Private Members' Business. - Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill, 1975 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

(Dublin Central): Before tea I was referring to the Minister's Estimate speech on 10th May, 1973 when he first spoke about his concept of open broadcasting. In the new situation developing with RTE vis-à-vis a closer relationship with Northern Ireland, I was mentioning that we could get programmes from there and that RTE programmes might similarly be shown in the North. That is something we, on this side of the House, would favour when the second channel comes into being.

I was pointing out also the various proposals put to the Minister early on which should have been taken into consideration. As early as December, 1973, there was the first expression of views on this question by the trade unions concerned, Irish Actors' Equity, the Irish Federation of Musicians, the allied professions, the British Actors' Equity and British musicians. At that time they told the Minister in no uncertain fashion they did not approve of his concept of open broadcasting but still the Minister persisted in his view that BBC 1 should be rebroadcast in its entirety.

I should like now to go to other sections of the Bill. The Minister mentioned that people had tried to undermine the survey just concluded. Nobody on this side of the House— certainly not that I am aware of— criticised the fact that the Minister should carry out the survey. Once he had decided with RTE to carry out the survey certainly I had no objection. But I did have objections to other aspects, such as the fact that we had a very valid policy worked out on what we thought should be included in the survey. We travelled throughout the country. Deputy G. Collins attended a number of meetings and I attended others. At an early stage we had proposals on how we thought the second channel should develop. We proposed a programme council because, whether we like it or not, the view is held in certain parts of the country, especially in the west and south, that RTE is Dublin-orientated. I do not believe that to be quite true but one does hear the view expressed that RTE reflects the views of the east coast and does not give sufficient attention to the west and south. With regard to news in particular that view may be valid because a problem does exist where RTE is concerned; for example, it is not possible for them, say, to film an incident which takes place in Kerry, Sligo or Mayo. I am told they would not have an outside unit available for such purposes. We do see more films of news items taken around Leinster than, say, in the west.

We advocated the setting up of a programme council to be responsible for the selection of programmes on the new television channel. We thought that might remove the biased feeling genuinely held by some people regarding RTE. It was for that reason that we criticised the scientific survey. Being the largest political party in the country we believed, at that time, that our views should be put to the people also. I have no doubt that had our proposals been put to the people then, they might have examined their views more closely in the recent survey.

Perhaps I may quote from some of our policy in this regard:

In recognition of the genuine desire of television viewers in the single channel areas for choice of programme—the Fianna Fáil Party propose the establishment of a Second Channel Programme Council. This council which must be truly representative of viewers in the single channel area would control the selection of material and production of programmes to be transmitted through the second channel.

Its terms of reference would provide for a regional quality in its home-produced programmes, news and sports broadcasts. The headquarters of the new council of management body would be centred outside Dublin in a single channel area.——

and, as far as possible we would base that in the south or west

——The Programme Council would function under the aegis of the existing Broadcasting Authority whose membership would be enenlarged to strengthen single channel representations. RTE would continue to function in its present capacity—broadcasting its programmes as it does and it would co-operate in every way with the Programme Council of our new television channel in order that a truly alternative choice of programmes would be provided for the public.

We were sincere in putting forward that proposal. Now that RTE will be establishing a second channel I can see no reason why RTE could not implement those proposals. At present heavy responsibility is placed on broadcasters, producers and management in RTE. People have decided they will give them a trial in their capacity of how wide a choice of programmes there should be on the second channel. I know there was a dialogue between the authority and the Minister on how the survey should be carried out. I did not have any knowledge of the survey before it was carried out. The Minister kindly forwarded me a copy and the terms of reference a few days ago. During the fortnight or three weeks while the survey was being carried out had anybody asked any member of the Fianna Fáil Party could he give any indication as to the nature of the survey the answer would certainly have been in the negative.

I believe the Opposition should have been given a view of what exactly was taking place, what questions were being asked. We have positive proposals. We are the main Opposition party, and it would have been very difficult for us to advise people how to vote because we had not seen the survey. This is a rather unique situation. In a normal election or referendum the main political party in the country would be in a position to know what the issues were. On this occasion, especially during the time the survey was taking place, we were at the disadvantage that we could not decide "yes" or "no" if any supporter asked us: "What do you think of this survey which is being carried out?" All we could say was that these were our proposals, that we were not sure whether they were in the survey, and depend on people's judgement.

That is all I have to say about the survey. The result was very conclusive. It gave a clear indication as regards choice of programmes throughout the country. The national preference for RTE was 62 per cent against 35 per cent for BBC 1. This is a fair indication of the feeling of the people, and the Minister has summed it up in the very fair remark in page 15 of his speech with reference to how, in his opinion, people voted:

As will be seen from the survey report, in the section "Arguments for RTE 2" the first two arguments used to persuade viewers of the advantages of that service were as follows:

1. RTE 2 would be selected from BBC 1, BBC 2, the 15 ITV companies, other overseas sources, and additional home produced material.

2. RTE 1 plus RTE 2 would offer single channel viewers a range and variety of programmes as near as possible to those already available in multi-channel areas.

It has to be assumed therefore that those viewers who opted for RTE 2 were opting for a service so defined. The result can not therefore be interpreted as any kind of victory for cultural protectionism or rejection of multi-channel viewing.

That is a fair comment. That is exactly what they have done. They opted for the widest choice of programmes. It was not that the people in the multi-channel areas such as Dublin and the east coast were trying to have something better than is available in the west and south of Ireland. The cruel realities of the situation put before the people are that it is just not possible technically or financially in our present circumstances to provide such a wide service.

Having that position explained to them by RTE—we all did it to the best of our ability—they opted for the best choice available. There are some people in Cork, Dublin and Limerick who will probably be disappointed that the BBC 1 proposal was not carried in its entirety. Unfortunately everyone cannot be pleased, but if people study the matter in depth they will find that what is being offered will suit the majority.

I hope that the programme council we are proposing will be included as time goes on. I believe that RTE will do what they should do, that is, ensure a fair proportion of regional programmes. I am not suggesting that they should completely dominate the second channel but we should give our Irish broadcasters, scriptwriters, actors and technicians at least the opportunity of knowing that there is a future for them in this country. We propose that 20 per cent of the second channel should be composed of home-produced programmes. We should diversify and get away from the idea people have that we are dominated by Montrose, and move more into Cork, Limerick and Galway for studio productions. This will be decentralisation in a fashion, which we are all trying to achieve in this country. Everything is concentrated in Dublin and we know the consequences of the lack of services in an overcrowded city.

The Minister has mentioned in his brief that a certain amount of capital is being allocated and has been spent already in the development of regional studios. Having provided regional programmes, RTE will then select the best of the programmes to which the Minister has referred here, such as BBC 1, BBC 2 and a number of ITV companies. Anyone who has watched multi-channel TV in Dublin will know that there are many excellent programmes. There are those on current affairs, such as Panorama, and although I do not want to be taken as trying to have our children indoctrinated, there are other programmes during the evening time on BBC and other British channels which should be useful for them. I would like to see the new channel providing intelligent and useful programmes from different sources.

A big responsibility is being placed on RTE now. They have campaigned for it, and I agreed with the proposals they put forward. I believe they are capable of implementing them. They have the management and personnel. There is nothing worse in any organisation, in any business, than indecision. You weaken the whole structure of the organisation, and the quicker you make whatever decision has to be made the better. I am glad the Minister brought this in in the first few days of the new session, so that it would not drag on without a decision. RTE know now where they stand, and now that the decision has been made, they should settle down and do their job properly. I believe they will rise to this challenge which is being put before them.

I believe from now on we will see a new image. It is important that they be seen to represent the people, that they are not attached to any particular group. They are there to do a job for the benefit of people generally. That is very important in relation to broadcasting and entertainment in this country.

