Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 1 Feb 1966

Vol. 220 No. 4

Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1965: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The main purpose of the Bill is to provide statutory authority for the payment of grants in respect of net receipts from licence fees to the Broadcasting Authority during the five years ending 31st March, 1970. Section 22 of the Act of 1960 authorised the payment of such grants for the five years ending 31st March, 1965 and the Vote for my Department for 1965-66 makes provision for a grant which was calculated on the assumption that the Oireachtas would wish that the Authority should continue to receive the full net proceeds of broadcasting licence revenue for a further period.

Section 22 of the 1960 Act also provided for the payment of subsidies not exceeding £500,000 in all during the first five years of the Authority's existence. This Bill makes no provision for the payment of a subsidy.

The present opportunity is being availed of to propose some minor amendments which experience has shown to be desirable.

Probably the most noteworthy change is that concerning the name of the Authority. "Radio Telefís Éireann", has been recommended by the Authority on the grounds that a good deal of public confusion exists between "Radio Éireann" and "Telefís Éireann", and that the new title is more appropriate to a body which caters for both sound broadcasting (Radio Éireann) and television broadcasting (Telefís Éireann).

Under section 12 of the Principal Act, officers of the Authority must as a general rule, be selected by means of public competition but exceptionally an officer may be promoted within the organisation. It is now proposed to make a further exception which will permit the Authority to promote a servant to be an officer. As the Authority's servants are not selected by open competition, promotion of servants to officer positions will be by limited competition. This is in line with the practice in the Civil Service.

Section 5 of the Bill proposes three minor changes in the functions of the Authority. The first two remove a certain amount of overlapping between paragraphs (h) and (k) of subsection (2) of section 16 of the Principal Act and clarify the Authority's position in regard to its business dealings with other broadcasting organisations. The third specifically authorises the Authority, subject to the consent of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, to act as agent for a Government Department, as it does at present for the Department of Education in regard to Telefís Scoile.

Section 6 proposes that the Authority's annual accounts shall be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. They have in practice always been audited by the C. & A.G. although under section 25 of the Act of 1960 a commercial auditor could have been appointed. In view of the heavy existing and potential investment of State funds in the Authority it is considered that the C. & A.G. should continue to audit the accounts and that this arrangement should be specifically provided for by statute.

I do not think it necessary to comment on the other provisions of the Bill, which are of a routine or noncontroversial nature.

The fact that so few changes are considered necessary in the Principal Act, after more than five years' experience, is a tribute to my predecessor and to all who took part in drafting that Act. There has, of course, already been one amendment of it. Deputies will remember that the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1964, raised the limit of £2 million in section 23 for Exchequer Advances for capital purposes to £3 million.

The Dáil has discussed the Authority's affairs on several occasions during the past few years, and copies of its five annual reports and statements of accounts have been laid before each House of the Oireachtas under sections 25 and 26 of the Principal Act. In the circumstances and as the primary purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of grants, I shall confine my remaining remarks to financial matters.

During the debates on the Broadcasting Authority Bill, 1959 serious doubts were expressed about the possibility of providing a worth-while television service in this country without cost to the taxpayer. My predecessor was confident, however, that revenue from licence receipts and advertising fees should enable the Authority to provide a service which would pay its way after an initial period which he estimated as about three years. However, the television service has been a financial success practically from the beginning. The first television transmissions from Kippure took place on 31st December 1961 and 1962-63 was therefore the first full year of operation. The deficit on television for that year was a mere £17,000. This was converted to a surplus of £259,000 in 1963-64, and in 1964-65 the surplus had grown to £539,000.

I already mentioned that the Act of 1960 authorised payment of subsidies not exceeding £500,000 in all during the five years ended 31st March, 1965. These were intended to meet expected deficits on sound broadcasting during the early years of the Authority's existence. The full amount authorised was exhausted during 1963-64. Since then the Authority has had to manage without a subsidy. In 1964-65 the deficit on sound broadcasting was £166,000. When this deficit is set against the surplus of £539,000 on television there was an overall surplus of £373,000 on both services combined in that year. It will be seen from the Authority's report for 1964-65 that, because of increasing costs and stabilisation of receipts from licence fees and advertising revenue, it expects less favourable financial results in future.

The recent substantial surpluses on the television service have assisted the Authority to finance much of its capital expenditure during the past few years from its own resources. In fact it has not sought any advance from the Exchequer since February, 1964. At present its total indebtedness to the State amounts to £2,065,000, made up of £249,000 in respect of property, et cetera, transferred to the Authority on the establishment day, under section 32 of the Principal Act, and £1,816,000 in respect of repayable Exchequer Advances. No part of the extra sum authorised in the Act of 1964 for capital purposes has yet been utilised and £184,000 of the amount provided in the Principal Act is still available. The Authority has incurred, or is already committed to capital expenditure of the order of £3½ million. It envisages that over the years immediately ahead further expenditure of about £2 million will be necessary, including provision for development of the Donnybrook site to cater for sound broadcasting which is still housed in the GPO. Some increase in the present limit of £3 million for repayable Exchequer Advances may be necessary within the next few years but it is considered that the Authority will have reasonably adequate capital for the time being from its own resources and the £1,184,000 still available under the Acts of 1960 and 1964. The Authority is obliged by section 24 of the Principal Act so to conduct its affairs as to secure that at the earliest possible date its revenue becomes sufficient, not merely to meet current expenses, but also to make suitable provision with respect to capital expenditure.

From what I have said, it will be clear that the Authority is not yet in a position to commence repaying its indebtedness to the State. It is, of course, paying interest on its advances from the Exchequer.

Deputies are already aware that the Authority is engaged in providing a national VHF transmitter network. I understand that the first of these transmitters will be going on the air about the end of April, that the others will follow as soon as they are ready and that it is hoped to have all the main transmitters working by next autumn. The new transmitters will generally be welcomed because of the improvement they will effect in sound broadcasting coverage. The VHF service will, however, result in a further increase in the deficit on sound broadcasting, a deficit which will have to be made good out of the Authority's general revenue.

