Programming obligations are imposed on broadcasters in the Broadcasting Act 2009, which also sets out the objects of the national public service broadcasters. In pursuit of these objects RTÉ and TG4 are charged, inter-alia, with ensuring that programmes reflect the varied elements which make up the culture of the people of Ireland and “have special regard for the elements which distinguish that culture and in particular the Irish language”. RTÉ and TG4 publish detailed commitments on an annual basis setting out how they intend to meet their public service obligations and objects as set out in the Act. The extent to which the commitments entered into by the two public service broadcasters have been met is reviewed annually by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
Radio and television services, additional to those provided by the national public service broadcasters are matters for the BAI, which is an independent statutory body. Matters in relation to broadcast content on commercial radio are the subject of contractual negotiations between the BAI and commercial radio operators. In submitting their initial licensing applications to the BAI, such broadcasters put forward commitments in regard to how they will deal with a range of broadcast issues including public service commitments and, where appropriate, more specific commitments, for instance, in regard to the playing of Irish music. If they are successful in their licence applications, these commitments form part of the terms and conditions of the relevant broadcaster's actual licence. This policy approach is seen as appropriate in that it deals with the differing requirements of commercial and public service broadcasting. In relation to commercial broadcasters, it is seen as an effective means of leveraging public service type commitments that takes full account of the specific broadcaster’s business proposal. As for public service broadcasters, it provides an iterative approach that is sufficiently flexible to ensure that the changing needs of Irish society continue to be addressed. While I fully support the promotion of Irish music in our broadcasting services, the policy approach taken to this issue must be consistent with EU and Irish regulatory structures. It is also important that it takes account of the right of broadcasters to determine the type of programming and content they wish to broadcast, subject, of course, to meeting relevant licensing and legislative obligations. As I have previously suggested in meetings I have had with Irish music representatives, it is my view that the best approach to be followed on this issue is one of direct engagement with the radio sector with a view to establishing a mutually acceptable treatment of Irish music. To my mind, this is likely to produce a far more successful and sustainable position in regard to the broadcasting of Irish music, rather than seeking the imposition of any arbitrary quota.