The Minister mentioned in relation to section 2 of the Bill the removal of the Authority. I do not believe anybody could dispute to any great extent that the removal of the Authority will no longer have to be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas. There is not a lot of difference here from the 1960 Broadcasting Bill. The basic principle is the same. The Government and the Minister can remove the Authority or members of the Authority. The Minister has said that this is to provide greater security for the Authority.

In reply to the Second Reading in the Seanad the Minister referred to Senator Horgan's remarks about writing into law the idea that a body set up by the Oireachtas are fundamentally responsible to the Oireachtas and not just part of the Oireachtas, the executive. The Minister's comment on that was: that he entirely agreed with that formulation and wished he had thought of it himself. The Minister now appears to be under the impression that because the Authority are established by the Oireachtas they should be brought before the Oireachtas. I know the Authority are established by the Oireachtas but they are selected by the Minister. The Oireachtas have very little say in the appointment of the Authority.

I do not believe any group in the country have had more criticism levelled at them than RTE. Some of it is not justified but because of the position the Authority hold in our society and how powerful a medium radio and television are it is very hard to ensure complete impartiality. The important thing is that the Authority should be seen to be impartial. If the Minister feels that before he can dismiss the Authority the matter should be brought before the Oireachtas, I am not sure that we should not also remove the appointment of the Authority completely from the Government. I believe that if people in all walks of life, such as farmers organisations, trade unions, the FUE and any other organisation had a say in the appointment of the Authority we would get away from the feeling people have that the Government of the day have their own people in the RTE Authority. That is damaging the function of RTE. I would say the very same if this party were in Government.

The Deputy did not say it.

(Dublin Central): I do not believe I said differently. Perhaps some of my predecessors did. I am only giving my views on the matter. It is the view of many people that the RTE Authority are politically orientated. I am not accusing the Authority or any particular personnel. We are lucky to have such an excellent Director General and other top personnel in RTE. I would not like to see the Authority discredited in the House or anywhere else. The only reason I mention this matter is that the Minister will not now bring the Authority before the Houses of the Oireachtas before he can dismiss them. I do not particularly object to this but there are many small aspects to be considered.

Take, for instance, the occasion when a member of the Authority is brought before the Dáil. I would not like to see the day when a member of the Authority is sacked not for reasons of policy but for some other reason. The Minister might have to remove a particular person from the Authority because he was incompetent in certain ways, perhaps he indulged excessively in alcohol. I would not approve a motion being brought before the House directed at a member of the Authority. I would not mind debating a motion on the removal of the entire Authority if they were found to be incompetent because we would be debating principles. We should not bring a motion before the House in relation to a man who cannot defend himself because we could use our privilege and could slander that man and take his character. That is not desirable.

The same thing could happen in relation to judges. We have the same principle for the removal of judges.

(Dublin Central): This is slightly different. This is a different situation. Judges are completely removed from the political arena and are above politics. We are not allowed to discuss them in the House. If we do we are checked by the Ceann Comhairle. I believe this is a different arena. This is the only matter I dispute in the section.

In section 3 we deal with impartiality. Broadcasters must have the most delicate job I know, especially broadcasters and interviewers dealing with current affairs, They have the responsibility and they also have one of the most potent means of slanting news or views if they so wish. This is their great responsibility and I think they will bear it reasonably well. We have all heard them being criticised but it is important to move away from this type of criticism: "He did not give me a fair break; the cameras were on a certain other person more often than on me". This is small and personally I have no time for it.

All politicians say that about the media.

(Dublin Central): Personally I do not; I have no time for it. I think we should get away from that kind of criticism because I do not think it does television any good. Politicians should be able to survive in their own right.

I had been writing something about how I thought television and broadcasting should work as regards interviews and matters like that. Almost every day RTE comment one way or another about the Ministers. Whether they like it or not I do not know but our job here is to put forward our views as to what we think is right and I was trying to write down what I thought of broadcast interviewing. Since television has brought more knowledge about politics and public policy as a result the voter is in a stronger position to decide who or what to support at election time. That is a contribution to democracy. Politicians are naturally sensitive to television and especially to news broadcasters handling them on a programme. This arises because a broadcaster is in a position, if he so desires, to lean towards or away from a politician or the party he represents. As no one interested in politics is neutral it follows that since the politicians have to take a side, it must often be difficult for a broadcaster to remain impartial as he also has a viewpoint.

The sensitivity of the politician arises from two natural reactions; one is that his own image and political future may be made or marred by television as well as the political party which he represents. The other is that if he is a responsible person he has to bear in mind the need for a continuing process of Government which must function in the interest of the common needs of the people. There is one fundamental difference between the position of the politician and the broadcaster: the politician throughout his active political life has traditionally to face the electorate and retain support for himself and his party. If he fails he has no prospect of fulfilling the aims or ideals. The broadcaster on the other hand, like the judge, the public servant or the bishop does not have to face the electorate. He has the knowledge that he can support the aims or ideals in which he believes as long as he wants to. But the role of the broadcaster is difficult. Often he may not have a broad understanding of the many demands of politics and he may only see things that he feels should be put right. He should act for the people and represent them in interviewing the politician. In fact it is Parliament that is elected to represent the people and the broadcaster finds that he is not as free to use television or radio as he would be if he were working in a newspaper. In the last analysis, both the politician and the broadcaster may need to understand a little more about the job and appreciate that each has a significant function to fulfill for the common good. I think that sums up the position between the politician and the broadcaster or interviewer, that he has a difficult role to fulfil as regards interviewing——

I apologise for interrupting the Deputy but purely for my own information and edification—what was the quotation?

(Dublin Central:) Some of it was my own and some extracts I got from books. I have no proper references. It was a mixture of both but if the Minister wishes I can let him have it.

Thank you; it was interesting.

(Dublin Central): This section includes a subsection which says:

The Authority is hereby prohibited from including in any of its broadcasts or in any matter referred to in paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section anything which may reasonably be regarded as likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State.

It has been put to me that the word "tending" is very vague in this context and if that word were deleted it would be easier for the Authority and those concerned with this section to interpret it.

Detail of this kind would be more appropriate on the Committee Stage.

(Dublin Central): I do not intend to go into the matter; I was merely saying this in passing. We shall certainly deal with it on the Committee Stage but I thought I should mention it now. I agree it is more appropriate to the Committee Stage.

I should like to refer to other parts of the Bill such as that dealing with the broadcasting commission which will be appointed by the Minister. Will it be seen to be impartial? Suppose the Minister appoints the people and perhaps I make a complaint to the commission about something I feel is unfair. There will be a feeling —and if I were on the opposite side of the House I would express the same view—that you could not expect complete impartiality when the commission are appointed by the Minister. I know they are away from the Authority and the Minister but that feeling is there all the time. Appointments to the RTE Authority are different from other appointments. Political appointments have been made in the case of judges and to semi-State bodies, Bord na Móna, CIE, ESB, but once these are named they can only direct the day-by-day working of the company and have nothing to do with the political formulation of policy in the way that RTE can. This is the sensitive area we are discussing. The Government have appointed these other appointees and there is no criticism. They have been very able and have done their jobs excellently.

I am not saying this is going to change completely. These are my views as regards RTE. I would like to see the service being as nonpolitical as possible because it has a very important role to play. I would like to see it stay in the centre of the arena, reflect views, entertain and give news. I am aware that this is a difficult thing to do; that it is difficult for a person to submerge his own views at all times but this is what will have to be done if the station is to be successful. I do not wish to criticise the station, I have not done so in the past and I will not do so in the future unless I have a very good reason. RTE should be allowed to give the best type of entertainment in education, news and current affairs as they are capable of doing.

