of the House, so even from a political point of view it would not be wise to completely ignore the amendments. I ask the Minister of State to indicate that he will reconsider them on Report Stage. We will play our part in the political dialogue and will not push the amendments to a vote but will resubmit them on Report Stage in the hope that we can make progress. If this matter is not addressed in the Seanad, which is charged with refining legislation and pointing out gaps, it may arise in a more argumentative fashion in the other House. The Government may have voting strength in the Dáil but the debate there will possibly be more awkward.

I am disappointed that the Minister of State is not accepting the amendments Senator Norris and I have proposed. The Bill asks RTE to provide coverage in so far as it is reasonably practical to do so. That is not acceptable, however, because we should have blanket coverage for the entire island. RTE radio programmes should also be broadcast to our emigrant communities in the UK and the Continent. It is not my intention to rehearse the compelling arguments that have been advanced for doing this, other than to note the need to legislate for the possibility of emergencies. The current reduced power long wave transmissions will not suffice in the event of an emergency. I have also set out the moral case in respect of our emigrants and the fact that parts of the south east of Ireland are affected by a buzzing sound at night.

I am aware the Minister of State responded positively to earlier amendments, so I reserve the right, with my colleague, Senator Norris, to resubmit these amendments on Report Stage in anticipation of a positive response. We cannot leave this matter to anyone else because we have a legislative duty and a moral prerogative to our emigrants, the Good Friday Agreement and this country's commercial and cultural interests. We could speak about the matter until midnight but there is no need to do so because the major points have been made. However, we cannot allow the resolution of this ambiguity to the goodwill of others or to allow RTE to provide coverage only in so far as it is reasonably practical to do so. That will not suffice because the answer must be definite.

Our emigrant communities in England, including great people in London, Coventry, Manchester and Birmingham, are watching and listening to this debate. They need a proper radio signal but they also need a signal from the Legislature that we are on their side. We should be nowhere else but with them.

I listened with interest to what the Minister of State had to say and some of his points were valid. Given the proliferation of English channels here, there should be some reciprocity because there is a large Irish diaspora in Britain. Our television and radio stations should be readily available in that jurisdiction.

One of the issues that arose in the referendum campaign relating to the Lisbon treaty is that of the disconnect that exists. Most of the diet of foreign news we receive comes either from America or Britain. Unless there is a major catastrophe, we receive very little in the way of news items from the remainder of Europe. There is a need to bridge the gap. As the Minister of State indicated, the transmission of news programmes is facilitated by satellite. However, there is a need to consider the position as regards transmission by means of radio.

Members received representations, couched in reasonable terms, from people who maintain — there is no reason to disbelieve them — that they carried out their own testing on the strength of signals, etc. All the evidence with which we were supplied indicates that something went wrong during the changeover from medium to long wave and that the availability of signals has been curtailed as a consequence of this move. This is either fact or fiction. It appears to be a fact and I would lend my support to those who state that the Department should establish the position, one way or the other. If it is established as a fact, action should be taken to ensure that the national broadcaster is meeting its responsibility and applying sufficient power levels in order to ensure that signals can be received everywhere on this island and also by members of the Irish diaspora in the UK.

We could debate this matter all night. RTE's decision to end its medium wave service is not really relevant to the Bill in many respects. However, the station indicated that the service was inefficient to operate and that very few people listened to it. Apparently 90% of people listen to its FM service and the remaining 10% listen on other frequencies. The FM service is able to provide much better audio quality than that which was provided on its medium wave counterpart. RTE will now be in a position to use the moneys saved by discontinuing its medium wave service to improve FM reception further and to help fund its new digital radio network, which will be available over the digital audio broadcasting, DAB, system.

We will make further inquiries in respect of this matter in the interests of obtaining greater clarity in respect of it. A number of Members made statements on this issue which, if true, would give one cause to be concerned.

There is no such thing as perfect legislation. At a concert at the weekend, Leonard Cohen performed a song which contains the lovely line, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in". The Bill is not perfect. I will consult with my colleague and the officials from the Department to see if we can improve on what is already contained in it. I am not refusing to accept amendments for the sake of doing so. If we were of the view that certain amendments would improve the legislation, we would be more than happy to accept them. I will reconsider the position and return to the matter on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 78 to 81, inclusive, agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 85a, 86b, 88a, 90a, 96a and 128a are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 85a:

In page 86, subsection (1), between lines 35 and 35, to insert the following:

"(m) sport,”

Some of these amendments relate to the recognition that must be included in the Bill in respect of domestic sports coverage. I wish to ensure that domestic sport is afforded its rightful place in television and radio broadcasts. A domestic sporting event such as track racing, GAA or soccer might be taking place on any given day but the first item on the sports news will probably relate to the Champions League or the FA Cup. I am seeking to ensure that a balance will be struck in respect of domestic sport. Thousands of people have made great efforts — in many instances, on a voluntary basis — to develop domestic sports to the levels they have reached and the national broadcaster should give these sports the coverage they rightly deserve.

Amendment No. 85a seeks to deal with the criteria relating to membership of the board. Section 82 states that a people to be appointed to the board should have experience or show a capacity in respect of one or more of the matters listed, which include business or commercial affairs; trade union affairs; digital media technologies; arts, music and culture; science, technology or environmental matters; legal or regulatory affairs; and social, educational or community activities. I would not want to remove any of these from the list of criteria because they are all laudable. However, the amendment seeks to include a knowledge or experience of or a capacity in respect of sport as one of the criteria governing suitability to serve as a member of the board.

Amendment No. 86b relates to the duties of members of the board. The proposed new paragraph (e) contained in this amendment would “ensure that the corporation fulfils its commitment with regard to programme content reflecting the promotion of Irish language and culture, including domestic sport”. The amendment would also strengthen aspects of the Bill relating to the concept of domestic sport. However, similar to amendments tabled by Senator O’Toole, it will further strengthen the Bill in the context of the Irish language and culture.

Amendment No. 88a relates to the audience council for which section 96 makes provision. It states:

(5) In appointing the members of its audience council a corporation shall endeavour to ensure that the audience council includes persons representative of cultural organisations including those devoted to the promotion of Irish music and domestic sport.

The amendment is designed to ensure that the audience council will encompass balanced and diverse views and that its members will include those who represent the organisations to which the proposed new subsection (5) refers. This would not give rise to a financial constraint. The intention behind the amendment is that due regard be given to our culture and domestic sport.

I hope the Minister of State will take these amendments seriously. Amendment No. 90a relates to section 101. This is a good Bill but as the Minister of State indicated not every item of legislation is perfect. Even if all the amendments tabled in respect of the Bill were accepted, it would still not be perfect and we would probably be obliged to return to it. However, there is a need to make specific provision in respect of the Irish language. Such a provision is not made at present in section 101, which relates to the public service broadcasting charter and refers to the nature and hours of children’s television and science and technology programming to be broadcast, the number of magazines and books to be prepared and the recorded audio material to be compiled, published and distributed in pursuance of the corporation’s public service objects. However, it does not refer to Irish language broadcasting.

There is a need to include two new paragraphs in section 101, namely:

(e) the nature and number of hours devoted to Irish culture including sport,

(f) the nature and number of hours devoted to the Irish language.

This matter is important and not only to those who speak Irish or people who live in Gaeltacht areas. One of the objectives of every political party on this island is the restoration of our national language. The Irish language belongs to all of us. Any steps we can take, small or large, to support the language should be taken. The amendment does not compel RTE to do anything and it does not state that 90% of broadcasting content should be in Irish. However, it suggests that regard should be had to the language in the context of the charter. I ask the Minister of State to consider the amendment.

There are two other amendments which have been grouped together. Amendment No. 96a deals with section 114. It seeks to provide that RTE ensures Irish communities abroad have access to digital and radio wireless broadcasts of domestic sporting events. I will not rehash the debate which has just taken place because everybody has articulated very eloquently the need to ensure we have a service to our emigrants abroad. People continue to tune into sport and they want to know how their local teams are doing, whether in the championship or in the league. It could also be the local soccer team.

