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.
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.
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.