The Minister mentioned the question of borrowing. I presume borrowing for the establishment of the network is already in progress. How far has this developed and what amount of capital has gone into it up to the present? In the Bill the Minister seeks to extend the borrowing power of the Authority to £15 million. Is it the intention of the Minister to permit the Authority to float a loan independently and outside the country or will the Authority borrow direct from the Minister for Finance? The Authority was confined to £4 million or £5 million and I should like to know if they have exceeded that figure? I am violently against borrowing abroad if it can be avoided at all but if there is no other means available it will create a greater burden on RTE as regards financing such a loan. What arrangements exist with regard to repaying interest on loans from the Department of Finance? If the Authority borrow abroad, rigid regulations will be placed upon them in regard to interest and the Authority would do better to borrow directly from the Minister for Finance.

Section 17, in effect, replaces section 31 of the old Bill. The substance is the same; the Minister is keeping certain powers to himself. This has been criticised by journalists but we agree that the Minister of the day must have some control. It is important, not that I doubt the integrity of the Director General of RTE or the staff in any way, that the Oireachtas must keep some control. Again in this section we find the words "tend to" and I will deal with them on Committee Stage.

In section 15 the Minister lays down regulations with regard to the amount of advertising on television. The amount of advertising on television agitates many people. We all know that 60 per cent of the revenue of RTE is from advertising but it can be annoying, particularly when viewing feature films, to have advertisements at brief intervals. I do not know whether this can be minimised. I would be more flexible with the Authority as to the amount of advertising and the timing of it; I would not confine advertising to any particular hour. When RTE were showing the fight between Ali and Frazier—I did not see the fight live—advertising destroyed the entertainment on that night. Before the final round an advertisement was shown with the result that viewers did not know of what was happening to Frazier. When the station returned live to the fight viewers saw that Frazier had retired. I heard many criticisms about that. I do not know whether it could have been avoided or not but it should be possible to give uninterrupted coverage at such a late stage in a fight. It is annoying for those who get up at 4 a.m. not to see the closing stages of a fight.

Local community radio could be developed in many areas. Last year during the Festival of the Liberties Radio Éireann did an excellent job in providing a local community station. The Minister should see if similar developments can be carried out in other parts of the country. In Ballyfermot there is a community television station and it is very entertaining to hear local people expressing their views.

The unfortunate part about this debate is that it is almost entirely confined to television. The radio has given an excellent service. Some years ago radio seemed to be in decline, probably because television had just commenced, but it has improved immensely in recent times.

The Minister mentioned that the financial situation of RTE is not healthy. No organisation or company I know of has fared well in the last 12 months and I do not know if because of their financial situation RTE have made an application for an increase in the TV licence. Has the Minister any figure in mind in relation to this? Naturally, inflation was one of the greatest problems for all companies last year and RTE has not avoided it either. The Minister stated RTE had made application for an increase in television licences. He said they had a deficit of £25,000 up to the end of September, or was it a surplus?

A small deficit.

(Dublin Central): RTE will also be caught by the best part of the national wage agreement and we cannot expect any increase in advertising revenue in present circumstances. When a firm suffers a reduction in profits they have to look around to see where they will effect an economy. They look at staffing and the various overheads and, of course, advertising has become very expensive. Therefore, apart from the deficit of £25,000, RTE can expect a fall in revenue. What will be the position at the end of 1976 or early 1977 when the second channel has been fully established? Apart from the operation of a second channel, whether BBC 1 or RTE 2, there will be substantial extra costs and this will mean an increase in TV licences. I will not quote from unreliable sources, but the increase must be in the region of at least £7 or £8.

The Minister had to consider what the economic situation is likely to be in 1976 when deciding to introduce this Bill. If he did not, he should have. One does not build a factory unless one can be sure one can open it and a shop is not built unless it is possible to open it. Capital expenditure cannot be allowed to lie dormant; it is too valuable today and has to be borrowed too expensively. Therefore I hope the Minister before deciding on a second channel took economic factors into consideration. I am sure the Minister had expert advice and that he took it before making his decision. If the Minister, having considered the possible economic conditions in 1976, said "Go ahead, invest this money, we will be able to afford it," I will not criticise him, but if it happens when the capital has been invested in installations all over the country that the Minister will say "Due to the economic situation we will have to defer this" I will be critical of him for his bad judgement. I am not in a position to do that at the moment.

It was the original decision of the Government that they should broadcast BBC 1 or UTV as a second channel. We expect a Government to be able to make sound, firm decisions. We expect that when a Bill is introduced it is after long consideration. There are Government Deputies who reflect the views of the people throughout the country and who should have been able to tell the Government what their constituents' views were in relation to the second channel proposed. It has been the Government's idea that they could decide what was best for the people. Now the people have spoken and in effect they have told the Government: "We have rejected your proposal. You were wrong. You were trying to say that the second channel should be BBC 1 or UTV". That is exactly what the people have said and the Government should think seriously about that and not say they know what is best for the people.

Henceforth we can get away from this discussion. I appreciate the views of those who were campaigning for multi-channel television throughout the country. One part of the country enjoys four or five channels and the rest do not. This, of course, is a geographical freak. The Minister knows that it was never possible, and will not be possible for a long time, to give the people outside Dublin the same stations as seen in Dublin. The day might come when we will be able to do that. If we were economically sound, if RTE did not have to depend on advertising and if the Minister were generous with his finances to RTE, they could compete with other stations. They could put on home produced programmes which would probably be an improvement on those being shown on foreign stations at the moment. Today we must accept this position as we find it.

If we are not satisfied with the programmes shown by the second channel we can come here and criticise them. Laws are changed every day of the week. The people have decided that the second channel should be entrusted to RTE. I think they are right. We have campaigned for this and I hope our views about a programme council will be reviewed seriously by the Authority and the Minister because in my view it will help us get away from the imbalance we see throughout the country today.

Once again I would like to thank the Minister for the advance copy of the survey forwarded to me some time ago.

I shall not delay the House very long. I listened with some interest to the greater part of the contribution by Deputy Fitzpatrick, Opposition spokesman. He harped on the allegation that at the outset the Minister took the wrong view on this question of a second channel. It is well to remember that after taking the views of the viewing public to the people who matter, the Minister in his public statement in the Seanad said he is quite prepared to accept the view of the public and take whatever preference they elected. This he is now doing. It is probably right to say, too, as I read it in the Minister's speech, that there was a considerable variation of the inflow of information during the period he was seeking the opinion on what type of second television channel we should have.

Deputy Fitzpatrick said that the first views were expressed by trade unions and the Minister had early warning of their views. I would like to take issue with the Deputy on one aspect of that. When one wants to get the views on a subject which is of nation wide interest, one does not merely take the views of organised bodies. It is vitally important to take the view of every type and stratum in society. This is what the Minister has done with the help and co-operation of RTE. They worked very well together and we now have a decision for a second channel, known as RTE 2.

At this stage I would like to point out that people lose sight of the fact that this Bill is not just concerned with a second TV channel. This is a broadcasting Bill which contains in nearly every section matters that are also applicable to radio broadcasts. It is important to bear that in mind. In his opening statement the Minister referred to the fact that the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, was the last Act which dealt with broadcasting affairs. This Bill largely extends that Act, builds on it and greatly improves it, and does so in the light of 15 years' experience. This is not a Bill which has been thought up overnight. There has been deep and careful consideration given to matters of broadcasting, be they television or radio. I would ask anybody taking an interest in this Bill to bear that in mind. In view of the excitement over the second channel many people have lost sight of the fact that this Bill deals with many other matters in addition to the second television channel.