Last February the Authority submitted a comprehensive memorandum setting forth its recommendations for other improvements in the radio service. It was particularly anxious to introduce day long broadcasting as soon as possible. The proposals would have involved a substantial increase in the sound licence fee. I could not support such an increase, particularly in view of the Government's price stabilisation policy. It seemed to me that no new commitments should be taken on which would involve a worsening of the financial position of the radio service and I therefore informed the Authority in July last that I proposed to defer further consideration of the proposals until the present economic difficulties are resolved.

I need hardly say that under this Bill the Authority will continue to have the maximum freedom regarding programmes and matters of day to day administration and that the power of intervention by the Minister or Government will continue to be confined to a small number of matters in which it is important that the public interest should be safeguarded.

There have been criticisms of the programmes on various grounds and from different quarters but this is only to be expected, and is indeed the experience of broadcasting organisations all over the world. It is impossible to please everybody all of the time but, on the whole, I think Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann have given general satisfaction. I believe the Authority is to be congratulated on its achievements since it was established and I, therefore, confidently recommend this Bill to the House.

On the last note in the Minister's opening statement, namely, that the television and radio authorities are to be congratulated on their work in the past few years, we, on this side of the House, agree with that sentiment in connection with these two forms of public instruction, entertainment and education.

There is not much in the Bill beyond the giving of legal authority to continue, financially, and so on, for the next five years. Section 5 is exactly similar to the Principal Act. The word "distribution" would seem to have some legal significance but otherwise it seems that it is exactly the same as the 1960 Act. In the same section, we read "subject to the consent of the Minister, to provide services for and on behalf of Ministers of State": perhaps, in his reply, the Minister would clarify those two points.

This is an opportunity to talk of broadcasting and television in the past five years and of the way in which these two services have worked generally. Nowadays, Telefís Éireann is the more important service inasmuch as it is the service most people use. It must not be forgotten that Radio Éireann nevertheless does a tremendous amount of work. I do not suppose it has the listening public it had before television came but it is still listened to by many people and, considering the limited amount of money available, its programmes are very good—and I think that is also true of Telefís Éireann.

I do not propose to talk today at any great length or to go into the merits or demerits of individual programmes. I shall leave that to other Deputies, but I would like to discuss the matter broadly from certain points of view. It would be of great benefit to our people here if we could extend television to include television to schools. I am not sure just to what extent we could do that at the present moment but it would be a very good thing if we would make a real feature of that in this country.

I would like to see more local and, what I would call, native humour and entertainment, as against imported comics. I know people like to be entertained in a light fashion but I do think many of these comics are really hardly worth while looking at. They are not offensive but I do not think they are at all worthwhile and I would ask the television authorities if they could—for heaven's sake—to cut out the canned applause. That is the most appalling part of these things. When somebody makes some corny joke which, to our ears, is perhaps only a form of ham humour, we find that the invisible studio audience becomes convulsed with laughter at this very often ridiculous joke—which is quite out-of-keeping. Apparently in the studios when these comics are being prepared, a man, who is like a leader, stands up and conducts the applause—somewhat as the conductor conducts an orchestra. It would be better if that terrible applause could, in the main, be rubbed out. However, that is only one side of it. If we could have more and more substitute programmes of local interest to our own people instead of those I have just mentioned, it would be very good. It would also give more employment to our own people.

I saw a very good programme recently—to single out one of the many good serious programmes—on the inter-relation of geography and Irish history. It was very well produced, very well documented, and I am looking forward to others in the same series.

We also have our political commentators and commentaries and it is only fair to say that, on the whole, the political broadcasts are fair. I do not hold with people who sometimes think it is unduly weighted one way or the other. Over a period, it is quite obvious that the Authority is trying to give a fair show to all political Parties. Sometimes, of course, one thinks the opposite but one must judge it over a period. The political commentators are very good and the men who meet and discuss what we have done and said in the House are fair-minded in giving the public a résumé of the work here. In that connection— this is rather difficult for me to put— we have to be careful that when people speak about Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann, it is fairly indicated that what they say is a private opinion because to many people, a man speaking into a microphone and giving what is a private opinion can appear to be almost the voice of the whole Authority—like the news. The public sometimes tend to accept these private opinions as being as factual as the news itself. That is something we must always be careful about; but there is no danger in that respect now.

Commercials, we know, are necessary to help pay for television and are not primarily a money-raising undertaking. By that, I mean that the commercials are not the most important part of what we look at—God forbid that they should be, but, mind you, they are not bad.

They are often better than the programme.

I would not agree. They can be very clever but we sometimes get too much of them. I have counted the number of commercials between, say, 7.30 and 10.30 p.m. I have not got the figures with me but they break in on the programme a good many times. I have noticed that in other Parliaments, which shall be nameless, a very keen eye is kept on the time devoted to entertainment, instruction and so on and to commercials. We should be very careful that we do not overload our service with commercials.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to see more local, serious discussions on day-to-day affairs. When Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann tackle these matters, they handle them extremely well. We can be very proud of the people who come before the cameras and microphones on both Telefís and Radio Éireann. We certainly have no lack of first-class material, people who can give us good programmes and who can interest us greatly. I should like to see more of these features and fewer imported items.

I should like to mention also the question of music. This is something which is very dear to my heart, as I think it is to an enormous number of our people who are very fond of music. I should like to see more of the Radio Éireann Orchestra on television. One hears it on Radio Éireann. I personally very seldom see it on Telefís Éireann. Viewers would welcome very many more programmes by the Radio Éireann Symphony Orchestra and the Light Orchestra. There should be more of these programmes accompanied by explanatory talks on the music being performed. It should not be too difficult to implement that idea and it should not be very expensive, although I suppose the cost of special programmes by the orchestra is not insubstantial. Such programmes would be good for our young people. Judging by the audiences who pay money to hear the Radio Éireann Orchestra, there is an enormous number of people who are very anxious to hear classical music, in which I include romantic music, and so on. The Sunday night Prom Concerts in the Gaiety Theatre given by the Radio Éireann Orchestra are very well attended. On most occasions the orchestra play to capacity houses, which shows the interest taken in first-class music. I do not know how often the orchestra appears on Telefís Éireann. Anybody in public life has to spend a great deal of time away from home and therefore does not have an opportunity to watch television. There may be occasions when I missed the orchestra. I do think we could do with more and more of it.

