FISHERIES BILL, 1923.—FROM THE SEANAD. - WIRELESS BROADCASTING.—SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE.

Is mian liom tuarasgabháil ó'n gCoiste ar Fhóirleatha nea-Shrangach a thabhairt os cómhair na Dála. Bhí naoi g-cruinnuighthe deug ag an Coiste, agus fuaireamar fiadhain ó chúig duine deug. Do scrúduigheamar an cheist go cúramach, acht ní rabhamar in ánn an obair a chríochnú gan a thuille fiadhaine.

On behalf of the Committee, I wish to submit the following Report to the Dáil:—

1. The Committee appointed to consider the White Paper concerning Broadcasting in Ireland regrets that it is not yet able to present a final report. Since the commencement of its labours the Committee has held nineteen meetings, has taken evidence from fifteen witnesses, and considered minutely a mass of varied documents. A further mass, however, of documentary evidence awaits a closer examination than opportunity has permitted, and further expert witnesses also have to be examined. The Committee, notwithstanding, recognises its duty to acquaint the Dáil at this stage with what progress it has so far made in its inquiry; and accordingly presents this interim report.

2. As the attention of the Committee was early directed to the widespread publication of rumours affecting the honour and integrity of the Postmaster-General, it is imperative to state at the outset that these rumours were found to be wholly baseless. The Postmaster-General, moreover, placed all his departmental files at the disposition of the Committee; and he, along with the Secretary to the Post Office, and such members of his staff as have expert knowledge of Wireless Telephony, gave it frequent and full assistance.

3. Two of the members appointed to form the Committee have had no share in the preparation of this interim report. Deputy Darrell Figgis resigned from the Committee on January 25th, for reasons set out in his letter of resignation, a copy of which is herewith presented. Deputy Seán MacGarry, while not resigning from the Committee, did not participate in the drafting of the present report because of his connection with the electrical trade; and accordingly his signature is not hereto subscribed.

4. The main questions raised by the Official White Paper are these:—

(a) Is it desirable to have a broadcasting station set up and a transmission service provided in Ireland?

(b) If so, should broadcasting be a State service purely, the installation of apparatus and the entire working of it in the hands of the Postal Ministry?

(c) If not reserved as a State monopoly, should it be at least partially so, and in such case to what extent?

(d) If, on the other hand, the provision of broadcasting service for Ireland be made over to private enterprise, should the concession be given to an individual business firm, or to a group of otherwise separate companies associated as constituent units of an Irish Broadcasting Company? And further, how should such Irish Broadcasting Company obtain its revenue?

(e) Should the public interest require that the concession be given to a composite company, is the Irish Broadcasting Company as set out in the White Paper such in its inception, formation, and composition, as to warrant the grant to it of the broadcasting concession?

(f) If no immediate decision be reached as to the setting up of a transmitting station, or stations, in Ireland, is it advisable to permit forthwith (on licence issued by the Postmaster-General) the use of reception apparatus? And if such licences be issued, on what terms?

5. The Committee is not yet sufficiently informed to answer definitely all of these questions. It is, however, convinced that the control of broadcasting in Ireland must be rigorously preserved a National control, and that the transmission service must not be permitted to become a monopoly in private hands. In so far as the White Paper pursues the same end it has the Committee's thorough approval: the professed aim of the Paper is to procure for the citizens the most satisfactory service at the cheapest rate, without drawing unduly on State funds, and yet without granting a monopoly to any private firm.

6. As to Question (a), the Committee has formed the decided opinion that it is desirable to have at least one broadcasting station set up, and that provision be made for the transmission of messages helpful to agriculture and business generally—for example, weather reports, market reports as to prices and supply; of lectures, educative or entertaining; and communications of national interest and importance.

7. The Committee is not prepared to give an equally determinate answer to questions (b), (c) and (d). These require and must receive fuller consideration. If satisfied by evidence of experts, yet to be taken, that the scheme is practicable, it would recommend that the station and its equipment should be retained in State ownership; the staff and the working of the apparatus to remain under State control; while the provision of concerts, lectures, and other entertainments to be broadcasted, might well be left to cultural associations, and to business enterprise. These several providers could utilise for certain hours throughout certain periods, the service of the station and staff for the transmission of their respective programmes. The fees charged for this service would defray the cost to the State, and possibly prove a source of revenue.