I welcome the fact that the second channel will be RTE 2. My constituency is on the east coast. One might say that we welcome a second RTE channel because it will give us a fourth or a fifth channel. At the moment we enjoy all normal channels. In some cases in my constituency reception is better than in the Dublin area.

I would not like to see the second television channel as a more or less conduit pipe for British television— UTV or BBC 1. I take that attitude out of ordinary nationalist principles, as an Irishman, because no matter how independent the BBC authority may be from its Government in its day to day management, there is always the éminence grise behind a national television authority to the influence of a Government where national affairs are concerned, particularly vis-á-vis other countries and we would be the other country. Circumstances might arise whereby BBC 1 or any English channel might be used as a vehicle for that Government's propaganda. It might be that that propaganda was inimicable to Irish interests. For that reason I am glad we have RTE 2 which will be subject to the control and power of an Irish authority and in the ultimate to the authority of this House.

One of the reasons why people were interested in BBC 1 as a second channel was that there was criticism of the RTE Authority. People were asking if the Irish Authority were capable of running a second channel. Irish television has not been in existence for very long. It takes time for perfection and for standards to improve. There is still plenty of room for improvement. This view is not pro- or anti-RTE. It was expressed to me by my constituents and in public. They had some doubts as to whether RTE were able or competent to take on the extra burden of a second channel. It is natural enough to have critics of any authority or organisation. I think it played a part in some people opting for BBC 1.

I am glad to see the way the Minister puts the position of the second television channel, particularly when he refers to the matter of selection from the various existing British channels. There is also mention of "other overseas sources and additional home-produced material". Deputy Fitzpatrick has expressed the view that he hoped to see 20 per cent of the second channel produced from outside the Dublin area. I am sure the second channel will do its best to produce good Irish material, not just Irish material because it happens to be Irish.

If possible I should like the second channel to produce a fair amount of continental material. We are now part of the European family. From my viewing of the existing English channels that can be got here I think there is very little continental material appearing on them. There should be good scope for the second Irish channel to reproduce continental material. Europe has much to offer and if what I have suggested is done I am sure there would be a spirit of reciprocity and possibly the showing of Irish material, informing the Continent of what we have to offer, whether it is our national culture, our news or any other material that we produce that is of a good standard. If we concentrated on that aspect we would have the lead on the existing British channels, whether official British or commercial channels.

I am sure what I have said is the intention because the Minister in his speech when referring to the amendment of the original section 17 of the 1960 Act, which deals with the general duties of the Authority, stated that we should not be inward-looking in our programmes particularly so far as our national culture is concerned. It is a fair criticism to say that there has been a rather restricted view taken in the past as to our national historical culture. Possibly there is room for more looking round in that area, to enlarge our views on what should be included in that category.

I am glad that in this important section it is clearly and specifically stated that the Authority are required to uphold the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution. That is timely, well stated and most necessary. When speaking of the interests within the ambit of the Authority, I am glad to see that the section states:

In performing its functions the Authority shall in its programming—

(a) be responsive to the interests and concerns of the whole community, be mindful of the need for understanding and peace within the whole island of Ireland,...

That is well stated, well drafted and necessary in order to clear up any misunderstandings.

Deputy Fitzpatrick referred to the independence of the Authority. As the official spokesman for his party, I think he agrees the Minister must have some control. There is provision made for that and the Minister can prohibit certain programmes if he considers it advisable. It is open to any Member of the House to bring the matter before the House to revoke that order of the Minister. I take it that the Minister of the time will not take his duties too lightly in that regard and will think carefully before he takes steps. It is necessary to have that power in the Bill.

I do not want to appear to be too critical. My criticism is made with a constructive intent. I am particularly interested in what I would call the watchdog committee. Section 4 refers to the broadcasting complaints commission. It is very necessary having regard to present tendencies sometimes of certain members of the media not to brook any barriers, to go where they want, to publish or republish what they want. There is provision under this Bill with regard to matters of personal privacy and there is provision for the protection of that privacy. Section 4 is possibly the longest section in the Bill and it merits careful reading by all the public. Its existence should be advertised because it would give a certain confidence to those who might be a bit concerned sometimes with the ability or apparent freedom of the media to discuss, publish and circulate material. Naturally there is a reluctance on the part of a private individual to take proceedings in a court of law in regard to some matter that arises where he considers he is harmed. Under this section people may complain to this Authority and the consideration by the Authority of a complaint or request made under this section shall be carried out by the commission in private. I imagine there will be some procedure where if it is reported to me that an unfair or untrue comment on a radio or television programme had been made which I had not heard that I could have it played back to me as a complainant.

In order that the matter might be dealt with fully and properly, there should be some means whereby if any harm were done to any citizen he would have some redress. A showing on television might be very fleeting but it could also be very damaging if it were unfair or untrue. There is only one way in which that sort of situation can be dealt with, that is, that there be some record kept so that in the event of a complaint being made, a complaint which might have to be based on hearsay evidence, there would be a mechanism to deal with the situation; otherwise, a person making a complaint would be at some disadvantage and might have to seek out evidence, albeit that the damage may have been done already, so that the Authority could make the amende honorable at the first available opportunity.

There appears to be a lacuna in the Bill. I refer to the matter of privilege which, if not provided for, could be a serious omission. Would a complaint made to the commission be privileged? I should like to see provision for what I would call absolute privilege in a matter of that sort. In making a complaint a person might refer to persons outside the Authority but who became involved in the Authority's act or omission in some programme. I am aware of an act dealing with defamation at meetings, before certain committees and dealing with the newspapers. This may include radio and television to some extent but this is a subsidiary of the Authority. Whoever is involved in the drafting of this Bill should consider that aspect carefully if it is not provided for already because I could imagine people being afraid to make a complaint to the commission unless they were protected on the question of privilege. I have in mind something that occurred in relation to a disciplinary committee—I shall endeavour to camouflage as much as possible— but it was a sports-type organisation and everybody thought that complaints made were privileged but discovered that there was only a very vague qualified privilege covering their affairs.

I know that this committee are not being set up as a judicial committee in the sense of a court but it seems that they are to have certain powers. Whether they have sufficient teeth is another matter, a matter that will be discussed on Committee Stage. I am anxious to ensure that the good intention of this section and the principle behind the formation of this commission would not be negatived by any shortfall in regard to the matter of privilege.

This second channel television would be a means of goading and spurring the existing channel on RTE to do a little better. There is always room for improvement and it would be desirable that there be a slight competitive relationship between the two channels.

I welcome the opportunity of speaking on this Bill. I note that the first 12 pages of the Minister's brief are concerned with the Bill but that from there on it contains the Minister's expressed thoughts and further thoughts on broadcasting in general. These are welcome.

The Minister states that one aspect of the Bill will be to clarify and expand the duties of the RTE Authority in fulfilling their task of providing a national broadcasting service. This is good. Section 7, subsection (2), states that after RTE have recorded a broadcast they must retain the recording for 60 days. I welcome this provision because in the event of complaints being made to the commission they would have access to the records.

The Minister speaks of licences becoming available for people who wish to embark on the production of local programmes on a community television basis. We all know how important this development could be and what a powerful impact it could have in local communities. The Minister tells us that section 18 might be expanded to incorporate some form of complaints system also. He states that if there should be a great expansion in community and local television there might be a need for some form of standardisation, probably by way of a commission being set up to deal with complaints.

Already there have been a couple of trial efforts in this field. And I would suggest that at this stage there be established a commission for dealing with complaints so that this concept might get off to a good start. In the event of the company or an individual having a complaint against RTE it appears that they are free to go to the complaints commission, but is there any redress in the event of a wrong being perpetrated on a local television service? Is there any regulation in connection with the issuing of a licence to cable companies whereby they would have to retain their recordings for a specific period? Surely a local group should have to comply with the same regulations in this regard as are to apply to RTE.