I should like to say a word on the quality of reception. Reception is good, but, both from the point of view of sound broadcasting and television, the Authority should be more vigilant in preventing electrical interference. Having regard to the expense of radio and television licences, the public have a right to expect that the Authority will ensure that they are protected against persons who will not suppress electrical apparatus properly. I know money is spent on this work but people should be encouraged to screen electrical apparatus properly. I suggest that admonitions might be broadcast as to the need for vigilance in this respect.

In conclusion, I should like to say that Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann are to be congratulated on what they do. We have not the money to mount the big programmes that other larger countries broadcast but in many cases we can put on very good programmes which are either very amusing or very instructive and entertaining. We have every reason to be proud of our announcers and our actors and actresses who take part in sound and television programmes nightly. Having regard to the tiny population on which we have to draw and the limited sums of money at the disposal of the Authority, these people do a very good job.

Mr. O'Leary

The Minister's statement does not have a black border. I should have thought it would have. It is some weeks now since Mossie Walker was laid to rest and I should have thought it appropriate that he should have been commemorated in some way.

I suppose the main thing we can say of this report is that it appears that financially the Authority is doing pretty well. At least, it seems to be breaking even. As far as my interest goes in the actual financial details of this report, I am happy to say that this is the case. I recall some of the fears expressed at the start of the service that we might be taking on a luxury frill too soon, before many other priorities were met. The Authority in its work over the last few years and in the financial statement before us has proved that this fear need not be harboured much longer. It appears that financially the Authority is not doing too badly, although I would have thought that part of the satisfactory state of the finances is due to the death of Mossie Walker.

It is generally desirable that there should be more home-produced programmes on Telefís Éireann but the answer can be given that having regard to the small staff and the size of the station, it is true to say that relatively more home-produced programmes are broadcast by Telefís Éireann than by other stations of similar size in other countries but we should still ask for more because the very best programmes on Telefís Éireann are those that are home produced.

Mr. O'Leary

If we talk about having too many commercials, I suppose that is one of the reasons for the good financial statement before us, but, if we must have commercials, it is a great pity that we cannot have Irish commercials; it is a great pity that an English accent should tell us to take this or that pill or to look around this bend or that bend. There are firms in this country at the moment that specialise in producing that type of film and I would suggest that these film studios should be sought out for use by Telefís Éireann.

We should see to it that far more youth are involved in programmes. One of the most interesting programmes on Telefís Éireann is "Teen Talk" where some of us who are getting on in years get some idea about the kind of ferment in thinking that is going on amongst teenagers in our country today. Certainly, we should do our best to involve young people generally in discussion programmes on Telefís Éireann. I do not think the result necessarily must be a kind of dead solemn result. "Teen Talk" is there to show that teenage discussion can be extremely interesting and exciting.

There is an excellent drama department attached to the station. They are doing an excellent job. Some of the producers are internationally known. It remains a wonder to me how these producers remain in Telefís Éireann when, I am sure, their talents would earn them much more in cash elsewhere. I presume that patriotism is not dead yet.

In the treatment of politics, much more could be done from the point of view of really bringing politics home to the people and demonstrating what politics actually means. That is what the people who are involved in this particular job are trying to do but they are not always successful. It would be no harm, in my opinion, to bring politicians out from behind the facade of certainty and put them in the position of having to answer awkward questions, unscripted, unprepared, off-the-cuff questions. I would be in favour of having television in this House. That would bring home to the people better than anything else the eloquence of empty seats.

I would be against it.

Mr. O'Leary

"Open House" has not been in my constituency yet. The fact is that "Open House" does not succeed in bringing home political questions. There is too much of the claque from the point of view of applause. It seems almost to be organised. The questions are trivial and no effort is made to get to the heart of the matter. I would be in favour of asking politicians awkward questions, asking them to explain what their policy means in pounds, shillings and pence. I should like to see them brought face to face with real problems. My Party are not afraid of overexposure to the cameras, either those of Telefís Éireann or elsewhere. Indeed, we would welcome such exposure. I believe the Authority is doing its best. I should like to see more Irishmen taking over the top positions. One is not in any way chauvinistic in saying that we all believe television should be staffed by Irishmen and programming and decisions should be the responsibility of Irishmen. In view of its importance and its influence on attitudes, it is most desirable that these things should be in the hands of Irishmen.

With regard to the language, there are some excellent programmes but I should like to see a more imaginative use made of Irish. "Amuigh faoin Spéir" on Sunday evening is really magnificent. There are many others. It would be invidious to choose between them.

To sum up, I should like more exposure of politicians before the television cameras. I should like to hear them asked awkward questions. I should like to see them brought face to face with the issues of the day. Those who produce these programmes do their best and it is the political Parties themselves who are to blame because of their near-nervous prostration at the prospect of television exposure. I claim, on behalf of my own Party, that we want as much of it as possible. I suppose that is only natural since there are only 22 of us.

This is the usual measure which we have every year for the purpose of transferring the moneys collected by way of licence to the Television and Radio Authority. It is welcome inasmuch as it is proposed to go ahead with the VHF service. Good reception is of inestimable benefit. That will be possible with VHF. Home reception should equal the kind of reception we get from across the water.

It is gratifying to learn that it is proposed to extend the hours. At the moment there is quite a gap and the inclination naturally is to tune in to some other station in order to fill that gap. I am sure it will be possible to earn some extra revenue through advertising. More sponsored programmes would earn extra revenue. Some of the factories are providing music for their workers. The value of that was discovered in Britain during the war —hence "Music While You Work". I understand that that programme is being retired now. But the value of music during working hours was recognised and I see no reason why we should not have a similar programme here.

Telefís Éireann is providing an excellent service, with good programmes on a wide variety of subjects. Remembering the revenue earned by the big corporations across the water and the revenue earned by Telefís Éireann, the service is really commendable. Theirs is a tight budget in comparison with the corporations I mentioned.