8. The answer of the Committee to Question (e) is "No." The combination of firms proposed in the White Paper bears some superficial resemblance to the British Broadcasting Company, on which it is ostensibly modelled; but there is no real analogy. The British Broadcasting Company is composed of firms directly engaged in the manufacture and sale of electrical apparatus. Of the firms or individuals named in the White Paper as constituent units of the proposed Irish Broadcasting Company, some have no connection whatever with such manufactures; some were called into being for the purpose of figuring as "constituent firms"; and one, at least, has only the interest of a financier in the exploitation of broadcasting.

The objection of the Committee to giving that concession, which in its working might bear so closely upon national cultural development and national safety alike, to a company thus composed is not, however, based solely on the fact that the components are not all firms engaged in the electrical trade. The history of the formation and of the earlier operations of one of these constituent firms, namely, Irish Developments, Ltd., has been exposed to the Committee by the oral and documentary evidence of its founders; and the account is such as to convince the Committee that the broadcasting concession should not be extended to that Company. It happened that the file submitted to the Committee by the Postmaster-General contained a memorandum furnished to him by Mr. Andrew Belton in September last, purporting to reveal the relations which had subsisted between Deputy Darrell Figgis and Mr. Belton when the two combined to form Irish Developments, Ltd., at a date long anterior to the project of Irish Broadcasting. It appeared from this document, written by Mr. Belton himself, that he had entered into arrangements with Mr. Figgis to share with him the profits of projects (in which the Irish Developments Company was to engage) in return for the exercise of special influence which he believed Mr. Figgis was able to exert upon the chiefs of the late Provisional Government in furtherance of these projects. The Committee, accordingly, thought it well to summon Mr. Belton for examination regarding these schemes, as they seemed to savour of corrupt practice; and, consequently, would deter the Committee from favouring an Irish Broadcasting Company in which Mr. Belton should be a leading factor. As a witness, Mr. Belton handed in a file of papers, chiefly correspondence with Mr. Figgis; and Mr. Figgis, repudiating the charges therein made against him, handed in on his own behalf a second file of documents. The documents showed that originally the sole subscribing shareholders and sole directors of Irish Developments, Ltd., floated as a private company (with a nominal capital of £1,000) were, for a period, Mr. Belton and Mr. Figgis, and that the company was financed entirely by Mr. Belton. The Committee refrained from enquiring into these charges and counter-charges any further than was requisite to form a clear judgment as to the suitability of Mr. Belton to be a State concessionaire. It is satisfied that as Mr. Belton was, if not the prime mover, certainly the most active agent in the formation of the contemplated Irish Broadcasting Company, it would be altogether unwise and unjustifiable to grant a State concession to that company, The grounds on which this conclusion is based cannot be exhaustively detailed here.

9. To the last question—Question (f), the Committee has no difficulty in answering, "Yes." Licences to use reception sets should be issued by the Postmaster-General pending the setting up of any Irish station and the consequent transmission service afforded by it. Temporary arrangements might be made for licensing apparatus on payment of, say, a flat rate of £1 per annum for each receiving set, irrespective of the number of its valves or other equipment—the licence to be alterable or cancelled on due notice of change following upon the installation of an Irish service. During the course of the enquiry the Committee made representations to the Postmaster-General to stay his proposed seizure of unlicensed apparatus pending the issue of this report. The Postmaster-General assented to this course.

(Sighnithe),

Pádraic Ó Máille (Cathaoirleach), Tomás Mac Eoin, Liam Mag Aonghusa, Liam Thrift, Seán Mac Giolla Riogh, P.K. Hogan, Domhnall Mac Carthaigh, Rich. H. Beamish.

31adh Eanair, 1924.

APPENDIX.

LETTER FROM DEPUTY FIGGIS,ABOVE REFERRED TO.