The Bill indicates that, in so far as possible, RTE will provide services to emigrants abroad. There is a need to strengthen this by including a provision to ensure Irish communities abroad have access to digital and radio wireless broadcasts of domestic sporting events as a starting point.

The final amendment in this group relates to section 154 and deals with the broadcasting funding scheme. It seeks to include a new subsection that would give priority to domestic sport, along with the other subsections. I ask the Minister to consider those amendments.

Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt dos na leasaithe ata molta ag an Seanadóir Doherty. Tá sé an-thábhachtach don Teach seo cabhair agus tacaíocht a thabhairt go rialta d'fhorbairt agus labhairt na teanga. Tá ár gcultúr agus ár dteanga an-bhunúsach dúinn go léir sa Teach seo. Tá mé lán-sásta tacú leis na leasaithe atá os comhair an Tí.

The amendments put forward by Senator Doherty should be accepted. The Minister of State will recall that on Second Stage I spoke about these issues. I tabled amendments related to programming in the Irish language and our culture which, regrettably, were not accepted. The objection of the Minister of State's Department was that they suggested a mandatory amount of programming, which was problematic. This proposal might be more practical as it suggests arranging the number of hours and putting it in writing, which I support.

I also support the concept of having somebody with an interest in language and broad Irish culture on the audience council. I accept that relevance to sports and cultural Ireland should be among the criteria for membership of the board.

The amendments are broadly positive and would enhance the commitment of the legislation to the Irish language, culture and heritage. That is not an issue on which the House should divide as it is a basic component. It is important that we always remain conscious of our national identity and the richness and preservation of our heritage. Without being over the top, in the words of Senator O'Toole earlier, we do not want to go down the road of fascism with regard to language or culture. That is neither progressive nor successful and would not be recommended by any sane person.

At the same time we should have a vigilance in maintaining the culture and the place of language. I support the amendments of Senator Doherty and congratulate him on bringing them forward. They would enhance the Bill and I commend them to the Minister of State.

I am struck with admiration for Senator O'Reilly's fluent Irish with its Cavan blas. I did not realise he had it but it is lovely to hear. I will not hazard it this evening, although I have spoken Irish here in the past. It is, in its own way, something dear to my heart.

I rise to formally second the number of amendments in the name of Senator Joe O'Toole. It is notable that a number of them have "including" as the first word. They make the Bill more inclusive of the Irish language and the Irish-speaking community.

I hope the Minister of State will be able to accept amendment No. a83a, which seeks to add “including programmes in the Irish language and programmes pertaining to Irish Culture.” I cannot see what could possibly be against including that provision. There may be some technical reason. The amendments also provide for including the Gaeltacht and the Irish language community.

It may be that the Minister assumes that in the word "public"——

Have we discussed these amendments earlier?

The amendments being discussed at the moment are all in the name of Senator Doherty.

They are all grouped in the list I have. I must be working from an earlier group.

The grouping is amendments Nos. 85a, 86b, 88a, 90a, 96a and 128a.

The Senator has mixed them up with his Lotto numbers.

In that case, amendments Nos. 90a and 96a are in the name of Senator O’Toole on my list.

No, they are in the name of Senator Doherty.

The Senator is confusing amendment No. 90a with No. a90a.

There is also an amendment No. 96a and No. a96a.

They have been already discussed. I wish to make a point on this. The way in which the amendments are issued is rather confusing and I wonder if anything can be done. I do not mean to criticise.

The amendments were tabled later.

I understand but it is a little confusing when there are amendments Nos. 90a and a90a and so on.

Aontaím go hiomlán leis an méid atá ráite ag na Seanadóirí ar an dtaobh eile mar gheall ar chúrsaí spóirt, traidisiúnta agus cultúrtha.

In the area of Irish culture and music, local radio has played a very important role, along with TG4. RTE and TV3 have not been as proficient in that respect as we would like. I am unsure as to whether we need to be prescriptive in legislation.

With regard to sport, all the broadcasting media — radio and television — deserve mention. I note RTE and particularly TV3 for moving into the area of our national games. That station has provided an innovation in placing the camera on the opposite side of the pitch from the main stand, which brings another dimension to showing games. I presume RTE will follow in time. The stations should be commended on their coverage of sport, in which there is a wide interest.

To go back to the earlier comments regarding advertising and the problems in this regard with the drinks industry, the more we promote sport on television, the better we will advocate it to our young people.

With regard to criteria for board membership, the arts, music and culture make up one area which would qualify people for being members of the board. I am inclined to agree with Senator Doherty that sport should be also included, particularly given our interest as a people in all codes of sport. Perhaps the Minister of State might consider the matter.

I thank Senator Doherty for his amendments. He has given us some food for thought. Section 70 provides for the award of an analogue television broadcasting contract to a television service programme provider and sets out certain terms and conditions that shall apply to the television service programme contractor, which is currently TV3.

Section 70(2)(a) and (d) require the BAI to ensure that a television programme service contractor shall be responsive to the interests and concerns of the whole community and ensure the programmes reflect the varied elements that make up the culture of the people of the whole island of Ireland. It should have special regard for the elements which distinguish that culture.

I am satisfied sports coverage is adequately encompassed within the text of this provision and, accordingly, I do not propose to accept the Senator's amendment.

Turning to amendment No. 85a, section 82 of the Broadcasting Bill outlines the experience or capacity required of persons to be appointed to the board of RTE and TG4. The Senator seeks to include sport as one of these criteria. I agree with Senators Doherty and Walsh that such a competence would be beneficial and as such I propose to consider such an amendment on Report Stage.

In respect of amendment No. 86b, section 87 imposes certain duties on the board members of RTE and TG4. The proposed amendment seeks to include a requirement that every member of the board shall perform his or her functions in such a manner as to “ensure that the corporation fulfils its commitment with regard to programme content reflecting the promotion of Irish language and culture, including domestic sport”. I agree with the Senator that this should indeed be the case and this is exactly what is provided for under section 87(1)(b) whereby board members, in performing their functions, are required to ensure that the activities of a corporation in pursuing its objectives, as set out in section 114 for RTE or 118 for TG4, are performed efficiently and effectively.

Section 114(2)(a) requires RTE to “ensure that the programmes reflect the varied elements which make up the culture of the people of the whole island of Ireland, and have special regard for the elements which distinguish that culture and in particular for the Irish language”.

Section 114(3)(a) requires RTE to “provide a comprehensive range of programmes in the Irish and English languages that reflect the cultural diversity of the whole island of Ireland and include programmes that entertain, inform and educate, provide coverage of sporting, religious and cultural activities and cater for the expectations of the community generally as well as members of the community with special or minority interests and which, in every case, respect human dignity”.

Section 118(3)(a) requires TG4 to “provide a comprehensive range of programmes, primarily in the Irish language, that reflect the cultural diversity of the whole island of Ireland and include, programmes that entertain, inform and educate, provide coverage of sporting, religious and cultural activities and cater for the expectations of those of all age groups in the community whose preferred spoken language is Irish or who otherwise have an interest in Irish”.

I therefore consider that these existing provisions encompass what the Senator is proposing. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept the Senator's amendment.

I turn now to amendment No. 88a. Section 96 requires RTE and TG4 to establish audience councils to represent the views and interests of the viewer and listener to the boards of RTE and TG4. The amendment proposed by the Senator seeks representation on the audience councils of RTE and TG4 of persons representative of cultural organisations, including those devoted to the promotion of Irish music and domestic sport. 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. Accordingly, I cannot accept the Senator’s amendment.

In respect of amendment No. 90a, section 101 requires RTE and TG4 to prepare public service broadcasting charters outlining the activities that they propose to undertake over a five-year period in order to fulfil their public service objectives. The Senator will note that the broadcasting charter must set out the principles to be observed and activities to be undertaken by the corporation in order to fulfil its public service objectives. While I believe that the first part of the Senator’s amendment is too general and unnecessary, I do see merit in the second part in respect of the nature and number of hours of Irish language programming. As a consequence I propose to review the wording of that part of his amendment with a view to amending section 101 on Report Stage.

