Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (21, 33, 36)

Mick Wallace

Question:

21. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to amend the Broadcasting Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11501/14]

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Mick Wallace

Question:

33. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he intends to introduce an amendment to section 39 of the Broadcasting Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11502/14]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

36. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress he has made to date in drafting legislation to better regulate the broadcast and electronic media in the State; if he will outline the main regulatory gaps which he feels must be addressed by new legislation in the area; if there is a specific timeframe he is working towards to introduce the new legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11641/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 33 and 36 together.

There are a range of legislative proposals currently under consideration in my Department which will require amendment of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The Programme for Government commits to examining the role and collection of the TV Licence fee and to the introduction of a household based Public Service Broadcasting Charge, to be applied to all eligible households and applicable businesses regardless of the device used to access content or services. As the Deputy will appreciate, the introduction of an alternative method of funding for public service broadcasting would require legislative underpinning.

In conjunction with this, I am considering possible amendments in relation to certain administrative and operational issues identified in the period since the Act came into effect. While a certain amount of work has been undertaken in this regard, these proposals are still being developed.

One such amendment is the proposed amendment to section 39, which I mentioned in the Dáil recently. At present, this section requires every broadcaster to ensure that nothing is broadcast that may reasonably be regarded as causing offence. In my view, this seems to be an unfeasibly rigorous approach. Some people may be easily offended, even where offence was not intended and is not objectively ascertainable. The amendment I am considering would require broadcasters to avoid causing ‘undue offence’, which seems to me to be more objective and more in tune with the realities of public debate.

The legislative proposals under consideration also include the requisite legislative measures to implement the Government Decision following the completion of the 5 Year Review of public funding for Public Service Broadcasters last year, including a new system of determining the adequacy of funding for public service broadcasters and a revision of the current governance arrangements for advertising minutage.

In addition to the measures outlined above, work is continuing on the New ERA efficiency review of RTE as well as on the economic assessment of the advertising market, currently being conducted by Indecon. The outcomes of both these reviews may potentially lead to additional legislative proposals. Once I have given due consideration to the proposals, and subject to Government consideration, it is my intention to forward the draft Heads of Bill to the Joint Committee for pre-legislative scrutiny.