It is inevitable, of course, that there should be some criticism. Here we have a higher standard, particularly from the point of view of advertising, than obtains elsewhere. I remember, before our own service started, people telling me in my constituency that it would be a great thing when we had our own television service because they would be able to let the children watch every programme and there would be no need to censor programmes.

Do they still watch it?

Give me time to make my argument.

They must be very sensitive.

They go to bed early.

The portrayal of young girls drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages is not desirable. Drink should not be emphasised to the extent to which it is being emphasised. There is one foreign commodity which it is sought to put over as an Irish product; it is advertised in Irish although it is manufactured in Europe. Telefís Éireann should take a stand on that sort of thing and should ensure that advertisements are portrayed in a fair manner.

It is rarely that I can see television but sometimes late at night I get an opportunity of seeing some of the programmes particularly those of the drama department. At times the language used in the plays is rather strong. Many of the personnel in this department have been trained in stations abroad where the standards would not be nearly as high as they are here. This is a very powerful medium and even though most children would not be up late at night, there will always be some of them there and they will take in everything that appears on television. Our playwrights can produce good material and there is no need for the use of strong or obscene language. Producers can play an important part in seeing that certain standards are upheld, as was evident at the last minute in connection with last Saturday night's show.

Those are my criticisms, but I believe that Telefís Éireann is giving an exceptionally good service. There is a wide variety of programmes. The home-produced programmes represent a percentage slightly higher than that of our neighbouring television programmes where they have greater facilities. Naturally we welcome programmes from all over the world because that is a form of education. It is always interesting to see what is happening in Australia, how they are living there, how they are living in America and so on. There are also the cowboy films which provide light entertainment. They do not do anybody any harm. The good man always succeeds and the bad fellow gets his deserts.

There is never any blood.

No. The widest possible field has to be covered and a good service is being provided. Politicians are being broken in on programmes like "Open House".

It is a bit late to be breaking them in when they appear on "Open House".

People are also interested in seeing programmes which report the activities of Parliament, like "The Hurler on the Ditch", and the Radio Éireann programme "Today in the Dáil". It is amazing the number of people who will mention points that come up in these programmes, who will seek your opinion on something that is mentioned or will ask: "When you were there what way did it sound?" That type of programme was neglected in the thirties, forties and possibly in the fifties, but now there is a re-awakening and there is a demand for this reporting. People are anxious to listen in to discussions and the opinions of different reporters as they see the activities of the Dáil.

To sum up, may I say that Telefís Éireann should be more careful in the type of advertisements selected. However, I should like to compliment them on the good work they are doing. This Bill will enable Telefís Éireann to do the work we expect from them.

If I interpret Deputy Crinion correctly, he wants to strike a very serious and a very heavy blow at the revenue sources of Telefís Éireann. He denigrates the promotion of the drinking trade through this medium, a very laudable sentiment, I must say, but hardly in accord with modern tendencies or indeed with our behaviour pattern——

Or our Exchequer needs.

Not to mention our Exchequer needs. I have had the opportunity during the past three months of making a fairly continued close study of television, other avenues of recreation being closed.

Not permanently, we trust.

God is good. It is an end devoutly to be wished. It struck me, at any rate, that Telefís Éireann are doing as good a job as is being done by any of the television stations within reach of this country. In the matter of drama, with which I have a passing acquaintance, I, like most people, do not enjoy over-indulgence in language which some people use in an effort to buttress their so-called maleness, their masculinity, but there are certain levels of language, certain modes of language, which have become part of the vernacular of the people and which are not, in fact, regarded at all as lewd in the same sense as they were in Victorian days, and I incline to the view that Deputy Crinion has been pre-Edwardian in this. On certain subjects I appreciated what he had to say, particularly about his care for children, but good children should be in bed when programmes of this kind are anticipated.

There were no television programmes then, but I know I was in bed long before such times and I do not think it interferes in the slightest with my vocabulary: I absorbed just as much in my time around the streets. In this matter there is a great deal of unreality. Some of the words are definitely objectionable. None of us likes the inverted exhibitionism of Kenneth Tynan and his type. Television dramatists must have regard to the facts of ordinary existence and if they are to produce something which is to have any relevance at all to life or is to have any integrity or truth, it is necessary at times for them to be forceful in the dialogue they use. There is nothing wrong there. Children should be out of the way and if it is too much for the adults, then all I can say is the adults must have led a very sheltered existence.

I should like to refer to payments to people who write for television. There have been complaints about the standard of material appearing on Telefís Éireann. My view is that it is as good as is available elsewhere in these islands but the payments made by Telefís Éireann for the work done by television writers are of such a nature as to discourage any effort in that direction. An effort to compose an hour-long television play requires considerable concentration and takes some considerable length of time if it is to be done properly. The amount paid for such efforts by Telefís Éireann is a fraction of what is paid elsewhere.

It has been said quite properly that we must cut our cloth according to our measure but I should like to feel an effort was being made to encourage young people to write for Telefís Éireann by giving them some kind of return for their labour. At the moment, the return is niggardly in the extreme. It is no wonder we find so many excellent writers making for the boat as quickly as they can because they know they can go across to England and earn very much more than they can make here. If writers were given some encouragement in the shape of better financial returns, we could keep some of them here at any rate. We might not keep all of them but we could hope to keep some of them because writers as a group are intensely nationalistic people.

In the case of those of them who had to emigrate, especially the great ones such as Shaw and O'Casey, any reading of their material shows their intense love of this country. It shines out through their works. Very often their love of country is expressed in a peculiar way which may seem to the superficial to be a dislike or a hatred of their origins, but that is merely a superficial view. I should like to see the policy of Telefís Éireann so developed as to give young writers a chance of getting a better deal than they are getting now in so far as the production of material is concerned.