I turn now to amendment No. 96a. This amendment proposed by the Senator seeks to ensure that Irish communities abroad have access to digital radio and wireless broadcasts of domestic sporting events. Section 114(1)(f), requires RTE to “establish, maintain and operate a television broadcasting service and a radio service which shall have the character of a public service, which services shall be made available, in so far as RTE considers reasonably practicable, to Irish communities outside the island of Ireland”. Section 114(9) requires RTE to ensure that such a television service is representative of the RTE 1, RTE 2 and TG4 channels. In response to this requirement, and in addition to its existing long wave radio service, RTE is developing a special television channel to be carried on freesat satellite in the UK with a view to a launch before St. Patrick’s Day 2009. Accordingly, I consider that these provisions adequately address the concerns raised and as such I cannot accept the Senator’s amendment.

The Senator has also sought in amendment No. 128a to include prominence for domestic sport as one of the objectives of the broadcasting fund. As a form of state aid, the broadcasting fund was notified to the EU Commission which concluded that the financial support for radio and television programmes under the broadcasting fund constituted state aid within the meaning of Article 87(1) EC, but that it was compatible with the common market pursuant to Article 87(3)(d) EC. The fund offers financial support for the production of new television or radio programmes of all genres on Irish culture, heritage and experience, on adult literacy and, in particular, on the above mentioned topics in the Irish language.

Programmes considered acceptable under the scheme include factual and fictional programming, including documentaries, educational programmes, drama productions, feature films and animation. Also considered acceptable are one-off programmes, multi-episode projects and programmes targeted at the general public or towards a specific audience group, such as children.

The Senator will note that the fund, as originally envisaged, was not intended to aid domestic sports programming nor, indeed, is it likely that the European Commission would approve such funding in the context of EU state aid rules. Accordingly, for the reasons outlined, I cannot accept the Senator's amendment.

I have listened to the Minister of State's response to the amendments I tabled and will not press them at a later stage. I thank him for his contribution on all of them, particularly amendment No. 85a, as he suggested he would consider including sport as one of the criteria for members of the board. We will return to this on Report Stage to see what has been done in this regard and I appreciate the Minister of State’s comments.

The Minister of State explained the duties of members in section 87 so I will withdraw that amendment. Regarding members of the audience council, I feel an exception is needed for people who represent those cultural organisations but the Minister of State has made his point and I reserve the right to raise this on Report Stage.

I welcome the Minister of State's comments on amendment No. 90a, particularly the later section, and the fact that the nature and number of hours devoted to the Irish language will be considered on Report Stage. This will be welcomed by political parties across the board along with the Irish language sector outside these Houses.

I have listened to and understand what the Minister of State has said on my other two amendments, particularly amendment No. 128a. The free-to-air television station for emigrants will address this issue to a degree but this was to deal with radio and there was a specific demand in that regard. However, I will not press that amendment.

I thank the Minister of State for his response.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 86 not moved.
Section 82 agreed to.
Section 83 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 86a:

In page 89, between lines 42 and 43 to insert the following:

"(f) is a shareholder, director or is otherwise commercially involved in another broadcasting company.”.

This is another amendment proposed by Senator Doherty. This is one in which we find a great deal of merit. The amendment proposes that a member of the board of RTE or TG4 be disqualified from board membership if he or she is a shareholder or director or is otherwise commercially involved with another broadcasting company. We agree with the thrust of the Senator's amendment, but I believe the position is already dealt with in the existing text of the Bill. In particular, section 85(5) provides that a person who is employed by or has an interest in a commercial or community broadcaster or multiplex operator is generally automatically disqualified from becoming a member of the board of RTE or TG4, save in respect of employment that relates to educational matters or the performance of creative work. I thank the Senator for his amendment and as a result of it we will revisit the text of sections 12 and 86 on Report Stage.

I note what the Minister of State said. The matter may be already dealt with, as the Minister of State said, but it would do no harm to express it more clearly in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 84 agreed to.
Sections 85 and 86 agreed to.
Amendment No. 86b not moved.
Sections 87 and 88 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 87:
In page 93, subsection (1), line 23, to delete "príomh-stiúrthóir" and substitute "ard-stiúrthóir".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 89, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 90 to 94, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 88:
In page 98, subsection (1), line 23, after "up" to insert "and adopt".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 95, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments Nos.a88a and 88a not moved.
Government amendment No. 89:
In page 99, subsection (16), line 44, after "shall" to insert ", not later than 30 June in each year,".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 96, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 97 to 100, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 89a, 90, a90a and 90a not moved.

On a point of order, sometimes the Leas-Chathaoirleach says the amendment is withdrawn and sometimes that it is not moved.

If there is a debate on an amendment it is withdrawn.

I understand. Senators O'Toole and Mullen both asked me, if I was here, to withdraw or formally move their amendments as necessary in order that they could be resubmitted. Does this difference mean they cannot be resubmitted on Report Stage?

That is fine. That is all I wanted to know.

Section 101 agreed to.
Amendment No. 90b not moved.
Section 102 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 91:
In page 103, lines 28 to 41, to delete subsections (11) and (12) and substitute the following:
"(11) In this section "ancillary services" means the provision by a corporation of services, which—
(a) are ancillary to the public service objects of the corporation,
(b) the corporation has not engaged in a significant manner in the previous 5 years,
(c) require expenditure by the corporation in excess of €5 million in each year, and
(d) for which the corporation proposes to use funding received by the corporation under section 123,
but does not include the provision by a corporation of a service in pursuance of paragraphs (d), (f) and (i) of section 114(1) and paragraphs (d) and (f) of section 118(1).”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 103, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 92:
In page 104, subsection (5), lines 14 and 15, to delete "subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) such" and substitute "this section".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 104, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 93:
In page 104, line 18, to delete "ensure" and substitute "secure".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 105, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 93a not moved.
Sections 106 to 108, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 94:
In page 107, subsection (7)(a), line 1, to delete “the” and substitute “its”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 109, as amended, agreed to.
Section 110 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 95:
In page 109, subsection (5)(a), line 2, to delete “Irish language programme material” and substitute the following:
"programme material used for the purpose of Irish language broadcasts".
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 111, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I welcome this section, which deals with access to archives. It is a very good provision in the Bill. In the 46 years since RTE was established it has built up quite an archive, and it is important that this be available to historians and other researchers. It is very much to be welcomed. In addition, given that RTE has some new competitors, it is important that these companies are in a position to obtain archival material. Perhaps the Minister would comment on this. For example, TV3 has a contract with the GAA to show national games and it is doing a good job, as RTE has traditionally done and is still doing. However, it is important that it be able to access archival film from some of the older matches, going back 30 or 40 years, which the producers might like to include as part of the build-up to certain games. This is the type of issue about which I am talking. I would prefer if no obstacles were placed in the way of access to archival material for reasons commercially advantageous to RTE itself. I welcome the provision in this regard, which is a step in the right direction.

I was not going to intervene at this stage but I welcome the fact that Senator Walsh has opened up discussion on this matter. I am chairman of the Friends of the Library association in Trinity College and I take an interest in archives. We have a fine national archive and there are archives in the National Library. In addition, an important social archive was delivered to the National Library on Bloomsday. I did not agree totally with its name, which is the Irish Queer Archive — I would have preferred the Irish National Gay Archive — but the material is very important historically. RTE — and other stations, but principally RTE because it is our national broadcasting corporation — should be encouraged by all means possible to retain significant items. I think with great grief of some of the things that have been wiped in the past, such as the superb performances by the late Marie Kean, who was one of the finest actresses this country has ever produced. Most of her work is gone, simply because someone wanted to record something else on top of it. That is a shame. I welcome anything that encourages the national broadcaster to retain material for future generations. There is a public interest in this regard. RTE has been broadcasting a series — I am not sure whether it is over now — called "Reeling in the Years", in which it used archival material going back to 1962. We saw what was happening in that year — or at least a selection of what was happening — and fascinating it was.

This is a very good provision and I commend the Minister on its inclusion. I hope it will send out as strong an encouragement as possible that a proper archive be maintained, not just for us but for future generations.

