Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 18 Jun 1991

Vol. 409 No. 9

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Television Legislation.

Patrick McCartan


9 Mr. McCartan asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if he is planning any amendments to the Broadcasting Act, 1990; if he is planning, to lift the capping of RTE's advertising; whether he is planning to divert any of RTE's licence revenue to privately owned stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Toddy O'Sullivan


10 Mr. T. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if he has any plans to introduce amending legislation to the Broadcasting Acts, 1988 and 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Toddy O'Sullivan


12 Mr. T. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if he will amend the Radio and Television Act, 1988, in the light of the fact that some commercial stations are experiencing difficulties in their news output owing to a lack of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Austin Currie


156 Mr. Currie asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications whether he intends to propose changes in the Broadcasting Act, 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 10, 12 and 156 together.

I have no proposals at this time to amend either the Radio and Television Act, 1988, or the Broadcasting Act, 1990 or to make any further changes in the funding arrangements for RTE. This is a rapidly developing area, the Act is not yet a year old and I am monitoring it very carefully and assessing its progress in achieving the broadcasting policy objectives.

Would the Minister agree that while the Act is not yet one year old it is a shambles with regard to the objectives he spoke about earlier in terms of attempting to engender a viable independent broadcasting network? Is the Minister aware that long before the end of this year RTE will have reached their capping level of funding available and will have to cease advertising entirely with all of the disastrous results that will have in diverting much needed revenue to foreign broadcasting outlets? Is the Minister telling us that he intends to sit back and fiddle while the whole advertising revenue of RTE is diverted abroad?

No. The Act is not that old. We cannot go around changing legislation every couple of months. When we pass complex legislation we have to assess how it works. I am watching the legislation very carefully and I am having discussions with a broad range of interests in the broadcasting sector. It is appropriate to monitor the legislation to see if the objectives of the Act are being met. The objective was to establish a fair, competitive broadcasting environment for all the participants. It is premature to try to make a decision one way or the other. RTE's financial situation, by any measure is reasonably healthy at the moment; figures available to me indicate that RTE are in a good financial position. We will take that into account as well as the performance of the other stations, the possible future for TV3 and so on and we will monitor the Act over the months ahead. That is the sensible thing to do rather than to rush into major changes at this stage.

If the Act has not achieved what the Minister's predecessor set out to achieve — the levelling of the playing pitch — it could be said that despite the fact that the Act is only one year old, it has prematurely aged as already many flaws have appeared in it. According to the report the Minister mentioned earlier about 43 per cent of advertising has now gone to what is referred to by the advertising trade as below the line advertising, sponsorship, sales promotions and things like that.

The failure of the IRTC to introduce community radio is another area where the Act has failed. To say that RTE are in a fairly sound financial position is an indictment of the Government because so many jobs were sacrificed. It confirms what people on this side of the House said during the passage of this very controversial legislation.

I can only hold to what I have said, that I am watching this legislation very carefully and that I regard it as too early to make changes. I will take careful account of what the Deputy has just said when monitoring whether the objectives of the legislation are being met.

With regard to what the Minister said earlier, I put it to him that he is missing the point. Does the Minister accept that whether TV3 get the go ahead, they will not be in place by September of this year and by which time RTE will have reached their capping level of revenue from advertising and that an appalling vista is emerging where our national TV and radio service will not be able to advertise so that all the advertising revenue will be diverted abroad?

Brevity please.

While there is no question about the financial viability of RTE which has been at the cost of a great number of jobs——

The Deputy has made his point rather effectively.

——whatever the Minister does with the body of the legislation——

Deputy McCartan, I wish to call another speaker before concluding Priority Questions.

I am just finished, leaving the corpus of the legislation in place, does the Minister intend to address this problem sooner rather than later?

"An appalling vista" is a slight exaggeration with regard to advertising.

It is not too much——

My Department are in constant touch with RTE on this and other subjects and it does not necessarily work the way the Deputy pointed out — that on a particular date advertising ceases.

How would it work?

There may be other approaches to even it out——

Like what?

——throughout the 12 month period.

It is your Act, we have all read it.

Order, please.

My Department are discussing those options with RTE at the moment.

The time for dealing with Priority Questions is well nigh exhausted. A final question from Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan.

Has the Minister any intention of allowing the commercial radio stations to shed their news content, which content is required by the Act? Already one of the major commercial stations has dismissed some of their senior news staff and there is the possibility that they will try to jettison any news casts from these commercial stations. Could the Minister give the House an assurance that this will not happen?

The Deputy is referring to the 20 per cent current affairs and news rule. That is a wide ratio. In the last few months I visited a number of these stations and they are more than meeting this requirement. I am sure it is not coincidental that the stations meeting the requirement are among the most successful stations. I support the retention of the 20 per cent rule.