I understand we are about to appoint a new Controller of Programmes. I assume the gentleman who has filled that position for some time is leaving us and I am interested to know from the Minister, if he can tell me, if the terms of appointment of the incoming Controller will be exactly similar to those which applied to the man who is going. The position of Controller of Programmes is very important in any television station. He is responsible, more than any other man, for the kind of station it becomes. My view is that we have been well served by the Controller we had and, indeed, by his predecessor and by the original Director. I hope that in the future the Controller of Programmes will, if at all possible, be one of our own countrymen.

I do not press this point to the extent that we should excuse incompetence because of accident of birth. I do not think the fact that a man is born in this country gives him any abilities over people born elsewhere but I think the Government have an obligation, when spending money, as far as possible to employ our own nationals so that the money spent will, to the utmost possible extent, benefit the country itself. As I say, there is the qualification that we want the best person for this job. It could easily be that the appointment of an inefficient person could result in financial loss. That is something which must be kept in mind.

If people are discouraged in the matter of television viewing, this must eventually make its impact on the amount of money which is received by the State in the shape of fees for licence payments. Apart from those couple of points, it does not seem to me that I should impose on the Minister's or the House's time except that I also would urge that more might be done in the matter of programmes relating to parts of this country which, so far as the population is concerned, are relatively unexplored. They are relatively unexplored so far as the population of other countries are concerned.

Something should be done especially in connection with the promotion abroad of television films produced here. I understand that nothing is being done in regard to some very excellent television films which are made here by our own people and which are shown on Irish television. Some of those should have very wide appeal in America amongst the Irish there. There is no effort being made to push the sale of such productions in the States. That is something to which the Minister should give his attention.

I, too, would like to lend my voice to the well deserved tributes which have been paid to Telefís Éireann. However, I am not 100 per cent satisfied with the type and quality of certain programmes. Certainly, as Deputy O'Leary mentioned, "Open House" is one programme which would seem to capture the imagination. This has drawn quite a lot of local, and even national, viewing, but, unlike Deputy O'Leary, who wishes to have more exposures of politicians before the camera, I feel this might well produce quite a number of poor negatives.

The standard of television, as such, in this country is high by comparison with other countries and, in particular, when we think of the short number of years for which many of our television technicians have been engaged in this particular field of work. Many of the people who are now producers went in as apprentices, and with very little experience, in the initial stage. They have attained quite a high standard of efficiency in that limited time. Television, however, as such, is not being exploited to the full in this country. We could, for instance, make far greater use of television in the promotion of civics, in the educational field and in the field of general information to people regarding their rights under various laws and regulations. This is something which has been built into BBC programmes which have national appeal in serial form. They tend at all times to keep the public at large informed of changes in law and of specific duties on them as citizens, and their obligations to the State in any particular field.

I should like to mention just one programme, the Riordans, in this connection. Telefís Éireann have touched on those matters in this programme on a number of occasions. It has been of immense value to the Department of Agriculture and the farming community generally that this aspect of the programme has been exploited. Much more could be done on some of those programmes in regard to road safety. We have had a few of those special programmes but much more could be done in the ordinary weekly serial to bring home the impact of those weekly or fortnightly campaigns. This could be indoctrinated into the people's minds particularly in regard to road safety and bathing safety in the summer time. This type of thing would be far more beneficial than a campaign during the week or fortnight prior to Christmas or during the holiday period in the summer.

I would also welcome, on another aspect of our television service, an assurance from the Minister that nepotism does not exist or, if it does, that it will quickly be plucked out from the Television Authority. This is a charge which has been levelled at Telefís Éireann. I am not in a position to know whether it is true or false but I would ask the Minister to advert to it and to give the lie to it, if it is false and, if he finds there is ground for it, to ensure that it will no longer be practised.

I believe television has a tremendous impact on the young. Unlike my colleague, Deputy Crinion, I am not averse to advertising of liquor be it strong or soft, but I think the young people—I speak not of children in the seven to ten age bracket but teenagers —should not be given as their idols people who are unsavoury. We have had people brought in on various programmes at times at which it could be reasonably expected every one in the household and family would be at home. We had an era in this country when a he-man such as Deputy Dunne would have been the idol of the day. Television seems to have changed the picture somehow and we now get this long-haired idol to whom I can refer as the she-man. Really and truly, this is not the type of picture we want to present to Irish youth. We want them to have a better idea of manliness than someone going around like a long-haired Molly. When Telefís Éireann bring people like that on to the screen, they are doing a disservice to themselves and to the nation. I should hope that such types would not be suffered any longer in the Authority's broadcasting rooms or studios.

Sufficient publicity and sufficient viewing time is not given to programmes on farming. "On the Land" and "Telefís Feirme" are admirable programmes and they are looked forward to by young farmers in the country. They are also looked forward to by the older farmers because they are informative and instructive. They bring farmers in rural areas abreast of changing techniques and the best methods by which they can improve their standard of living. This, if brought to its natural conclusion means that farming in every area will be kept abreast of the most modern techniques employed in the Agricultural Institute, or on any other scientifically run farm in the country.

I also feel that national culture is not sufficiently catered for. Programmes like "Club Céilí" are not numerous enough on Telefís Éireann. Those we have are, indeed, of the highest standard, and they give entertainment second to none. As my colleague, Deputy Dockrell, has said, many of the farcical canned programmes could well be done without, and a little more of our native programmes could be inserted in their stead.

The theatre which has been neglected to a large extent in this country could be given a boost through television. This could bring about a greater awareness of the assets this country possesses in its actors and actresses. We have had a good few films produced by our Abbey players and such people on television. One which comes to mind at the moment was "Letter from a General". This was a very excellent play, well worthy of any cast in Europe or America. When we have professional people who are able to give of this high standard, we should be ever ready to avail of them on more numerous occasions.

Ba mhaith liom go mbainfí níos mó úsáid as an nGaeilge ar an dTelefís. Sílim go mba cheart agus go mba chóir níos mó cláracha cosúil le "Telefís Scoile", "Labhair Gaeilge Linn" agus "Amuigh faoin Spéir" a theaspáint chun aidhmeanna agus cuspóirí Chonnradh na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn.