I join Senators Walsh and Norris in welcoming the archive, and the riches of material in it becoming available. This is good news about which I am delighted. Senator Walsh was right to draw this matter to public attention.

The Minister of State might respond specifically on the availability of television recordings of All-Ireland football finals and major matches held in Croke Park in the 1960s. I am aware of an individual who is seeking the recording of the 1963 All-Ireland, which was the first television broadcast of an All-Ireland.

The first broadcast was the 1962 All-Ireland.

It was between Wexford and Tipperary.

The Senator would remember that one.

Unfortunately Tipperary won.

That was the All-Ireland hurling final.

I was talking about the football final.

The Senator was talking about the big one.

I can understand Senator Walsh remembering that final and the only blemish being the result.

Wexford lost by two points.

Otherwise the recording would be of tremendous value. I would appreciate if the Minister of State should reply specifically to that point. Are the recordings of the All-Ireland football and hurling finals in the 1960s available? If they are, I suggest they be reshown and made available in the archives.

We request they be made available to Members of the House.

By a private arrangement.

I would appreciate if the Minister of State would specifically reply to this point as there is interest in it. People have been in touch with Members about this matter.

I very much commend the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. It is an innovative and important element of what is generally a good Bill. I heard Senator Doherty describe it as such earlier. I also made that comment during the Second Stage debate. There is much that is innovative and important in the Bill and this is one such aspect.

Having had the experience of working in RTE for ten years, people still ask me for recordings of matches held in the 1960s and 1970s. They seem to believe I can procure those recordings for them. However, I am just as powerless as——

To solve a row or a bet.

Exactly. It is true that much of the material that was recorded and broadcast and much of the live material from the 1960s does not survive for all sorts of reasons. However, it is important to emphasise the huge progress RTE has made in its archiving of television and radio broadcasting. Huge strides have been made. That should be acknowledged. With the advances in technologies much of the material can be kept on disc; it is easier to hold and there is no excuse for not doing so. I recall being frustrated at a time when some senior and well known broadcasters instead of centrally archiving the material, as they were required to do, kept it themselves. They said the reason they did so was not that they were trying to hoard it at home in the kitchen press but because they did not have full confidence that the central archiving system was working and they wanted to hold on to what they had. However, it is a long time since that was case. The archiving system has moved on. Great strides have been made by RTE.

It is right that the Bill provides that a scheme be drawn up by the corporation to be approved by the Minister. It ought not to be a free for all. The archives are held by RTE. It is its property. As a public body, it holds it in trust for us, but it belongs to RTE. It is right that the Bill provides that a scheme be drawn up. Commercial interests and commercial bodies, as Senator Walsh will appreciate, can avail of that scheme and can be brought into it for a payment, as is appropriate. The Senator's concerns are well placed, but they are dealt with in the Bill.

I wish to make an additional comment. I sympathise very much with what has been said about GAA matches. I do not watch a great deal of sport, but I fear if it was required that RTE broadcast a match that was nearly a half century old, this kind of material has a tendency to deteriorate fairly badly, particularly having regard to the way in which it was originally held, and the transmission quality may not be of any use except to somebody who is a sports fanatic. I listen to ancient jazz records, with which most people would not bother. They are not broadcastable, but I love them. The same may apply to these recordings. I would be careful about requiring RTE or even being strong in demanding that it reshow these recordings. It might do so if the transmission quality is sufficient, but if it is not, it would simply alienate the audience. That is a small caveat I would make.

Despite all the amendments, it is nice to observe the support all Senators have for this aspect of the Bill and for the Bill in general.

Specifically on Senator O'Reilly's question, I am not sure about that. I will have to follow it up.

Will the Minister of State come back to me on it?

I will, even if it is bad news.

On Senator Norris's point, in fairness to the Senator, he has been very generous with his archival material and we will do our best to ensure that the name of David Norris lives on long after he is gone.

I could not give a damn about that.

To follow up on what Senator Walsh said, a scheme shall provide for separate terms and conditions of licensing. There will be two aspects to that, the non-commercial aspect mainly for educational research purposes and the other aspect for commercial purposes.

Section 114(1)(e) provides that an objective for RTE and TG4 is to maintain archives and they can use public funds for this purpose. The older we get the more important these things become. We have placed great importance on it in the Bill. I thank Members for their contributions.

Contrary to the fact that it might be Senator Norris's birthday very soon, he does not yet need to think about his name living on — he is very much alive.

Question put and agreed to.
Government amendment No. 96:
In page 110, subsection (9), line 10, after "Committee" to insert "shall".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 112, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 113 agreed to.
Amendments Nos.a96a, 96a and 96b not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 114 stand part of the Bill."

At the risk of setting loose another hare, I wish to comment on the dissemination of information, a matter on which I have a strong view given the events of last week. EU members states are covered under subsection (2), but there is no mention of the EU institutions, namely the European Parliament or the Commission. I have been conscious of this issue for a while but it became more pronounced during the referendum campaign that there is a dearth of information in this regard, which is leading in part to the disconnect between citizens and the EU institutions.

It is not good enough for the national broadcaster to broadcast occasionally, perhaps once a month when the European Parliament is sitting, a half hour programme on its proceedings very late at night. That does not convey what is happening in the EU to the public at large. The conveying of such information should be part of the remit of the broadcaster to ensure that people are kept very au fait with what is happening within all the institutions to address this sense of a disconnect. More than that is needed, but this would be an important component of addressing it. If this is not reflected elsewhere in the Bill, this point might be considered between now and Report Stage to ascertain if its the view of the Department and of the Minister that there is some justification in the point I am making. Perhaps it should be reflected somewhere in the legislative framework.

I wish to made a brief comment on that. I will not follow all the hares because I have few hairs left.

We are talking about hares rather than hairs.

I cannot let the idea go unchallenged that the sense of a disconnection was because of a lack of information and a lack of information and broadcasting, although that may have been an element. When the most senior politicians in Europe are saying the Lisbon treaty was deliberately obfuscated so that it could be sold to the Irish people, who could then be relied on to do what they were told, and that whereas the first treaty was written so as to be readable, the second, on which we have just voted, was made deliberately illegible, it is time to look elsewhere for that disconnect. It is time to look into the heart of Brussels.

I accept that the broadcasting of the proceedings of the European Parliament might be of interest. I have sometimes come across those proceedings when I fiddle around with the monitors in Leinster House. I assume this may be covered as part of the proposed Oireachtas channel.

The proposed Oireachtas channel will allow for coverage of events in the European Parliament. In addition, section 114 (3)(b) provides that one of the principal objects of RTE is to “provide programmes of news and current affairs in the Irish and English languages, including programmes that provide coverage of proceedings in the Houses of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament”.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 115 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 97, 97a, 98 and 99 are related. Amendments Nos. 97a, 98 and 99 are alternatives to amendment No. 97. These amendments may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 97:

In page 117, lines 10 to 18, to delete subsection (15) and substitute the following:

"(15) In the first financial year following the year of the passing of this Act, a minimum of 1.25 per cent of the monies paid into the account shall be used by RTÉ for the purpose of—

(a) commissioning the making of independent sound broadcasting programmes,

(b) procuring the formulation by persons of proposals for the commissioning by RTÉ of the making of the above programmes,

and for no other purpose.

The percentage specified above shall be increased to 2 per cent in the second financial year, 3 per cent in the third financial year, 4 per cent in the fourth financial year and 5 per cent in the fifth financial year following the year of the passing of this Act. It shall remain at 5 per cent minimum in each subsequent financial year.".

I hope my earlier effusive praise for the Bill will stand me in good stead as I put forward this proposal. I strongly urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment. I welcome the inclusion — for the first time in legislation, as far as I am aware — of a provision for an independent radio production sector. There has been much discussion in the course of this debate and elsewhere about the importance of the independent television production sector. That sector has rightly been promoted and funded under the provisions of several Bills. However, we have never properly addressed the necessity of supporting and funding an independent radio production sector.

We are all agreed that we should have the maximum number and range of voices on the air. This issue was first raised in the mid-1980s when there was a debate about promoting diversity in broadcasting. It arose first in reference to news and current affairs programming but it is relevant across the board, in culture, the arts and so on. There must be a diversity of voices contributing to the airwaves in both the public and private sectors.