January 25th, 1924.

Pádraic Ó Máille,

Chairman, Wireless Broadcasting Committee.

A Chara,—I am troubled by the suggestion that, in this matter of Wireless Broadcasting, I am, or have been, moved by an earlier personal hostility to some who are named in the present Broadcasting proposals.

I desire to repudiate such a suggestion strongly. Had such a thought been present to my mind, it is unnecessary to say that I certainly would not have accepted nomination on the Committee. But, in view of its having been made, and after careful thought, it seems to me only right and fair to such persons, to myself, and to the Committee, that I should withdraw from it before it enters on the consideration of a Report.

Will you, therefore, kindly accept my resignation, and accept, too, my thanks for your courtesy in the conduct of the proceedings of the Committee.—Mise le meas,

(Signed), Darrell Figgis.

I beg to submit this Report, and to move that it be printed and circulated to the members of the Dáil.

Ordered that Report be printed and circulated.

I would like to make a brief personal explanation upon matters contained in this Report.

We will first settle the question as to when the Report will be considered. We can then take the question of the personal explanation. When is it proposed to take the Report into consideration?

I propose that the Report be taken into consideration on Thursday, 14th February.

A proposal will, I understand, be made that the Dáil should adjourn until Tuesday, 12th February, and the suggestion now is that the Report be set down for consideration on Thursday, 14th February. In the meantime it will have been circulated.

Ordered that the Report be taken into consideration on Thursday, 14th February.

What is going to happen with reference to the Final Report? This is only what is known as the Interim Report. I think that the Committee should be asked to proceed with their labours and to take up the consideration of the Final Report at the earliest possible date. I would suggest that a month from 14th February would be a suitable time if the Dáil agrees.

Pending the issue of such a Report, would it be possible to have these licences issued, as recommended in the last paragraph?

We have not settled about the Committee yet. We can ask the Postmaster-General that question when we decide what we are going to do about the Committee. This is an Interim Report. By the terms of reference to the Committee, they cannot continue beyond this date. Is it desired that they should continue their labours, and, if so, what date would be fixed for a Final Report? Deputy Hughes suggests the 14th March.

On that point it occurs to me that if the Dáil does not approve of the recommendations in this Report the usefulness of the present Committee would be gone. It would be quite impossible for the Committee to continue having at least certain main ideas in its mind as to what ought to be done which are contingent upon the adoption by the Dáil or the approval by the Dáil of these recommendations. It seems to me it would be rather necessary for the Committee to know what the views of the Dáil were on the present recommendations before it proceeded further with what are indicated as final considerations.

The reason I suggest that the Committee should be empowered to proceed is, that if we do not give them power to-day they are discharged, and we will have to appoint a new Committee. The Committee have not been asked for an Interim Report, but they have presented one, and I think we should ask them to present a Final Report. They have a certain amount of evidence at their disposal, and they will get other evidence. I think they should be asked to complete their labours, and to let the Dáil have the Final Report. Then the Dáil could decide whether or not they will ask for the evidence to be circulated, as well as the Report, before they come to a final decision on the matter.

I beg to second Deputy Hughes's motion. I suggest, if the difficulty which Deputy Johnson contemplates arises, it can be easily met by the Committee meeting and deciding that in the absence of definite approval by the Dáil they will adjourn until they receive that definite approval. I think it is very desirable that the Committee should continue to be in existence, even if it is merely in suspended existence, during the period of our adjournment, and not let it be thought outside that we are putting this matter off and not dealing with it seriously.

I want to say that the difficulty will not be so great if an amendment which I intend to make to the proposal which will be made regarding the adjournment is agreed to. It seems to me that if the Dáil were not to consider this in a fortnight but in a week, it would be easier to look forward to the future proceedings of this Committee. It would necessitate of course, meeting next week.

Cannot the Committee continue to sit, even though the Dáil is not sitting? Most of the members of the Committee are resident in Dublin. It is very inconvenient to have the Committee sitting while the Dáil is sitting. They have a period now during which the Dáil will not be sitting, and would it not be possible for them to sit?