I look forward to the development and expansion of community television because it will afford an opportunity to people at local level to express their views and is not life all about communication of this kind? The more open we are to views the better, provided they are sensible views. This brings me to programme material. I am not so keen on what I describe as low grade programmes. Situation comedies may be light entertainment but do they raise standards? Are they simply a means of passing the time? Is that a sufficient criterion? Is there any uplift in them morally or spiritually? I do not have an opportunity of watching much television but I cannot tolerate stereotyped programmes. Possibly they are necessary. The question is have we too much of them.

Survey is very much in the news at the moment obviously because of the survey undertaken to examine into the feasibility of a second RTE channel vis-à-vis BBC (Northern Ireland). Thinking of the violence that appears on our screen, I wonder has any kind of examination been carried out into some of the tragic happenings that have occurred to see if there is any relationship between what has happened and what has been witnessed on the television screen. I think such a survey would be important. There is too much violence on our screens. Occasionally one hears rumours that a tragedy occurred because of something witnessed on the television screen. Is there any foundation for that rumour? Have the Garda any views on it? Has a relationship sometimes been established? If there is any evidence, has the Minister any view on it? Has he used any influence on the RTE Authority to examine the situation? It is rather sad to read that a tragedy occurred because of something that was seen on the television screen.

We have a duty in regard to censorship and we must protect people. Of course, censorship can be a nasty word. I believe censorship means freedom for the majority to be protected from certain things. If those in authority do not see fit to regulate the viewing of younger members of the community, people whose minds have not been fully formed, is it their fault alone if some tragedy occurs as a result of viewing? Have we any responsibility? Has the Minister any responsibility? Ought we to have announcements prior to a programme that the programme may not be suitable for viewing by younger people? I know there is a certain section—fortunately it is very small—who do not believe in censorship. Sometimes I have seen children's programmes and sometimes I regret that my own children have been watching these programmes. Can anything be done? There is a certain responsibility on us in this regard.

Earlier I referred to the necessity for RTE to retain recordings for 60 days. Where community television is concerned there should be a proviso in the licence initially that programmes should be retained for a certain length of time. I have not read the Bill in great detail and possibly this is covered in the Bill. The Minister referred to it in general terms. I should like him to be a little more specific when he comes to reply. The first part of his speech dealt with the two main purposes of the Bill: there was a clarification and expansion of the duties of the Authority and the provision of greater authonomy and freedom within clearly defined statutory restraints. The Minister has said he will amend section 6 and I welcome that. The fourth part deals with the setting up of cable television. The Minister stated that:

...the first two arguments used to persuade viewers of the advantages of that service were as follows: 1. RTE 2 would be selected from BBC 1, BBC 2, the 15 ITV companies, other overseas sources, and additional home produced material.

2. RTE 1 plus RTE 2 would offer single channel viewers a range and variety of programmes as near as possible to those already available in multi-channel areas.

The Minister then makes an assumption. The people who were interviewed in the survey would, I believe, have had other influencing factors in the backs of their minds which would have a bearing on the answers they gave. I discussed this with people and many were concerned about our not having control over BBC 1 (Northern Ireland). The Minister did not allude to that. He passed over it as if it were unimportant. It is not unimportant. I believe it was that brought about the result of the survey. People want a say. A minority, fortunately small, do not supervise the viewing of the younger members of their families. We have a number of responsible people who did not want to be subjected to the rebroadcasting of an outside channel. I know they would have the option of switching off, but that is not the point. I went to the Library and looked at the night's viewing in some of the papers. Apart from two small items, involving about 12 minutes, BBC 1 and BBC 1 (Northern Ireland) had the same programmes. I take it those 12 minutes cover the news and current affairs or local news in the north.

I am very glad people are aware of the importance of controlling our own air waves. One of the key words in the two arguments was the word "selected". This indicates that we would have control. I do not agree with the Minister when he says the majority who voted for RTE 2, on the case presented for it, were voting for what they saw as the widest freedom of choice available to them. That is a narrow approach. There was much more to it than that. That is the Minister's interpretation of the survey, but I believe people felt they had a certain responsibility and, while they wanted entertainment, they also wanted our own people to have some say in what was being offered as entertainment.

There was a great deal of ballyhoo prior to the survey. That is not to say there was not a good debate and that there were not good articles. Many people feel the survey was used to distract attention from the state of the economy and from inflation and unemployment. These factors are relevant when we come to deal with the actual financing of RTE 2.

That would not be relevant to this debate.

I mentioned it and I came back immediately to the fact that it would be relevant to the economic situation and the fact that we must make money available for RTE 2. I wonder is that money available. When is it hoped that RTE 2 will be available? Is it next year or many years hence? Its availability will depend to a very large extent on finance.

During the past few years I put down parliamentary questions to the Minister about the 405 line and the 625 line transmission. As yet, this matter has not been fully resolved. RTE are still undertaking a study into the areas of poor reception and areas which may be without reception after the 405 line system has been withdrawn. Many parts of Wicklow should have available to them the 405 line reception and also the 625 line reception but, because of their location, they cannot get a picture on the 625 line system. It is not that the receivers are not suitable. They have the dual-type receiver. A picture cannot be picked up. Many constituents are wondering precisely what will happen when the 405 line system is withdrawn. I hope the matter will be clarified fairly soon.

The Minister said there is an application before his Department for an increase in the licence fees. We must all face up to that. At the same time, people who have receivers will be expected to pay the increased licence fee without having a service. Would the Minister look into that again, especially in relation to the Glenmalure area in Wicklow?

The difficulty about having only one channel is obvious. There are many groups who wish to have their own specialities available to them. With a second channel there might be an opportunity for more drama. We ought to have more drama on television rather than films. I do not watch very much television but I understand that we have a great number of films. Have we three per week or, perhaps, even more? Is there a great demand for these films? How do they rate on the RTE tam ratings? This seems to be a cheap way of filling in time which could be used for many other purposes.

School programmes have improved considerably. Many adults now watch these programmes in the day time even in the multi-channel areas. I wonder are these programmes advertised sufficiently. In many households, having finished her morning chores, the housewife would prefer to watch a programme on geography or something of that nature rather than a BBC programme. The programmes are well advertised in the schools but many of the adult population could obtain information from them if they were aware of them. Very often in the newspapers there is no mention of a programme at 11.30 a.m. or 12 noon. The impression is given that programmes for children start with "Sesame Street".

As the housewife has more devices to make life tolerable in the home and has more time to herself, she might take further interest in these if she knew of their content in advance. Indeed with the number of people idle at present, I wonder if RTE would consider some form of information programmes during the day, programmes showing basic skills or something of that nature in an endeavour to uplift the morale of such people. Perhaps such programmes would result in somebody finding a system of retraining, that a person might be stimulated by a certain programme which would activate him into purposeful employment. There are so many things we can do, but I wonder do we make the best use of our time?

There was no mention whatsoever in this Bill of a possible Telefís na Gaeltachta. Has any consideration been given to a possible television service for the Gaeltacht areas? Would it be too costly? The first 12 pages of the Minister's brief related to the Bill. Then we had 23 pages given to his views which have been expressed many times. I am glad the Minister accepts the result of the survey carried out. He takes this opportunity also of restating his case, one which the Government ought to realise now was not accepted. That survey was tantamount to a mini referendum and, to a great extent, the Government were on trial. They put their proposal to a section of the Irish people. Indeed the method of selection of those who participated in that survey has not been challenged by anybody in this House, as yet. The Government's proposals were rejected quite emphatically. Yet the attitude appears to be: Well, here it is; we presented the options to the people, the people decided, so what? But there are deeper implications than that. The Minister's assumption that viewers who opted for RTE 2 were opting for a service so defined, a service so defined that it would be selected from BBC 1, BBC 2, 15 ITV companies, other overseas sources and additional home-produced material is only touching the matter; it does not really scratch very deeply at all. The two Government parties were not in line with what the Irish people wanted. Do they realise what this means? There is a great significance to it.