The provision in section 116 (15) is welcome as a first step. It states:

In each of the five financial years following the year of the passing of this Act a minimum of €500,000 standing to the credit of the account shall be used by RTÉ for the purpose of—

(a) commissioning the making of independent sound broadcasting programmes,

(b) procuring the formulation by persons of proposals for the commissioning by RTÉ of the making of the above programmes,

and for no other purpose.

My amendment proposes that instead of a fixed sum of €500,000, a minimum of 1.25% of the moneys paid into the relevant account should be used by RTE for the purpose of commissioning and making independent sound broadcasting programmes and procuring the formulation by persons of proposals for the commissioning by RTÉ of the making of these programmes, and for no other purpose. It further proposes that this percentage should rise in gradations in subsequent years, to a 5% minimum in the fifth year, at which level it will remain in each subsequent financial year.

It is extremely important that we support the significant work being done by independent radio producers in producing material for broadcast by RTE and local radio stations. There would be no documentaries on local radio were it not for the work of independent radio producers. We are aware that the infrastructure and paraphernalia involved in television production is vastly more expensive than what is required for radio. That is all the more reason not to consign radio to the bottom of our priorities. It is vital that the funds are available to support and promote independent radio production. I am advised by people in the industry that if the provision of €500,000 is maintained, a huge proportion of it, perhaps as much as one half, will be needed simply to manage and administer the unit in RTE before a programme is ever put on air.

According to my amendment, even after five years, 95% of the budget will still be allocated for television production. What is envisaged is a relatively modest target of 5% after five years. Radio will continue to play catch-up with television. Television is incredibly important in terms of the fantastic service it can offer in sports, current affairs, film and so on. However, radio has shown itself to be an extraordinarily enduring medium. Radio audiences in this State have increased with the introduction of independent radio. There is great support and affection for radio.

Support for the independent radio production sector must go further than what is provided in the Bill. The provision under section 116(15) must be increased from €500,000 to a level that can deliver results. I should mention that I have a background in this area, having worked in RTE for many years, where I had the privilege of training young people in radio production. It was amazing to observe the fantastic level of innovation and creativity that is out there and the enthusiasm that exists for making radio programmes. Why should it be that only those who work in RTE get a chance to make those programmes? There must be real diversity in this medium. I strongly commend my amendment to the Minister of State. I hope he takes it on board.

My amendments Nos. 98 and 99 are similar to Senator White's amendment No. 97 and Senator Doherty's amendment No. 97a. Like Senator White, I feel strongly about these proposals. I appeal to the Minister of State to round off the evening on a positive note by accepting our proposals, which are of extraordinary importance. The more I examined this issue, met the interest groups and came to appreciate the exciting potential of the independent radio sector for the State and what it had already achieved, the more persuaded I became of the necessity of support for the sector. I am almost fundamentalist in my conviction that this is the right action to take.

I spoke on Second Stage about the specific achievements of the independent radio sector, including award-winning productions at local and national level. The independent radio sector is a new and exciting development in Irish broadcasting. It is made up of small companies and individuals based in at least 13 counties making high quality radio programmes in a wide range of genres, including documentaries and features, art and music, children's radio, drama, science and technology, popular music and entertainment. It is an indigenous industry in 13 counties that is creating jobs for our creative fraternity and it has the potential to create more jobs. It can keep the genius of this sector of the population in this country by giving its members employment and making their genius available as a rich resource for the betterment of all our lives. It is important that we recognise its indigenous quality, hold onto it and not export these people for want of opportunity at home.

Independent radio producers work closely with broadcasters to bring a greater variety of programmes to listeners in a cost effective manner. The sector is bringing different voices and viewpoints as well as a strong regional content to Irish radio. It is in the interest of listeners to grant it a secure national platform on RTE radio. This is an important point. It means bringing local and regional voices onto the airwaves and focusing on communities, areas and issues such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland as they affected local communities. The recent documentary by Mary Owens on Hanna Greally in Roscommon is an example. The tragic life of Hanna Greally, the author of Bird’s Nest Soup and an extraordinary woman who had a unique and difficult existence, was worthy of study. That study and studies of Northern Ireland, young people and culture are hugely important. I recall the beautiful documentary about the dreadful fire and resulting tragedy in the Poor Clare convent in Cavan town 40 or 50 years ago that was broadcast on local radio.

The Broadcasting Bill introduces a requirement for RTE to commission programmes from the independent radio production sector. That is an innovative provision. The fact that the requirement is included is welcome and an important advance. I commend that aspect of the Bill. However, the Bill does not provide adequate funding for the growth and viability of the sector. Therein lies the reason for the amendment. An annual sum of €0.5 million for independent radio production will bring negligible benefits for RTE radio listeners. A more secure foundation is required to allow the sector to expand, innovate and invest in capital and new talent, as happened in the independent television sector 15 years ago.

The requirement is a great advance but the level of funding for independent radio must be such as to give the sector viability. What can happen as a consequence is exciting. It is also exciting to think of the requirement there will be on third level institutions to produce graduates for this sector. There could be a large spin-off. It could be an exciting sector if it is properly funded and given impetus. For this reason I am proposing an amendment to raise the minimum amount guaranteed for independent radio production in the RTE independent programme account from 1.25% per annum to reach 5% within five years. This would bring the amount for independent radio production from €500,000 per annum to a modest €2 million per annum by year five.

What is logical about this amendment and should be persuasive for the Minister of State and the Department is the fact that the figure is increased incrementally; it is not a wildcat figure but is set at a reasonable pitch. That is perhaps the most important aspect of the amendment. The Bill increases the RTE independent programme account to €40 million per year and guarantees a minimum of 90.5% for independent television production. We are happy with the provision to adequately fund the independent television producers. There is no conflict with that. It would be bizarre if there were or if any Member of the House suggested any limitation or barrier be imposed on our independent television producers. On the contrary, we wish to enhance and encourage that sector.

What we are discussing, however, is the disparity that exists at present and the lack of a level playing pitch for our independent radio producers. A modest level is proposed in the amendment. When framing the amendment we were anxious to produce one of sufficiently reasonable quality that it could and should be readily accepted. Our independent radio production sector deserves our support so radio audiences can enjoy the benefit of independent production in the same way as television audiences in Ireland have over the last 15 years.

I propose that the increase be incremental so the independent radio production sector can expand its capacity and output in line with the needs of RTE. This will enhance the Bill. It is in the spirit of the legislation. We are anxious to have the increase enshrined in the legislation in an incremental, gradual, realistic and modest fashion. I appeal to the Minister of State not to divide the House on this. If we have to divide on it, we will because we feel strongly about it. The Minister of State should accept that this issue is almost above division. It is a matter of the well-being of our society and the independent radio sector, as well as the cultural enhancement of our country and quality of life. There are so many profound issues involved, it would be bizarre to divide a legislative assembly, particularly the Upper House of the country, on such an issue but if we have to, we will. I hope that will not be the outcome and that the Minister of State can accept this in the positive spirit in which he accepted other amendments. This is a genuine effort to enhance the Bill and nothing else. It is an attempt to enhance and empower a sector that is important to our country. We are proud to have it in 13 counties where it harnesses our own personnel and their natural genius and creativity. We should do nothing to stultify it but give it full support. I hope the Minister of State accepts the amendment.

I support my colleagues on this issue although I will not choose between the amendments. The Minister of State has a couple to choose from. I strongly support the objective of the amendments. Statutory provisions were made some years ago in the television sector and they led to an efflorescence of talent in drama and other programmes. One need only look at TG4 and some other stations to see the remarkable dramas, documentaries and so forth that were produced as a result.

It is clear that the funding outlined in the Bill for the radio sector will not be sufficient to have the type of effect the Minister of State desires. All Members have been lobbied by various sections of the independent radio broadcasting sector seeking the type of changes my colleagues have proposed in the amendments. I strongly support them. It is instructive to discover that, as Senator Alex White pointed out, up to 70% of the moneys could be used internally in RTE for the administration of the unit. That would leave very little; it would be pathetic to let that happen. As I said earlier, to avoid this there should be a type of sifting process which could be related to the committee on broadcasting.