Not unless this new Order is made.

I am quite aware of that.

I propose that the composition of the Committee stands as at present, pending the approval or otherwise of the Report.

That is not an amendment to the present motion, which is that the Committee be directed to continue.

I did not know there was such a proposal.

Yes; that the Committee be directed to continue its deliberations and report not later than the 14th March.

I take it that that does not conflict in any way with the proposal to have a discussion on this Interim Report in the week we meet after the proposed adjournment? If it did, I think there would be most serious force in what Deputy Johnson said, because it does seem to me that the Committee will want to have some knowledge of what view the Dáil takes of the opinions which they have apparently in their minds. I suggest that both courses should be taken. We could extend the time of the Committee as proposed in this motion, and at the same time put down on the Order Paper a proposal to discuss the Report, and also take up, if necessary, the definite suggestion made in Paragraph 9 for immediate action. The result of that debate would be a guide to the Committee in its further work.

I do not see what purpose would be served by having the Committee sitting between now and the 14th February, if there is no assurance that this Report is going to be approved. After all, I take it, it is the basis of the Final Report.

The position is that we have ordered the Report to be printed and circulated, and also ordered that it be considered on Thursday, the 14th February.

Is that the order?

Yes; that order was made.

I thought you said "not later than"——.

The Interim Report presented to-day will be considered on the 14th February, and the proposal now is that the Committee be directed to continue their deliberations, and report finally, not later than the 14th March. I take it that it will be impossible to prejudge the decision of the Dáil as to whether the Report will be approved or not when it is considered. Perhaps this might solve the difficulty. It is not necessary for the Committee to meet in the interval, but it is necessary either to continue this Committee, by Order made now, or else allow the Committee to lapse and have another motion for creating a Committee and repeat the whole process when we meet again. If, for example, the Committee were continued, it need not meet until it knew whether or not its Interim Report had been approved.

Would it not meet the position if this proposition were agreed to now, and if the Committee met for one or two minutes at the end of the sitting, and adjourned until after the Dáil had reported on the matter?

That is my suggestion.

There are only eight members available on the Committee out of the original ten, it having been reduced by the resignation of two members. A new position now arises, and I believe there is some difficulty in procuring a quorum of five. It might be well to consider the advisability of adding two names to the Committee, to bring it up to its former strength.

The Committee of Selection has power to discharge members who desire to resign and to add other members. We could have a report from the Committee.

The Committee of Selection thought they could not act without the permission of the Dáil.

On that point it might be no harm if I state that the Committee has asked the Committee of Selection to appoint a member in place of the one who has resigned. Deputy McGarry has not formally resigned from the Committee.

The difficulty as to numbers can easily be met by the Committee of Selection.

Question: "That the Committee be directed to continue its deliberations and report finally to the Dáil not later than the 14th March"—put and agreed to.

I desire to touch briefly upon some of the matter in the Report, especially circling around the fact that although I was appointed on this Committee to report to the Dáil, I was unable to do so. I explained the reasons in a letter, and the Interim Report made by the Committee deals with some of the causes that led to the writing of that letter. I should like to say, first of all, that when I first moved in the matter, it was on August 3rd. The date will be found subsequently to be a matter of some importance. On the motion for the adjournment on that day, Deputy Seán McGarry brought forward a motion that enquiry should be made into certain broadcasting suggestions to be made by the Postmaster-General. I was not aware, at that time, that that motion was to be raised. I had only been vaguely aware that broadcasting proposals had been in the air at all. I had not, and I wish to emphasise this, the vaguest conception as to who the persons were who were applying for broadcasting powers under the proposals that were afterwards outlined in the White Paper. I confined what I said on that occasion to a few words that occupied just a few lines of the Official Report of the proceedings. I concluded by saying:

"I urge that no action whatever be taken until the new Dáil is elected, and that no action be taken until the consent of the Dáil is first got."