I wonder will this be the first of many efforts in that direction? Will we see the Government coming up with further proposals stating their case to the people and finding that they are not in line? Is a survey envisaged for the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, to take one example, or on any other measures which may come before this House? Why have a survey on this Bill in particular? It has been a heavy defeat. The Minister laid on the line what he wanted. He made some wonderful appearances on television. There were two occasions when he appeared on "The Late Late Show" expressing his view and receiving good reception and applause. Yet, when it came to the crunch the result was two-to-one against.

Those questions were posed directly and answered. The Government appear to think they are in a much better position to go forward, "much better" being the operative words.

The Minister continued: I would now like to trace the implications of this choice in more detail.

Indeed he has traced the implications for the Irish people but I hope the Government have not overlooked the implications for themselves.

It was like the PR referendum.

Did the Deputy get the message after that one?

I was still in the recipient class of the children's allowances section of the community at that time.

I do not think the Deputy was.

Not at all, in the 1960s.

That will be the next result, two-to-one on our side.

I wondered what the Tánaiste's silence really meant but I know now the implications of what I was saying are beginning to sink in.

We are still waiting for the Deputy to come to a conclusion.

Will this be the end of it from the Minister's point of view? I know he has said he is recommending this decision to the Government. Will they immediately come up with the money and see that the wishes of our people are met? I am glad we shall not have another survey on this issue but I would ask still: are any further surveys envisaged in respect of any other Government Bills which might come before this House?

On the aspect of a person being appointed to the Authority, then being removed and a motion of that nature coming before this privileged House, I have certain reservations.

Could this not be done through a committee? I often wonder if this is the best forum. Would the member of the Authority so involved have the right to state his case? Is this the best way of doing things? It would appear as if the Minister has decided that it is, but perhaps we shall see some amendments on this later on.

Details fall to be dealt with on Committee Stage.

I was hoping that later on we might have some amendments to this. On the general principle, I am not too happy with the fact that the circumstances of an individual could be bandied around this House without his having some method of stating his own case. This is an extremely short Bill. There is practically nothing in it now that the contentious section has been omitted. The Minister's brief could be summed up in possibly six pages. I do not have his ability to stretch the subject over 35 pages. Therefore I will conclude and look forward to Committee Stage and the amendment of the Bill.

This Bill, while not setting up a second RTE channel, leaves the door open for that possibility. We heard the wise men from the east all looking for a second channel. They have already got the best of two worlds. They have got the BBC along their coastline——

On a point of information——

I am in possession.

On a point of information. I reside in an area where only RTE is received.

There might be a mountain along that coast.

Where does the Deputy live?

The Minister passes me regularly. I often wave to him.

And he does not get BBC?

Is there a mountain between you? Mountains might be molehills if we had a second BBC channel, and the Deputy would be as quick to switch it on as anyone else. I never heard of anyone switching off BBC on radio when he wanted it. I am not belittling RTE as it is, but I hear a lot of this bunkum around the country, this question being used as a political football. As I say, they have the best of two worlds and they want another one. In the west we have Hobson's choice, take it or leave it.

I must go down to Wexford and take up residence.

As a visitor.

I did not interrupt the Deputy.

The Deputy——

Is it that he was not drawing children's allowances——

The Deputy should not become personal.

It says in the Minister's speech the survey was carried out by Irish Marketing Surveys Ltd. I question how that was done. I live in a very populous area and I have never heard of one of these fellows coming in. It might be one of these "gallop" polls—a gallop in and a gallop out. How did they come to the conclusion that people do not want BBC? I would like to know how this survey was approached. Let me remind the House of the municipal authorities meeting in Cork. I think some of the Members of this House can remember it well—I happened to be in the chair and took no part— and the vote of the municipal authorities representative of all Ireland was 58 to five in favour of BBC.

We talk of the damage the BBC is going to do to us. There is more damage done to our people by drink advertisements today than the BBC could do to them. We can get BBC on radio if we want it. I have never heard Fianna Fáil denouncing it or trying to jam it. If they do not want BBC they can switch it off. They are going to dictate to the people in the west. They have this attitude: To hell or to Connacht.

The Deputy ought to read the Minister's speech before he starts speaking on it.

I am not so much interested in the Minister's speech as in the views of the people. That is what I am sent here to express, and I do not want anybody to interrupt me while I am doing it. At a county council meeting in Galway we were described as little Englishmen—by little Fianna Fáil amadauns with no background—for voting in favour of BBC 1.

The Deputy is becoming personal.

I am only pointing out what was personal to me. I challenge the background of those who said we were little Englishmen. My background is good. If BBC is to pollute us and make little Englishmen of us, then Dublin must be soaked with little Englishmen. We talk of Irish culture. What is the present station dependent on? If you think back you will find we had the "Fugitive", a good programme, "Kojak", "Upstairs Downstairs" and so on. Every night of the week they depend on outside programmes. Are we to have another station doing the same thing? If they cannot cater as it is, how will they cater on the double? I am reminded of the souvenirs we find in tourist shops, perhaps an Irish leprechaun, but turn him upside down and he is "made in Japan". It is the same with these programmes. They are all made somewhere else. I am not saying there is anything wrong with them.

Was the Deputy at the showing today that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries had?

Listening to all the "bull" the Deputy has been putting up here tonight, that is where he should have gone. As I say, I challenge this marketing survey. Why employ a marketing survey to do a job like this? Two or three girls in the Minister's Office could send out a questionnaire to every licence holder in the single channel areas asking: "Do you want it or do you not?" It is as simple as that. I know the reply that would be received because I have my ear to the ground and I hear the views of the people. I would like to know how RTE can supply a second station if they cannot give us an Irish programme for one night without depending on the BBC or the United States for films.

We have the "Late Late Show" which holds our interest. There are some other programmes I would like to comment on. I would like to see on Irish television something enlightening for the country. There could be a first-aid programme to help young people to be more responsible and helpful to their neighbours. RTE could do a lot in this respect. I would like, if possible, to see the news first in Irish on one programme and a few minutes afterwards to see it in English on another: This would be of great help to the language. People who did not understand Irish would know what was said when they heard it in English afterwards.

RTE have done a fairly good job in their own field but I fail to see how they can look after a second station when they cannot fully cater for one. Our culture is one of the most abused things in the country. We often hear somebody singing through the medium just because he has a few words, but he can no more sing than my kettle. These are some of the things that are dubbed Irish culture. We have heard some good things in Irish but because such a man is a friend of somebody he is allowed sing. This should not be dubbed Irish culture. It leaves a lot to be desired. I ask the Minister not to be guided by a group that nobody knows of. He should send out the questionnaire to the people in single channel areas and act on their replies. I do not see why people in the Pale should tell the west what they should have.

They were not all in the Pale. Some of them were in the west.

I saw the Deputy watching English television one night and he did not switch it off.

What will the Deputy do when the Minister recommends it?

This is a democratic institution. I am expressing my views and those of the people I represent.

The Deputy has BBC and I know the line he will take. People like the Deputy will tell those of us who live in the west what we will have.

I am in the Pale and I have not got the BBC.

If there is a vote tomorrow the Deputy will follow the Party line and he will want BBC.


We will not be told by the wise men from the east what we will have. They have been dictating to the west for far too long.


Deputy Coogan on the Bill.