Is it correct that there is no provision for financing recurring strands? If there is a successful programme, it should be encouraged and not ruled out automatically simply because it was an artistic or other success. I might have misunderstood but there appears to be some type of inhibition on the funding of recurring strands, recurring programmes and so forth.

The arguments have been well made by the Opposition. I lend my voice to support the call for an incremental increase to 5%. That appears to be the optimum and something in which the industry is interested. As Senator Norris has said, the independent television arising from this fund has produced interesting, informative and excellent programmes. I have no doubt the same will happen in regard to radio. One caveat I would put on it is that I have a concern that while it will be produced by the independent sector, the fund is controlled by RTE. Whether it be done now or down the line, I would like that the transmission of these programmes be available to the broader broadcasting media because it is funded primarily from part of the licence fee. I have argued that some of that should be available to others, apart from RTE.

I join with Senator O'Reilly in asking the Minister of State to field this ball and run with it, to go back to the parlance we used earlier on the sporting issue. In fairness to the Minister of State, he has been most receptive in the manner in which he has dealt with all the amendments. If he can run with this, I hope the reciprocity from the other side will be that it will not divide the House on any other issue between now and the time we finish and that we can deal with the other issues expeditiously.

May I speak briefly?

Very briefly.

I was going to mention individually some of the radio programmes but I was floored by Senator O'Reilly who not only knew the names but the producers and everything else and was extremely impressive. He was better briefed than me. "Duck Soup" is the name of a Marx Brothers film. I did not hear the radio programme but I read the book. I remember very clearly that it is called Bird’s Nest Soup.

I used the proper term on Second Stage.

I wanted to get in the film by the Marx Brothers.

I thank Members for their contributions. In the Curragh, Bird's Nest was a horse that finished second in the champion hurdle.

It is good to listen to the Members here. I always enjoy the debate in the House. It is always a little different from that in the other House. It was lovely to listen to Senator Alex White, with his experience in RTÉ, speak with such passion and knowledge of that whole independent production sector. I thank Members for their contributions.

On Second Stage, I stated that I was anxious to garner the views of Senators as to the appropriate statutory interventions in respect of developing the independent production sector in Ireland. I recognise that a balance has to be struck in reconciling the legitimate interests of the public service broadcasters and those of the independent production sector. Overall, I can say that the existing and proposed new provisions demonstrate a very strong commitment on behalf of the Government to the independent production sector and, in particular, the independent radio production sector. That commitment is very much shared by Members here.

Having listened to the contributions made and in a spirt of good will, as sought by Senator O'Reilly, I propose to reconsider the text of section 116 before Report Stage.

At this relatively late hour I thank the Minister of State for agreeing to reconsider section 116 and I look forward to the product.

I join with Senator White in thanking the Minister of State for accepting that the amendment enhances the Bill and is constructive. I believe we will have done something for the arts and culture and that it will be a good day's work. I am grateful to the Minister of State for having done this. On that basis I am happy not to press the issue to a vote because the only objective is to achieve the desired outcome. I welcome the Minister of State's remarks and look forward to Report Stage when I hope he will bring forward an amendment which will be specific and not aspirational. I appeal to him not to make it aspirational and that it will contain concrete provisions. If that is the case we will not press it on Report Stage. We reserve the right but, hopefully, it will not arise.

I do not think it will.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as ucht an méid atá ráite aige agus táim sásta an moladh a tharraingt siar.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 97a, 98 and 99 not moved.
Section 116 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 99a and 103a are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 99a:

In page 117, line 35, after "continues" to insert the following:

"and that it be given a set budget for each financial year".

Déileálann an moladh seo le ceist TG4 agus maoiniú TG4. Mar a dúirt mé nuair a bhí muid ag plé seo ar Chéim 2, bhí a fhios ag an Aire ó bhunaíodh TG4 nach raibh an maoiniú cuí curtha ar fáil don stáisiún. Tá an scéal mar an gcéanna le scéimeanna móra a thug dóchas do mhuintir na nGaeltachtaí. Molaim an scéal mór i dtaobh broadcasting de — an dul chun cinn atá déanta ag TG4. Ó thosaigh muid ag plé an Bhille seo, luaigh go leor daoine cláracha éagsúla agus an méid atá déanta ag TG4 ó thaobh an spóirt de agus documentaries agus a leithéid. Tá jab fé leith déanta ag an stáisiún agus tá siad ag déanamh sin gan mórán tacaíochta ó thaobh maoinithe de.

The amendment seeks to add that TG4 continues and that it be given a set budget for each financial year. That is in recognition that TG4 has been underfunded. Every Minister until now has recognised that TG4 is underfunded. It does not state what the set budget would be. An issue which is of concern to me and others who have an interest in TG4, which is an excellent broadcaster, is that before implementing any part of the Bill we need to deal with the shortfall that TG4 is currently experiencing. It has done tremendous work against the odds. Members spoke about the dedication a broadcaster has to sport and the old games of the 1960s. It was TG4 that started to show those elite championship finals a long time ago. It has given scope to independent producers to do their own documentaries through the means of Irish which are some of the best documentaries I have seen on the television screens. It has been a great success story. The Government is committed to TG4 and the Bill ensures its continuation. I would like to hear the Minister of State's response in terms of setting a financial budget for the broadcaster in each financial year.

Ba mhaith liom mo chomhghairdeas agus comhghairdeas mo phairtí a ghabháil le TG4 as ucht an chaighdeán iontach atá á chur ar fáil, agus an sár-jab atá á dhéanamh, ag an stáisiún sin.

We could not let the opportunity pass without congratulating TG4. It is the great success story of Irish broadcasting in recent years. As a nation we are very proud of it. I enjoy it very much when I get the opportunity to watch it but the opportunities do not arise very often for us to see and enjoy any media or television. When it does, TG4 is exceptionally good and is very creative. Cathal Goan deserves the congratulations of the House for pioneering the concept and getting it going. It is a great achievement and it has done wonders for the Irish language. It is extraordinary that it has done so much compared to other methods of trying to propagate and develop a love of the language. The success of TG4 is wonderful.

I will not speak on the amendment or its content. Senator Doherty proposed that very well. I avail of the opportunity to say I am proud of TG4. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Fine Gael Party in the Seanad I congratulate TG4 on the exceptional job its does.

In respect of amendments 99a and 103a, section 123 of the Bill provides the legal mechanism by which the Minister, subject to consent of the Minister for Finance, can make Exchequer funding available to TG4 for its public service purposes.

Section 124 provides that on an annual and five-year basis the new broadcasting regulator, the BAI, will conduct reviews and make recommendations to the Minister as to the adequacy or otherwise of public funding for TG4 to fulfil its public service remit as set out in section 118(1). In carrying out the five-year review, the BAI is required to consider, among other matters, the existing financial resources available to TG4 and the current level of public funding available to TG4. I believe that this review mechanism on implementation will ensure that sufficient attention is given to the adequacy of public funding for TG4. As such, I do not propose to accept the Senators' amendments.

Go raibh maith agat. As that was my last amendment I thank the Minister of State for the way he has dealt with the amendments, especially the ones I tabled. I am disappointed with his response to the final amendment and I urge him to reconsider as the amendment does not deal with the specific issues TG4 faces currently but it proposes to deal with problems it may encounter in future.