I should like to refer very briefly to this subject. In my view, the annual fee is exorbitant. I happen to have spent a few years in America and I know that in one town of 59,000 people, they could operate a television station free of charge to the residents of that town, which provided better programmes than we provide on Telefís Éireann. They were locally produced programmes. They also had their own radio station at no cost whatsoever to the people of the town. There were not half as many advertisements on the television and the radio service in this American town as we have here. If we are to continue charging this fee, Telefís Éireann should start earlier in the day, or else it should be abolished altogether. It could be done. The Minister should examine this problem a little more to see what could be done about it.

I do not think we have enough programmes for schools or enough educational programmes. It is time the Minister looked very carefully into this very important aspect, because television could be of tremendous service to our school pupils. I agree with many of my colleagues who said we should have more home-produced programmes. This is not given enough attention. I am not a great television viewer. It is only in the past few weeks that I watched Telefís Éireann and I was not terribly impressed by the foreign films I saw. I was not terribly impressed by the Polish films. I would prefer to watch a play from the Abbey or one of our theatres.

Advertising is one of the most irritating things so far as I am concerned. We have too much advertising on Telefís Éireann. We must realise that this is mass-hypnosis. If we have to be subjected to this tremendous advertising, we will have cigarette addicts and alcoholics. We have too much cigarette advertising on Telefís Éireann. I checked this last night and I found that the film was interrupted every 16 minutes for advertising, and on average there were eight advertisements in the interval each time. That is far too much advertising.

On the question of cigarette advertising, it has been made abundantly clear by medical authorities in the States and in Britain that cigarettes are harmful and cancer-producing. I think the onus is on the Minister to ensure that cigarette advertising, if not banned altogether, is reduced considerably. There is also too much emphasis on drink. I may be a little biassed because I am not a drinker, but I think we have too many advertisements for alcohol on Telefís Éireann. We should have programmes giving the basic facts about health and hygiene. They are needed; they have been asked for; and the Minister is aware of this, and he should accede to the requests of the many people who asked for them.

On the question of road safety, it is important that we should have more than just a road safety week once a year. We should make more use of Telefís Éireann to explain the hazards, to give more details about road safety, and to explain how motorists and pedestrians can help. Telefís Éireann should devote more time to this very important aspect.

On the question of Irish, the bilingual programmes are very helpful. They have stimulated interest in the Irish language. They have served a very good purpose and should be fostered a little more.

We should have earlier programmes for children. On average, Telefís Éireann opens at 5.30 p.m. and the children's programmes are not over until 7 o'clock. The station should open at 4 o'clock and the children's programmes should be finished at 6.30 p.m. This is a medium which has a very great influence over the people and because of that, our advertising should be up to a proper standard and based on a proper code.

I intend to be very brief because about everything has been said so far as I can see. I should like to add my voice to those who have asked for more school programmes. This is very important. If the Minister replies that the budget will not allow for the introduction of extra school programmes, or the making of such films, we should not be so narrow-minded as not to avail of material from the BBC who have made many very good school programmes. Some of these programmes should include a subject in which we all have a keen interest, civics. There would be no better means of presenting the subject than the programme "Discovery," for which I have the highest praise. This could be shown also to school children to illustrate the various aspects of our life.

I do not think we cover national events sufficiently and we could well have more coverage in this field. In this regard I have in mind something to which I referred last year on the Estimate for the Department of Education, the Casement funeral, which was watched by a lot of children and which encouraged them to seek further information about Casement. There are other aspects of our national life which could be introduced in children's programmes to encourage children to dig deeper.

I want to leave that now and discuss television personalities. I do not want to discuss these too deeply, or discuss anyone in particular, but I have noticed a certain amount of this "tin god" business coming in where a man is interviewing somebody. I have always said that a good television interviewer is a man who is never more important than the least important person he is interviewing. Unfortunately, too many of them are inclined to like the sound of their own voices. Some of the questions they put to visitors from abroad can be embarrassing and it is not good manners to embarrass visitors, unless they invite direct questioning on a particular matter.

Another point is that we do not really have any Saturday afternoon television, and we should. We have events on Saturday afternoons, and although I might not be permitted to watch, there are many people who would be.

There should be more control over commercials. I realise that Telefís Éireann gets its revenue from commercials and without the companies who buy time, we would not have a television station at all. There are, however, advertisements which tend to be offensive and one hears people complaining about this. Some of the companies who make the advertisements go on the principle that if it is talked about, it is a good advertisement, whether it is good or bad. Deputy O'Leary referred to English advertisements and I have noticed that very often advertisements which have been made in England, with English people in them, have Irish accents dubbed on to them. I do not object to this at all.

Deputy O'Leary also said that he would welcome television coming into the Dáil. I think we have enough actors in here without giving them the added encouragement of television.

Too many hams.

Too many hams. Also in television there is a tendency for many interviewers who were previously on newspapers to interview people as if they were interviewing them for a newspaper instead of realising that television is a completely different medium. I have already praised one programme, "Discovery", and another one which I would like to praise is "Teen Talk". The compere of this programme is a man with a great sense of responsibility and he is fully aware of his responsibility. I wish that more of the people who spend a lot of their time on television were more conscious of their tremendous responsibility to the people to whom they are presenting programmes.

I should like to see more provincial and county talent contests. These have always proved popular and there are not enough of them. I notice that we appear to be very restricted in the number of popular entertainers we have on television. I do not think that we are really giving a fair share of the time to all the people who are available. There are many whom I could name—I will not—and whom I have not seen on television at all. They probably have their own reasons; perhaps they have a grievance. We have the introduction of too many brothers, sisters and other relatives on television programmes and these people become the "tin gods".

Deputy Crinion suggested that there should be a "Music While You Work" programme on Radio Éireann and the only comment I have to make in this regard is that if the Minister decides to introduce such a programme in the mornings, he should make sure that it is quick music because it was discovered in one country that where they played slow music, the people worked slowly.

There are very conflicting views in regard to the television service we have here. I feel that television time should be extended, having regard to what we might call a rather excessive licence fee. I also think that more time might be devoted to agricultural programmes, to programmes on health and hygiene and also to more programmes for children. However, generally I think they are doing a rather good job.

