asked the Minister for Communications whether he will introduce foreign language programming to be distributed by Cablelink for a few hours a day on an opt-out basis.
Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Foreign Language Programming.
This is essentially a matter for Cablelink. Apart from RTE 1 and RTE 2 television which must be carried as a condition of the cable licence, it is a matter for cable companies to decide the services they wish to relay and seek my permission.
I understand that, given the low level of general interest in foreign language services as evidenced by the market research carried by cable companies last year and the current limited channel capacity on the existing cable system, Cablelink decided against relaying the available foreign language channels for the time being. However, if Cablelink sought my approval to carry such a service, I would not place any obstacles in their way. On the contrary, I would encourage them.
How does this tally with the Minister's suggestion during the Estimate debate last week that he would pursue the possibility of foreign language programmes on an opt-out basis on Cablelink service? Further, does he have, under his "must carry" powers, the possibility of requesting a small number of hours of foreign language programmes?
I assured the Deputy, when we discussed the matter on Friday last on the Estimate, that I would ask Cablelink about it. I assure the Deputy that I shall do that. I regret that they have not made an application to me. I would like to see foreign language programmes carried for some of the spare hours available, even a couple of hours per day or every second day. In the context of 1992 and our membership of the Community, it is important that we have a greater knowledge of foreign languages. This would be one way of doing that. Unfortunately, for commercial reasons Cablelink have not been carrying such programmes, but I would encourage them to do so. I agree fully with the sentiments as expressed in the Deputy's question.
Would the Minister envisage using his powers to require them to carry such programmes?
I would envisage trying to persuade them at this stage and then we shall see how we go from there.