A major review of funding will take place after five years but there is a need to deal with the current shortfall. If we are able to get €6 million from Gordon Brown for Irish language broadcasting in the North where it does not even have official status and where there is no Irish language Act, I am sure we can squeeze a few euro from the Government to support our own Irish language broadcaster. I urge the Minister of State to consider other mechanisms that he has at his disposal to deal with the current shortfall experienced by TG4. I reserve the right to raise the issue again on Report Stage. I thank the Minister of State for the way he dealt with the amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 117 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 100:
In page 117, subsection (1), line 36, to delete "shall be" and substitute "are".
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 100a and 100b not moved.
Section 118, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 119 and 120 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 101 and 102 not moved.
Section 121 agreed to.
Amendment No. 103 not moved.
Section 122 agreed to.
Amendment No. 103a not moved.
Sections 123 and 124 agreed to.
Amendment No. 104 not moved.
Sections 125 and 126 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 104a and 105 not moved.
Sections 127 and 128 agreed to.
Amendment No. 106 not moved.
Section 129 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 107:
In page 128, subsection (1)(b)(i)(I), line 8, after “means,” to insert “and”.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 130, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 131 to 133, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendment No. 108 not moved.
Sections 134 to 137, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 109:
In page 136, subsection (2)(b)(iv), line 13, to delete “Authority;” and substitute “Authority; and”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 110:
In page 136, subsection (2)(b), line 21, to delete “shall” and substitute “may”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 111:
In page 136, subsection (2)(b)(iii), line 37, to delete “area;” and substitute “area; and”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 112:
In page 136, subsection (3)(a), lines 46 and 47, to delete all words from and including “a multiplex” in line 46 down to and including “-tract,” in line 47 and substitute “the multiplex contract, or any interest in it,”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 113:
In page 137, subsection (3)(b), line 5, to delete “a company” and substitute “the company”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 114:
In page 137, subsection (3)(b), line 6, to delete “a multiplex contractor” and substitute “the multiplex contractor”.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 115:
In page 137, subsection (5), line 22, to delete "furnish" and substitute "give".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 138, as amended, agreed to.
Section 139 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 116 to 128, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 116:
In page 139, subsection (1), between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:
" "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made by the Minister;".

Does the person who tabled the amendment not speak first?

It is a Government amendment.

These amendments are drafting amendments necessary to improve the clarity and internal consistency of the text of the Bill.

Amendment No. 125 tabled by Senator Norris relates to the consequences of a person failing to pay a court imposed fine in respect of the non-possession of a television licence. Will I deal with that amendment now or will I allow Senator Norris to speak?

This is a complex matter that has much wider policy implications than broadcasting legislation. As such, it falls to be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in the context of the Fines Bill 2007, which is currently on the Dáil Order Paper.

The Fines Bill proposes two key mechanisms that are intended to reduce the likelihood of imprisonment in respect of the non-payment of court imposed fines. The first mechanism is an equality of impact assessment that would allow the court to consider the ability of a person to pay a fine. The second mechanism provides for the payment of fines by instalments.

The Fines Bill is currently being reviewed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with a view to making additional mechanisms available to the courts in the event of persons defaulting on payment of fines by the due date. I understand that the Minister hopes to finalise shortly his proposals in that regard. Given these developments and the complexity and extent of the issues concerned, I cannot accept the Senator's proposed amendment.

Amendments Nos. 126 to 128, inclusive, provide that an officer of An Post may deliver reminder notifications and the fixed payments notices provided for under section 149 personally as well as by means of post. This is intended to allow officers of An Post additional flexibility in terms of the application of such notices with a view to enhancing the efficiency of the television licence fee collection system.

We are not trying to hound people. One must have a system in place where as many people as possible will pay their television licence. With any tax people do not feel as bad when they know everyone else is paying it. We are providing a service and it is important that we have a system in place to encourage as many people as possible to pay the licence fee. We recognise that the payment of a licence fee creates difficulties in families where resources are scarce. However, we must have a system that does not create undue hardship for people. We have a system in place and we must collect the licence fee. The Bill provides that people are given ample warning that there is a liability or debt that needs to be honoured and gives them every opportunity to pay it without penalising them too much. Court proceedings represent the last throw of the dice. Every effort will be made to reach an agreement with the person to pay the licence before court proceedings are even considered.

I am extraordinarily disappointed in the Minister of State's response. He seems to be having it from both sides. On the one hand, he is suggesting that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will provide for some movement in this area in the fines Bill. On the other hand, he mouths a defence of this situation, which is indefensible, as everybody knows, including many of the judges. I had dinner this evening with the former Senator, Mary Henry, and two people who were briefing me on an important medical matter in the Third World. The other woman involved was a senior magistrate from Britain who had heard of these kinds of cases. She said that she routinely refuses to send people to jail for this type of offence because it is madness. It is madness because it is socially destructive.

It is immediately relevant because within the past six months I believe a single mother in Cork had her six year old child yanked out of her arms. Luckily some of her neighbours looked after the child while the woman was jailed for approximately a week. It was madness. She did not have the money to pay and she was put into jail. How much did that cost the Exchequer? What kind of economy is that? I have suggested applying an attachment of earnings. It is obscene to send poor people to jail for non-payment of television licence fees. I doubt if people are as mean-minded as the Minister of State says and that they are looking over their shoulders and saying the single mother did not pay her television licence fee.

I agree that people ought to pay their television licence fees. However, the penalties should be proportionate and should take into account the social circumstances of the person involved. I have included in my amendment a mechanism whereby an attachment could be made of the earnings in cases where there are earnings. I will not press the amendment, partly because there is practically nobody from either side here to vote. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the matter. To refresh his mind, there has been the one case I mentioned and there were several others. I believe there was one in Limerick approximately a year ago. It is an obscenity in this day and age that people should be sent to jail for such offences. I will not stand over it. While I will not call a vote tonight, I sure as blazes will on Report Stage. While I know the Minister of State is a decent man, he has tried to defend something that is indefensible. He did not even give an assurance that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would abolish this. It is nonsense. Jails are a mess and should be used for the most dangerous criminals. Stuffing people like these into jails is an obscene farce.

I support what Senator Norris has said, which raises a much wider debate about the overuse of jail sentences in respect of non-payment of fines across a range of different breaches. Senator Norris is right. For someone to be sent to jail for non-payment of a television licence fee offends against all sense of proportion and justice. There is no basis for it. It is the legacy of another era where we were able to apply only two types of sanctions, a fine or imprisonment. There are many more innovative ways now to deal with these sorts of breaches. It is indefensible. I support what Senator Norris has said. I hope either through this Bill or through the mechanism the Minister of State has suggested that his colleague proposes that it can be addressed and for once and for all we do not have an obscene — not too strong a word to describe it — situation where somebody is put into prison for not paying for a television licence.

While there can be hardship cases, equally we need to safeguard against people playing the old soldier. I have come across people who do not pay their television licence fees and have other financial commitments they do not meet. Often if their lifestyles are examined it is not that they cannot afford to pay, but that they have made a conscious decision to prioritise some other entertainment facet of their lives. Therefore the system needs to have penalties. I agree that imprisoning people for such offences does not achieve anything. Often the money is never recovered as a consequence of doing that. It is also a cost on the State. There are economic reasons apart from anything else.

As I have said previously, I support the principle of attachment of earnings or social welfare payments not only in this area but also in respect of a range of offences. We should pursue that route. I ask the Minister of State to encourage the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his Department to consider pursuing this route for these kinds of offences. One of the issues that arises when we debate prisons is the overcrowding and the need to create more spaces which is very costly. Therefore, we should have a system that sanctions as many people as possible in a different way, including community service etc., rather than jail. I have often come across cases of people who went to jail as fairly amateur criminals and emerge well educated in more serious crime because of the friends they made on the inside. We should also avoid that.

I want to speak briefly in support of Senator Norris. The brevity does not in any way reflect the seriousness of the matter. I support the essential proposition that nobody should go to jail for non-payment of a television licence fee. It makes moral, humanitarian and natural sense not to jail people for offences of that nature. It makes administrative sense bearing in mind the overcrowding of jails. There is something bizarre, ludicrous and almost Dickensian about sending an unfortunate soul to jail for non-payment of a television licence fee. That is not to say we should not enforce licence fee collection. Of course we should.

I agree with the thrust of what Senator Walsh said. We need to consider the method of collection of the television licence fee and methods for dealing with non-payment other than jailing people. For a range of offences it should be possible to deal with people by other methods, including attachment of earnings and payments by instalments, as mentioned by the Minister of State. It can be achieved by a myriad of methods. However, it is wrong to have somebody languishing in a prison because of an offence of this nature. There should be sufficient creativity in our judicial system and in our Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform implementation process for fines to find another methodology for doing it. This is not a debate on criminology. Jail should be always a last resort when there is no possible alternative after every rehabilitative option has been exhausted. Every financial and other kind of sanction should be explored to the last, including the community service option, which is a very good one. We have failed when we reach the stage of jailing people for such offences.