The last speaker referred to personalities and I have the impression from viewing one programme, "The Late Late Show", that some of those participating might well be chastised by the Minister. While the last speaker was reluctant to mention names, I do not hesitate to say that the behaviour of one man, Mr. Ulick O'Connor, while discussing people——

I do not think the Deputy should single out any names. It has not been done so far in the debate.

I feel that that individual should not behave as he does on television. I can assure the Chair that that view is shared by many people up and down the land and that is why I feel——

It is not usual to discuss private individuals. The Deputy has now spoken on this matter and he should desist. It is not in order.

If it is not in order, that is all right. I am not at all dissatisfied with what Telefís Éireann is giving the people but I am completely dissatisfied in relation to the matter to which I have referred and which the Chair has ruled out of order.

On the last occasion when a Vote of this character was before the House, I had some observations to make on the radio and television services. I want to elaborate on them now. On the other hand, I think our obligation here is to speak frankly and honestly of what we think of the service generally provided by Radio Éireann and Telefís Éireann for the Minister's information. By and large, I do not think that service compares unfavourably with the service provided by any other national broadcasting company, particularly bearing in mind that Telefís Éireann are obliged to derive part of their revenue from advertising. There is not any doubt, if you compare the service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation with that of Telefís Éireann, there is the immense advantage which the BBC enjoys that its programmes are not interrupted by advertising material. I do not think any unprejudiced observer can doubt that the constant intervention of advertising material does materially react against the effectiveness of the programmes offered. We have got to bear that in mind when seeking to pass judgment on the general service provided by Telefís Éireann. That is a burden they have to carry which was imposed on them by us. Allowance must be made for it.

When approaching this whole question of television, one has constantly to ask oneself: what is the fundamental purpose of a national broadcasting and television station? One is bound to say that a Director-General faced with that query must in the last analysis reply: to entertain. If he fails to entertain the public, the public will not look at the programmes he has to offer. Therefore, when some of us go to town for the purpose of exhorting the Director-General to provide more educational and loftier content in his programmes, if he is ready to accept all this well-intended advice he might find himself with a programme which would do credit to Sophocles but with an audience which would do credit to nobody. In a large part of the country the service provided by Telefís Éireann is practically the only service they have. If they pay their licences, these people are entitled to expect decent entertainment from Telefís Éireann; and on the whole I think they get that. There are certain anachronisms to which I would wish, however, to address the Minister's attention.

I have a profound belief that it is a bad thing to persuade the public that the Government authority in this country is acting dishonestly. I think the people are entitled to expect that not only will a Government act honestly but appear to act honestly. We are getting into a most extraordinary situation in that regard. Telefís Éireann, in search of revenue by our direction, rely heavily on the cigarette companies for advertising. As we see ourselves, every evening— admittedly in the later part of the evening—a very intensive campaign to recommend a wide variety of cigarettes proceeds on Telefís Éireann. At the same time, I remember Deputy MacEntee, when Minister for Health, used to reduce us all almost to tears by his solicitude for fear any young people in this country would take up cigarette smoking. He used to pour forth tons of literature, write introductions to pamphlets signed "Seán MacEntee" asking all and sundry to forbear from smoking cigarettes. Every national teacher in the country was adjured to instruct his pupils not to smoke cigarettes. There is something odd to the mind of the unsophisticated young if Deputy O'Malley, the present Minister for Health, and his predecessor, tear passion to tatters in Dáil Éireann about the evils of smoking while the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs derives a large part of his revenue from persuading everybody that they have no prospects of winning their heart's desire—the lady they are walking out with—unless they press upon her a particular brand of cigarettes. Cool waters, the shade of trees, pastoral scenes, the charm of rural Ireland—all are invoked to persuade us to smoke cigarettes, while Deputy O'Malley, the Minister for Health, is bursting his boiler persuading us not to smoke them.

Who is right? I see a Labour Deputy up here on my right straining at the leash to warn us that Telefís Éireann should never be used to induce anybody to smoke cigarettes.

He has already done so.

Has he? I can read the Deputies' minds as well as their scripts. I admit there is here a strange conflict which creates an unfavourable impression. Let us face the facts. I think I am right in saying that in Great Britain tobacco advertising has been excluded from television. I smoke cigarettes. I have been a cigarette smoker all my life. I think some of the people who go to town on this subject are perhaps getting too excited. I do not deny that the evidence seems to be coercive that cigarette smoking does contribute to the small incidence of cancer of the lung which exists in the total population here.

I do not agree with the Deputy that it is small.

I do not want to minimise cancer of the lung. It is a very severe affliction. Let us not overpaint the picture. I know it is a very lethal condition. I know it is a condition which the absolute abolition of smoking would probably help to reduce. But I believe there are a number of other contributory factors. I do not like to see people in the DTs. I have seen people in the DTs, but that does not mean I never take a drink. I do not mind confessing I like to see a fellow with a Total Abstinence pin up. I always get a comfortable feeling that that chap is safer than the fellow who has not one up. But I do not call on everybody to engage in heroic devotion. I admit that it is wiser, perhaps, not to smoke; but I do not believe in trying to put the whole population in glass cases just to satisfy ardent practitioners who can make you live forever. I do not want to live forever. Therefore, one must take a reasonable, sensible course in this regard.

To be quite honest—and this is emphasised by what I am saying—I am not yet clear in my own mind as to whether the circumstances as we know them demand that Telefís Éireann should surrender the revenue they derive from cigarette advertisements. If we could establish with certainty that morally that was a necessary thing to do, it ought to be done. But I think the time has come for the Minister to apply his mind to this problem and discuss it with the Minister for Health and it is for this reason I have raised it here today. I am not prepared to come down emphatically on one side or the other in this argument. I feel the situation is developing in which this dichotomy of mind is causing legitimate scandal, particularly to the young. If it is wrong that Telefís Éireann should not be used to promote it, if it is relatively indifferent, then possibly the revenue derived from it is justifiable. I think my friend, the Deputy on my right, will agree a case could be made for the prohibition of all advertising of alcohol on television.