That undertaking was given by the President on that occasion. When the new Dáil met, I became aware, for the first time, that one of the bodies that was seeking special powers from the Postmaster-General was a company with which I had been associated, two years ago. I did not know it until then, and when I accepted nomination on the Committee, my mind was entirely cleared—I hope it is unnecessary for me to say it—of any question of hostilities arising from earlier associations. It was in that sense that I accepted nomination on the Committee.

I was very greatly surprised at an early stage of the proceedings of the Committee when a document was handed in by the gentleman named Andrew Belton, containing very serious reflections upon me, and marked by a spirit of very acute hostility. I was still more surprised when that document was handed in, not by Mr. Belton, but by the Postmaster-General. I desire to say exactly how I stand in that matter. The Committee has, after mature consideration, touched upon the charges that Mr. Belton has made against me. I have repudiated those charges hotly and with indignation. The Committee have not stated in their ad interim Report what I consider is a material matter, and that is that within three weeks of the formation of Irish Developments Ltd., I severed my connection with it with equal indignation, with considerable firmness, and in interviews of some storm. I have not had, since then, any connection with the company or with persons connected with it, and, further, I have no desire to have connection with the company or with the persons who are running it. My connection with it ceased in October, 1922. The company was formed on the 1st August, 1922, and my actions in connection with the company were quite clear and quite public, because immediately after it was formed, I myself caused an announcement to be made in the Press of its formation and my connection with it, which will be found in the Irish Press of August 2nd, 1922, in which I am named as Director. I severed my connection with it, and caused a public statement to be made in the Press that I had severed my connection. Since then I had nothing to do with it, and I have no desire to have anything to do with it. I think that will deal with the matter of these charges that have been made by this gentleman, through the agency of the Postmaster-General, against my honour.

At a later date I will move in this Dáil that every particle of evidence given by any person before this Committee be produced and published, because it will then be found that the charges made against me in this document were charges, which when this gentleman was again summoned before the Committee, he was careful to withdraw. I think it would be better not to continue much longer, because it is a matter on which I have a considerable amount of feeling and a considerable amount of indignation. I only desire to say that not only at a later date will I call for the publication of all the evidence but I will ask that the evidence and any documents handed in be released from privilege in order that the whole matter may be investigated, if necessary by the courts of law of this country.

I wish to say, at the outset, that I have the fullest possible confidence in the remaining members of this Committee to do justice, in the first place to the nation, and in the second place to myself, in this all-important subject. The Dáil will appreciate that since the outset of the sittings of the Committee, numerous unfair and unscrupulous attacks have been made on my honour, and the motives which led me and my advisers in my department to come to certain conclusions in regard to broadcasting. Because of the peculiar position I occupy, my hands were tied, and they are still tied, and it is very good of you, Sir, and the Committee, to give me just one brief moment to touch on a point or two which may form the subject of misconception, not so much here at home, where matters are better understood and where one can fairly believe in the justice of his fellow man, but in places beyond. The main principle which I contended for in the long and serious discussions leading up to this White Paper was the establishment of an Irish Broadcasting Station, with no connection whatever with anything outside the country. I should like to make it clear, because of these attacks of the last week or two, that in this respect, at any rate, my judgement has been vindicated. There are other matters which will form the subject of discussion when we come to deal with this subject, and that is the evidence submitted by me in relation to private versus State control. If the evidence of this Committee were made public, as I must say I would have very much favoured, it would remove any misconception on this point. My reasons for State control have been fully explained to the Committee, and it is, perhaps, a bit unfortunate that these reasons are not before the Dáil. They are very fully set out and they speak for themselves.

In regard to the controversy between Mr. Belton and Deputy Figgis, my name has been mentioned by Deputy Figgis here, and I think in justice to everybody, in justice to a man who is not here, as well as to one who is here, the matter ought not to be gone into without having all the evidence. I am sure that everybody desires a fair show for all the people concerned in this matter. The question of my right to issue licences prior to the erection of a Broadcasting Station has also been brought into play, and my view-point was fully dealt with before the Committee. I think when the public examine those reasons they will find that there was some justice in the case which I advanced. This is merely a personal explanation, and I only want to say that this subject of broadcasting which has occupied the attention of the Committee for nineteen sittings, and which will continue to occupy its attention for many others, is a subject which occupied my attention and that of the heads of my Department for a period of six months, and has formed a bone of contention in other countries. It is a subject upon which one cannot lightly formulate a judgment. It is necessary to have all the evidence for and against and to weigh that evidence very carefully. All I have to say is, that it would be unreasonable for anybody to come to a conclusion without that evidence, and I believe that for that reason sooner or later the Dáil will find itself compelled—it may do it without either force or compulsion— to publish the entire evidence bearing on broadcasting.