Section 149 provides for the operation of a fixed-penalty payment mechanism in respect of failure to hold a television licence in respect of the possession of a television set. A fixed penalty payment notice may be applied only after the issue of two reminder notifications and a minimum period of 56 days. The extent of a fixed penalty payment notice is capped at one third of the value of the extant television licence fee. There needs to be some incentive for people to pay the fee. We can be as nice as we want but at the same time we need to be pragmatic about what we are doing. I do not want to split hairs but while we could say people were jailed for not having a television licence, it might be more accurate to say they were jailed for not adhering to a court decision. I mentioned the fact that they are jailed for not adhering to a court decision and, as such, this is a matter for the Fines Bill. We are not trying to wash our hands of it. If a poll were carried out in Ireland 99.999% of the people would share Senator Norris's view. I do not disagree with that. However there is scope in the Fines Bill to address this issue. It is best left there and I am confident it can be done.

There seemed to be a little movement there, although not much. I will withdraw my amendment, but I still think it is appalling that somebody should be sent to jail for non-payment of a television licence or of a consequent fine. We, luckily, are far removed from the "hot struggles of the poor". I have no sympathy with some middle class person with plenty of money who decides to spend it all on himself or herself. That is where one can attach the earnings. That is why I tabled that amendment. It costs a lot to send somebody to jail, much more than the cost of the licence, so it is an absurdity. The scale of the fines in the Bill specifies a fine not exceeding €1,000 in the case of a first offence. That is enough to frighten the life out of any person who is unable to pay the licence fee in the first place. The fine for a second offence is not to exceed €2,000. We are happy to specify the fines and the consequence.

I am glad the Minister said he felt that 99.999% of the people of this country would agree with this amendment. Is the Minister among the 0.001%? Is he with the rest of us in his heart? I ask him, like the former leader of his party and Taoiseach, Mr. Éamon de Valera, to look into his heart and find therein the capacity to ensure nobody goes to jail. One would need the irony of Jonathan Swift to deal with this. It has happened a couple of times in the past couple of years. Yanking a six year old child from the arms of his or her mother punishes the child as well, and that is not fair. I cited the experience of meeting the senior magistrate, which was unsolicited. I did not know this woman was a magistrate. She is also a doctor. She said this is the worst possible principle. Many people would subscribe to that view. I will not press my amendment tonight but I ask the Minister to consider it again and consult with his colleague to do something about it. I would be surprised, but maybe he could urge him to do something about this. If it did nothing else, this amendment, which I am not pressing, might inspire the Minister's colleague to remove this nonsense, which is a blot on the Irish Statute Book.

To quote that lovely line from the Bible, "O ye of little faith." I take on board what Senator Norris said. I appreciate and understand the feelings of the Members on this issue. I repeat that the Fines Bill is the right Bill to deal with the case, as Senator Norris has just outlined. We have been in touch and made our views known and I am happy the matter will be addressed and Senator Norris will be able to sleep easy at night.

Will the Minister be able to give an assurance on Report Stage, having spoken again to his colleague?

I advise the people in the Visitors Gallery that this sort of theatre is not available every Wednesday night, only on occasional Wednesday nights.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 140, as amended, agreed to.
Section 141 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 117:
In page 140, lines 38 to 43, to delete subsection (4).
Amendment agreed to.
Section 142, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 118:
In page 141, subsection (3), lines 6 to 8, to delete all words from and including "and" in line 6 down to and including "section" in line 8.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 119:
In page 141, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) All licences for the keeping and possession of a television set (within the meaning of section 1 of the Act of 1972) which were granted under section 5 of the Act of 1926 and are in force on the passing of this Act continue in force for the remainder of their period of validity and are deemed to have been granted under this section and this Part applies to all such licences accordingly.".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 143, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 120:
In page 141, subsection (1), line 11, to delete "such" and substitute "television".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 121:
In page 141, subsection (2), line 34, to delete "the licence" and substitute "the television licence".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 144, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 122:
In page 142, subsection (5), line 13, to delete "section 148" and substitute "148".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 145, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 146 and 147 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 123:
In page 144, line 13, to delete "(1) Every person" and substitute "A person".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 124:
In page 144, subsection (1)(a), line 18, to delete “and” and substitute “or”.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 125 not moved.
Section 148, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 126:
In page 144, subsection (1), line 21, to delete "send" and substitute "send by post or deliver personally".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 127:
In page 144, subsection (2), line 29, after "person" to insert "personally or".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 128:
In page 145, subsection (7)(b), line 34, to delete "in regulations made by the Minister".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 149, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 150 to 153, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendment No. 128a not moved.
Sections 154 to 158, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 129:
In page 151, subsection (1), line 34, after "assigned" to insert "to it".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 159, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 160 to 180, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 130:
In page 164, subsection (2), lines 7 to 9, to delete all words from and including "functions," in line 7 down to and including "subsection." in line 9 and substitute the following:
"functions. RTÉ and TG4 shall comply with the direction.".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 131:
In page 164, lines 12 and 13, to delete "Broadcasting Authority of Ireland" and substitute "BAI".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 132:
In page 164, lines 13 and 14, to delete "Broadcasting Authority of Ireland" and substitute "BAI".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 133:
In page 164, lines 17 and 18, to delete "Broadcasting Authority of Ireland" and substitute "BAI".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 134:
In page 164, lines 21 and 22, to delete all words from and including "functions," in line 21 down to and including "Ireland" in line 22 and substitute "functions. The BAI".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 135:
In page 164, lines 22 and 23, to delete "a direction under this subsection." and substitute "the direction.".
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 136:
In page 164, after line 23, to insert the following:
"(4) In this section ‘BAI' means Broadcasting Authority of Ireland;
‘RTÉ' and ‘TG4' have the meaning assigned to them, respectively, by section 2 of the Broadcasting Act 2008.".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 181, as amended, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Dé Céadaoin, 25 Meitheamh 2008.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

As we are not sure whether the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, will take Report Stage, I would like to compliment him on the exemplary manner in which he has dealt with Committee Stage in recent days. It is a huge Bill consolidating many of the Broadcasting Acts and that whole important area. The manner in which he engaged with the Seanad exploited the parliamentary process to its full potential. His clarity in dealing with areas, spelling out clearly why he was not accepting amendments in some instances and in other instances engaging and taking them on board where he felt they would enhance the Bill was an example for many of his colleagues to follow. It should be put on the record lest he is not in the House for us to make those points next week. As others will know, I am not given to patronising Ministers when they come to the House.

I second the remarks of thanks to the Minister of State for the manner in which he approached the Bill and the way he engaged with the amendments. He was very positive and co-operative in that respect and did not adopt a dictatorial approach, which is to be welcomed.

I again welcome that the Bill was initiated in the Seanad, which is encouraging for the House. I must confess the Bill was a learning curve because it is a new area for me. I found it an exciting experience to read into the issue, meet the interest groups and learn about the Bill, and I also found the amendments interesting. I thank the Minister of State for the way he engaged with the Bill. He was neither patronising nor arrogant, which is appreciated.

I hope Report Stage will go well. Unfortunately, I will not be here to take it but one of my colleagues will do so extremely ably, I am sure.

I also thank the Minister of State for his attention and generosity in the course of the debate. I look forward to the fruits of our discussions turning up on Report Stage. It is important and, broadly, very good legislation. As was said on Second Stage, it replaces 50 years of legislation in broadcasting, which is a massively important area. Very good work has been done on Committee Stage and I thank the Minister of State for that.

I thank the Senators for their kind words but more importantly for their constructive contributions. I acknowledge the support and hard work of my officials. I think Chinese takeaways might be the order of the night.

They deserve more than that.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 25 June 2008.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ag 10.30 a.m. ar Déardaoin, 19 Meitheamh 2008.