How was the gallup poll taken? It was a gallop in and a gallop out. I never heard of anybody being questioned by this group. I challenge them in relation to who they were. I will bring them to the people in my town and I will get the answer for them.

Deputy Coogan on the Bill.

The Minister is acting on the marketing survey report. He said RTE are confident that such a two-channel national service would be most popular. How can they be sure of that when the present one is not so popular? How will they divide it? Will they give half to one section and the other half to another? We will have to import more films. There will not be enough Kojaks to go around. This is what RTE have been giving us, so why are they now saying they will give us Irish culture? The wise men from the east will not open their mouths to condemn the BBC. It is about time the people were given their choice. We saw gallup polls in the country before and we saw how wrong they were. I warn everybody about this type of vote. I do not accept it because I have my ear to the ground. I was in the chair in Clonakilty and we know what was expressed there by the municipal authorities of Ireland. I am telling the Minister what I want and I do so fearlessly.

I was convinced, as Deputy Coogan went on speaking, that he had not read the Minister's brief. Perhaps he did not feel in any kind of penitential mood tonight.

On a point of order, the Deputy was not here when I was speaking. I referred to many points.

That is not a point of order.

The Deputy said that this survey was decided by the people in the east but he can see, in relation to his own county, there was a bigger vote for RTE 2 than for the BBC. The Minister and the Government, during the last few months, have put on a wonderful charade which succeeded not in deciding whether or not control of the second channel should be handed over to RTE or the BBC but in keeping the people's minds off much more serious matters. As we head west these days over towards Mayo I notice many women carrying buckets of water from pumps and wells.

And they have been doing it for many years and what did Fianna Fáil do about it?

I am saying that the Government would be better employed in relieving the needs of people as regards water——

You were going to drain the Shannon.

The Deputy should deal with the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Bill.

He has gone into liquidation.

The Minister referred to W.B. Yeats who spoke about accepting "our proper dark". I think from listening to Deputy Coogan that he has accepted "our proper dark" in his contribution. The Minister is off-handed in accepting the result of the survey, of course. This is really big of him but he knows quite well that had the result of the survey been otherwise and if the people had voted for a transfer of power to the BBC it would not have taken him anywhere near getting a second choice of station because the trade unions and Equity and even the British trade unions would ensure that this did not happen. Even if the Government were able to surmount these difficulties there would be the question of money. I fear Deputy Coogan will still have to accept that even though the survey showed a certain result he is no nearer a multi-channel service than before the survey.

The Government must take this result as a challenge and reminder to them that they are not in touch with the people. This was the idea of the Minister who foisted it on the Government and the Government acquiesced rather tamely. The survey result has saved the Government a great embarrassment but at the same time the Government must admit that they tried to get the people to accept this part of their policy and it has been rejected. It is, therefore, right to ask when will the Government give all the people a chance of deciding a bigger issue, the continuance of the Government.

The Deputy should deal with the Bill.

I do not intend to deviate but I wanted to draw the analogy because the principle is the same. In this case to find out what the people think the Government arranged a market survey. Surely it follows that on the issue of say 104,000 unemployed or on the state of the economy generally——

The Deputy may not proceed on that basis. We cannot make analogies and move on to a different subject matter quite apart from the context of the Bill.

The Bill proposes to spend £11 million that we have not got.

We cannot argue economic matters on this Bill or any payment in regard to future development.

The Bill proposes to spend £11 million and there is no hope in hell of getting it.

That may be debated at another Stage.

I bow to the ruling of the Chair but I submit that when there is a financial provision in the Bill, as there is, I may mention inflation and inflation alone may defeat the Bill since the money would not be there. We have much more serious things to discuss and I believe this is only a big attempt by the Government to divert people's attention from the burning questions which I may not mention but which still exist and the Government must be called on to pay some attention to them.

The fact that section 6 is deleted from the Bill has taken a great deal of meat from it and what follows is of less importance. The Government have given us a document which it appears to me Deputy Coogan would not agree with and one cannot blame him. But the television service is very important, not because you cannot have BBC or some other English channel or because if, by accident, you live on the east coast you can have BBC, UTV or ITV or any of them. I do not regard this as a very serious issue. I do not suggest that those receiving BBC can become more anglicised than they can become by reading English papers. Nobody can or will try to stop people from reading English papers if they want to do so. My point is that we regarded the attempt by the Government to hand over control of a broadcasting service to another country as wrong—not the fact that BBC programmes would be shown in all parts of the country but the fact that the attempt was made to hand over ultimate authority for the broadcasting of television programmes to another country. No country in the world does this and those interviewed in the survey answered as people in any other country would answer if the same issue were put to them.

Therefore, one feels grave doubt about the ability of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to handle anything regarding broadcasting, this most important part of the media. The Minister here this evening acted, and for the past few months has been acting in a most pedantic manner, talking down to the people and telling them what he thought was good for them. The people have rejected his approach to the matter and in many countries a Minister would accept this indication as a rejection of his ideas and it might well be suggested that the Minister here should offer his resignation to the Taoiseach. I do not know if he will do that but the Taoiseach must have lost whatever confidence he had in his Minister on seeing his ideas rejected because even though the Government sanctioned the proposal, in fairness to many Members of it, I do not think they would be wholeheartedly behind it. The fact that I live on the east coast and can enjoy—if that is the word—outside programmes is not the issue. The issue was: should we hand over control of some of our television programmes to another country?

How can you call the Minister arrogant when in fact, he arranged the survey to see what the people wanted?

Do not forget that was the second thought. The first thought was to hand it over. It was only when the trade unions objected and said they would not work this idea that he thought that if he could get public opinion behind him on the matter the trade unions would have to agree. It was only then he thought of this. If he could have got away with his first idea he would have done so. The Parliamentary Secretary need not try to defend him. Deputy Kelly did not get the point I was making which was that this was an attempt to hand over control. Deputy Kelly now says that the Minister was not arrogant in arranging this survey but the arranging of it was a second thought. By that time he had aroused the ire of the trade unions, of Equity and the British trade unions and even the BBC. That corporation were not sure if this could be implemented if it was accepted here.

It does not matter whether they were first thoughts or second thoughts; he was willing to submit his judgement for the purpose of ascertaining what the people wanted. That is something no Fianna Fáil Minister ever did.

We put our policies before the people on several occasions and on most occasions were returned.

Did Fianna Fáil ever think of having a survey on compulsory Irish?

I am not going to discuss compulsory Irish now. The Parliamentary Secretary is sore that the survey was rejected.

As a matter of fact I am glad the result went the way it did and I hope to speak on this later.

A few moments ago I said I believed some Members of the Government were not behind this and I am glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary telling the House that he was not behind the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in this regard.

As I am not a Member of the Government I am free to have my own views on that.

That is splitting hairs. I believe other Ministers will tell us the same thing as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us. I can see the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs being isolated in this regard and being the only man wanting the rebroadcasting of BBC.

The Minister never said he wanted BBC. He said he wanted the people to have a choice and I am solidly behind him on that.

He had second thoughts on it. He told us of the glories and virtues of the BBC. I am not criticising the BBC who put out some fine programmes but we have learned tonight that the Government were not united on this matter. That is a step forward. I knew there were decent men like the Parliamentary Secretary who were not behind the Minister's proposal. The Minister told us that he accepts the people's verdict, but he must. What else can he do? Is he going to try to team up with some other television service?

What the Minister laid down was a perfect example of how Government should be conducted.

Having said that will the Parliamentary Secretary now support the holding of a survey on the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill?

We cannot proceed with this debate by way of question and answer across the House. This is a Second Stage debate and the Chair is not concerned with interruptions but with what the Deputy in possession is saying on Second Reading.

I am sorry Deputy Kelly is so unruly tonight.