The question I wanted to ask was, in the interregnum, while those different matters referred to are under consideration, whether it would not be possible to issue those licenses, so that broadcasting might not be held up during the considerable period that apparently would elapse before all those inquiries referred to have been dealt with.

I do not see how any action can be taken in this matter until a decision on No.9 has been come to.

Will the Postmaster-General consider the desirability of not taking any action until a decision has been come to as to the seizing of apparatus and so on? As I read Paragraph 9 of the Report, he undertook to take no action pending the issue of the Report. The Report has now been issued. Will he give immunity for the next fortnight, say, until the Dáil considers the Report?

The Report has not yet been issued. This is an interim report, and my promise to the Committee holds until the Final Report is published.

On the question of the issue of licenses, in paragraph No. 9 the Committee says it has no difficulty in answering that licenses should be issued. It is undoubtedly within the power of the Postmaster-General to issue or withhold licenses. The Postmaster-General could, if he wished to do so, take note of the recommendations of this Committee and act accordingly. He may continue to refrain from issuing licenses until a decision of the Dáil has been taken. I want to suggest that, in view of the very widespread desire for the issue of licenses, we should not allow a fortnight to elapse before beginning to consider this Report in detail, but that we could at an earlier date discuss a formal motion, that in the opinion of the Dáil the Postmaster-General should issue licenses forthwith. I do not think that that would controvert the decision already arrived at in regard to the postponement of the discussion until the 14th February, but at an earlier date, say, one day next week, we could meet for the purpose of discussing this question. We could have a single definite motion respecting the issue of licenses.

I take it that Deputy Johnson will agree that the issue of those licenses by an Irish authority is dependent on the Dáil's decision to have a broadcasting station set up in this country?

I do not agree that it is dependent on that.

I suppose the Deputy will agree that I have put forward pretty strong views on this subject. Those views have been supported by legal opinion.

I think that is not correct.

We cannot go into that.

Might I suggest that as the Postmaster-General has now had the advantage of reading the recommendations of the Committee and seeing the way in which those suggestions are coupled with other suggestions, and to a certain extent gauging the feeling of the Committee, he is now in a position to approach the matter from a different point of view from that taken by him before? It is in his power to review his position and his course of action in that light. If he feels disposed to approach the matter from a somewhat different point of view he would avoid the necessity for discussion suggested by Deputy Johnson.

I suggest that there is nothing to be done by the Dáil in this matter. Seeing that instruments have been freely imported into this country for the last two or three months, nothing worse could befall the position within the next fortnight. I would suggest to Deputy Johnson that one part of the Report should not be segregated and specially discussed. I really think it would be rather difficult to deal with so important a matter without also dragging in the remaining matters, or a great number of them.

Before Deputy Thrift spoke, I was going to suggest that it seems to me it would be difficult to take up the consideration of Paragraph 9 of the Report at some date previous to the date which we have fixed for the consideration of the whole Report. I think even if we were to meet next week that a motion to express the opinion that the Postmaster-General ought to issue licences would probably be ruled out of order on the ground that the question was ordered by the Dáil for discussion at a later date, and that that discussion could not be taken up prematurely. I am afraid that the suggestion of Deputy Johnson is not feasible.

I bow to your ruling in that. I think we can find a way if we have the will. The Postmaster-General has more or less intimated to those who at present possess wireless receiving sets that they may use them. I was trying to move in the direction of bringing those people within his conception of the law in the matter, and to enable them to act as he now suggests they should act, but to enable them to act quite legally, and with good-will and consent.