Now it may be that the DTs are not as lethal a catastrophe to overtake the average person, but I think the Deputy will agree the affliction on a family created by an alcoholic in the family is often as great as the affliction of the death of a loved one in the rare occurrence of cancer of the lung. If we were to ask whether the use of alcohol produced more alcoholics than cigarettes produce cancer of the lungs, I do not think the Deputy would challenge for a moment that proposition that the injudicious use of alcohol produces more alcoholics, overt and secret, than there are cases of cancer of the lung. Therefore, the moment you make your national Television Authority dependent on advertising revenue, you are brought smack up against these problems. A different responsibility devolves upon a national broadcasting company than that which devolves upon a commercial one. Because the national broadcasting authority is controlled by us here in Dáil Éireann, we have a duty to do in so far as we know what is right. I shall be glad to hear the Minister discuss, in his concluding observations, such exchange of views as he may have had with the Minister for Health with regard to tobacco advertising.

Now, Sir, I hear a lot of talk about the celluloid shown on Telefís Éireann. I think that is largely nonsense. Any television service which has to carry on for the length of time Telefís Éireann provides entertainment every day must have recourse to a great deal of recorded programmes and must use films. What absolutely astonishes me is that when they use films for the providing of entertainment why they must use such old ones and why they must use such idiotic ones.

I used to be a most ardent cinema fan for 30 years of my life. For many years, I am sure I went to the cinema twice a week. I loved the cinema as an art medium. But, glory be, some of the films I see trotted out today, which admittedly are 20 and 30 years old, are not only venerable and whiskered but the most idiotic examples of the period when they were made. When I think of the great actresses who adorned the screen of 30 years ago and see the films that are put on television today, I am absolutely aghast.

There is not a single film in which Marie Dressler, a character actress, appears which could not, with advantage, be displayed today. It would be an education of the young today to see a great actress like Marie Dressler whom they could never hope to see again and who is long dead. I think of Bette Davis as a young woman, one of the greatest dramatic actresses that appeared on the screen. I recall films such as "The Little Foxes" and "Watch on the Rhine". These were great masterpieces of superb acting which would be an education to the youth of any generation and a very useful criterion by which to judge current performances. I think of great actresses such as Dame Edith Evans, who is now in the evening of her days. Any of these would, in themselves, be a guarantee that the film being shown was worth showing. Some would appeal more than others but the fact that our young people of today were given the opportunity of seeing these great performances, whatever the vehicle in which they appeared, would be a useful education as well as an entertainment. I remember Greta Garbo was a great actress and a superb performer. She has long since ceased to act but to see her in "Anna Karenina" would be a great entertainment and a great education.

Probably we can get the rubbish in bargain lots at a very low figure but I do not believe that the difference in the cost of getting 30 year old films which feature great artistes of the day and getting 30 year old films which contain the rubbish of the past can be so great. Just imagine poor old Paulette Goddard thumping around and trying to look romantic in these days when she did not look romantic in the 'thirties and just imagine trying to get us all to swoon about her now—why, you might as well ask us to fall in love with a two-hundredweight sack of flour. It seems fantastic. What puzzles me is how discerning people could possibly make that mistake whereas the performances of the great actresses of that time were eternal and an education for anyone who saw them. Therefore, I would recommend to the Minister to point out that to stir the emotions of an audience of 1966 with the so-called beauties of the 'thirties is futile, but to stir their admiration by the great artistes of those days is not only entertainment but educational.

I see that the Minister for Health has arrived and is now in conference with the Minister for Post and Telegraphs. Doubtless, my representations have been relayed to him and he has hurried in here to prompt the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on how to deal with the matter in his concluding observations.

It is all incorporated in the White Paper.

There is no undertaking which the Minister for Health might give this House which would astonish me, always provided it was included in the customary assurance that "It will appear in my White Paper which I propose to publish about next Christmas". I admit he fulfilled one promise about one White Paper but I am sure that the next 12 months, if he survives so long, will be filled with many other alluring hopes which will forecast that the alluring hopes will be——

The Deputy should keep to the Bill which is being discussed.

The Minister for Health is here to brief the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs on the very topics I have already raised. I hope he will intervene in the debate.

Our discussion was very far from it.

There is now another matter to which I want to refer, that is, the cost of the Orchestra. The Orchestra is a very precious national asset. Heretofore, it has been most unjustly charged up against the accounts of Radio Éireann. It is now being brought to light but, of course, the Vote for Radio Éireann, as heretofore, carries it. I understand that the Votes of Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann are now to be amalgamated and that there is to be no differential of that kind. In those circumstances, it might be well to segregate the cost of the Orchestra and to let us know what the Orchestra actually costs so that we may vote the money in full knowledge of the facts and defend the Orchestra against anyone who alleges that the charge may be excessive although I am certain that there are few institutions in the country which give us better value. In that regard, I would bespeak the Minister's special attention to the recent observations of Mr. Galbraith, the distinguished American economist, who said he had come to the conclusion that economists ought to be shot.

That is a good note on which to move the Adjournment.

I should like to say just one short word. The last time I spoke on this matter of television, I said that if the reporting of the proceedings of this House did not improve, I would name names and particularise defects. I hope the House believes me that if that necessity existed today, I would have availed of this occasion, even if I had to move the Adjournment. I think there has been an improvement, objectively, in reporting the proceedings in this House. I am, for the present, persuaded that perhaps any defect in that regard in the past may have been due to lack of expertise. If the present improvement continues, no one will rejoice more than I.

I shall conclude with this: there is a governing body but, in that governing body, there are a couple of Fianna Fáil hacks. If the Minister wants the confidence of the House in regard to the administration of Telefís Éireann and Radio Éireann, let us get rid of political hacks. I am a politician—I am proud of it—and so is the Minister, but I do not believe in putting political hatchetmen on the boards of what are supposed to be national institutions.

Mr. O'Malley

Donal Ó Móráin and Fintan Kennedy.

On that particular note I conclude, but I will return to it hereafter if the necessity should arise.

Debate adjourned.