I am sure Deputy Moore remembers that when Fianna Fáil decided to abolish a number of local authorities they did not consult anyone; they said they were going ahead with their plan.

Some years ago the Parliamentary Secretary's side of the House abolished Dublin Corporation.

We are getting into irrelevancies and we must get back to the Bill.

There is grave confusion on the Government side. If Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Kelly permit me to do so I will confine my remarks to the Bill. I hope the play-acting of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is over and that he will now get down to helping RTE to give us a good television service. I am talking about a service for the whole country. The Minister mentioned the pan-Irish programme and I should like to know how far he has got in trying to get the British to accept that we could have a programme which would show the best of the Irish character whether it is on the Shankill Road or in west Cork. The Government, and RTE, must give us programmes which are good, educational and entertaining. I sympathise with the Authority in that they are often compared with the BBC which has been in operation for more than 40 years. It should be remembered that RTE, as well as being in financial straits, is only 14 years in operation. It is laughable when talking of the second channel to consider that the Government cannot get enough money to run one channel properly. We all know that RTE cannot generate enough income to run the station as they would like to.

The Government have come forward with grandiose schemes and mentioned figures as high as £4 million but they cannot afford to give money for essential things like schools. I attended a meeting tonight of a parents' committee of a local school who were promised that work on a new school would commence this year but so far it has not started. The last despairing effort of the Minister for Education was to ask the committee what kind of native fuel they intended using, as if that mattered.

What has that to do with the Bill?

It is relevant.

Deputy Moore is getting to the point because he is about to ask that a television crew go out to have a look at the site to make the public aware of what is going on.

The Deputy should get back to the Bill.

What I have stated is relevant because a few moments ago Deputy Flanagan was discussing the abolition of local authorities.

I said that the Deputy's party would not carry out a survey to ascertain public opinion.

We knew what public opinion was and we did not miscalculate it like the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

In regard to the abolition of local authorities the Deputy's party miscalculated.

We did not. Who wants town commissioners?

If that is the best contribution the Deputy can make it is not a good one.

I can make more but to compare RTE with the abolition of town commissioners is a way out.

That is the kind of contribution I would expect from Deputy Lalor on a Bill of this kind.

Interruptions from any side of the House are out of order.

It is Deputy Flanagan who is interrupting.

I have great respect for the Deputy's views and the Deputy knows that.

The school I was talking about could not be rebuilt because there is no money for it. This Minister has glibly promised to give millions to RTE but it is not there. The Minister wasted enough time on the survey even though we tried to convince him that his views were wrong and that he was completely out of touch with the people. He has come here, like a school teacher, to tell us what is good for us and that if we want to be broad, cosmopolitan people we must have BBC, ITV or some other station.

The Government have used this Bill to keep people's minds off real issues. Nobody can convince the Minister that people want other things. He comes in here and in a grandiose way accepts the results of the survey—

Is that not democratic? Was he not right?

Deputy Coogan did not agree with him.

If there had not been a survey would Fianna Fáil not be looking for one? It was most democratic.

I wonder how much money the survey cost the country?

The Minister knew he was wrong and he had to get a way out.

The Minister is a member of the Labour Party——

So they say, anyway. He had the trade unions up against him. The Minister has shown that the Government cannot raise the money to implement the second channel proposal and in the Bill he is giving RTE power to borrow abroad. I suggest we have reached the limits in foreign borrowing.

This Government can account for every penny piece and that is more than Fianna Fáil did. They should be the last people to talk about money. They cannot account for what they were spending.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

As I was saying when interrupted by Deputy Flanagan——

Does the Deputy know where Mayo is?

As I was saying, the Minister's gimmick about BBC 1 or UTV served the purpose of diverting attention from more serious matters. It created the impression that the Government had the money to help to finance a second channel. Today, television plays a very big part in the lives of our people and we are entitled to an attempt by the Minister to ensure that the very best we can afford is given. We had an interesting announcement from the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Kelly, that he was not behind the Government in this survey. Some Members may not have heard me. The Parliamentary Secretary said he was not behind the Government in this survey. RTE have to show certain outside programmes anyway. They have been showing US programmes and some of them have been very good. One can realise their trials trying to keep going so many hours per day with limited resources and one can appreciate why they went out to preach to the people that they were capable of running a second channel. The people who participated in the survey have backed them up. We take it, therefore, that the Government will seriously get down to the job of helping the RTE Authority but this Bill does little to give them power to borrow abroad.

I am very apprehensive because of the Government's handling of this. They seemed to have been prepared to give away control of TV broadcasting to another country if it would save money and this brings home to us the frightful financial predicament the country is in. RTE cameras can go anywhere but to suggest they would show the queues at the unemployment exchanges is too harrowing. The Government and the Taoiseach must seriously consider the future of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the Minister must take seriously the rebuff he has got from the people in the survey. It would be sufficient to ask that the Minister should consider changing his portfolio.

The Deputy must deal with the principles of the Bill or what is in it.

This is the only Government in the world which took their involvement in the national television service in such a lighthearted manner. One cannot imagine France handing over her service to Germany or vice versa or the Danish Broadcasting Authority handing over their service to Sweden. We have many problems which might be helped by television.

We asked the Government to show "Open University" which would be a great boon to our educational service. If we cannot afford to build schools we could bring into each home this educational programme for adults which would not cost a great deal of money. RTE are doing their best at the moment. They will be the cat's paw in the Government's scheme and will be blamed for the shortcomings of the national television service. They are starved financially and told to borrow abroad. From the figures for RTE given in the Minister's speech they may find it very difficult to borrow abroad.

Some people may dream of the day when we have a fine television service. My dream is to see a service without advertisements. I commend the BBC in this respect. At the moment if one wants to watch a programme on RTE one must watch advertisements because no programme can be seen right through without a break. Until the Government do some rethinking on the financing of television, RTE, unfortunately, must continue to sell time. I cannot see an end to this. If the Government decide to have a purely commercial station it would be very easy and economical to run such a station showing only canned material. We must ask ourselves if such a station would be worth running. Unless the Government have a financial plan for RTE, the Authority will be forced to buy more and more canned programmes, whether American or British. This will mean a lean time for our actors because the money will not be there for home-produced programmes. This may drive more and more people on the east coast in desperation to look at other channels. This would be a grave error.

No matter what the Minister says, I see no hope for the service unless there is a change of heart or a change of Minister who will bring some new thinking on the subject and give the people what they want and not what the Minister thinks they want. I believe we have many men and women of ability both inside and outside RTE who can present good home-produced programmes. I do not want to sound insular and reject outside programmes, but I believe in today's world that no man is an island: it might even be said that no country is an island. We must develop our national genius. We should be able to develop such a television service that because of its excellence we will be able to sell our programmes to other countries. A short time ago an RTE production won a prize at an international competition. I am convinced that RTE, despite its many faults, have men and women who, if given the opportunity and financial backing, could make it a better station so that people might not want to watch other stations. This is the ideal at which RTE must aim but they must be assured by the Government that they will have sufficient backing and freedom.

When another Government was in power we often heard criticism from the Minister about the interference of the then Government in the RTE service. We know that if RTE step out of line, or appear to do so, the present Government, through the Minister, will rap them on the knuckles. When in Opposition the Minister was a great liberal but now he is in Government it is a different situation. He is now trying to tell the people what is good for them but the small number of people interviewed in the survey, exercising their democratic rights, have rejected his proposal. This is a healthy sign because it shows that the State was not able to take over completely.

Far from being a gesture by the Government, in my opinion they took the easy way out of an embarrassing situation when they realised that the trade unions—Equity or the Irish and British unions—would not allow this new transfer of power from RTE to the BBC. In years to come people may look back and wonder at a Government who contemplated such a step.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 29th October, 1975.