Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Film Industry.

25.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware of the unfair terms to which Irish film exhibitors are being subjected by reason of restrictive practices which certain foreign-controlled cinema owners are endeavouring to impose on film distributors in Ireland; if he will introduce such legislation as may be necessary to deal with the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

26.

asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is aware of the growing concern about the increasing monopolisation of the film exhibition industry in foreign-owned first-run cinemas in Dublin in that such foreign concerns are proposing to increase the number of cinemas within existing buildings to the detriment of Irish-owned first-run suburban and provincial cinemas; and if having regard to the urgent need to prevent this development he will take remedial measures and make a statement on the matter.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 26 together.

I am aware that some concern has been expressed by certain interests about developments in the cinema business. Having considered the matter I have referred it to the Fair Trade Commission.

Is the Minister satisfied that the Fair Trade Commission is in fact in a position to assist? In this case the film renters are foreign-owned and have their main offices situated abroad and the contracts, certainly the principal contracts, for the exhibition of first class, modern films are made not in this country but in Britain. Having regard to the speed with which a number of the foreign-controlled companies are converting their first-run cinemas in the main streets of Dublin from single houses to double and treble houses as a consequence of which they will be in a position to exhibit in their own cinemas the very limited supply of new films to the detriment of Irish companies does the Minister not consider that urgent legislative action is required and that simply referring it to the Fair Trade Commission will not afford the necessary protection which is now so urgently required against this imminent danger?

If the allegations which are made in regard to the developments in the cinema industry are correct then the Fair Trade Commission is the appropriate body to deal with them because what is involved is restrictive trade practices. The point raised by the Deputy at the beginning of the supplementary is one which I considered. The position is the renters concerned all have offices in Dublin and are therefore within the jurisdiction. I am satisfied the Fair Trade Commission is the appropriate and indeed the only way of dealing adequately with this problem in its present form.

Is the Minister aware that the offices in Dublin are little more than conduct pipes and that the contracts are in fact made in Britain or elsewhere?

I am so aware. The Deputy will appreciate the mere fact that those offices are here, whether they are conduit pipes or not, brings them within the jurisdiction. If there is to be any question of trying to evade that jurisdiction this would create difficult problems for the firms concerned.

May I ask, while I recognise reference to the Fair Trade Commission enables any party concerned to make submissions to it, would the Minister advert to the problem of the parochial hall which is habitually showing films very often for parochial charity and finds that the restrictive practices of those operators virtually deprive them of their supply of pictures which makes it impossible, economically, to carry on such parochial hall activities with the result that there is a rural problem being created and in view of the fact they have no combined voice to make representation to those bodies perhaps the Minister will take the initiative in requesting the Fair Trade Commission to have regard to the problems to which I have referred?

I have had complaints on behalf of what one might call rural family owners in this regard.

And parochial halls?

Not on behalf of parochial halls. In the particular case I have in mind I referred it to the Fair Trade Commission but when it came to the point of substantiating the allegations made they were unsubstantiated. However, I will consider the Deputy's suggestion and see if something can be done.

Would the Minister include in that particular examination the problem of Irish owned first-run cinemas in the city of Dublin and the multitude of suburban cinemas in Dublin and larger cinemas in provincial areas which are being squeezed out by this pressure from abroad?

I am aware of this problem but the Deputy will appreciate that as well as this problem there is an ever growing problem for small owners of very small cinemas around the country.

I wonder has the Minister investigated the possibility of making an order as a result of the findings of the Fair Trade Commission? In that event is he satisfied that such an order, when it becomes law, can be successfully invoked against the renters involved?

So far as I am aware at the moment the position is that such an order could be successfully invoked but if it should appear that an order is necessary as a result of the Fair Trade Commission's inquiries and that such an order could not be successfully invoked then I would be prepared to consider an alternative method of approaching the problem.

Has the Minister satisfied himself that such an order could be successfully invoked?

Prima facie I am satisfied it can be invoked.

Has the Minister investigated it?

Yes, but not in detail.

Would the Minister make a detailed investigation at this stage and not go through the farce of having a Fair Trade Commission inquiry and passing an Act here if we cannot invoke it?

Would the Minister undertake to do that now?