Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill, 2000 [ Seanad ] : Second Stage (Resumed).

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

The board's functions should be not only to foster talent and creativity but also to foster trade and entrepreneurial spirit and flair. It must become involved in productions as a major partner with sales on a global market. Most of our productions do not sell on a global market. They get a few weeks' run in the Irish Film Centre and are then confined to the archives. Distribution and marketing is critical, hence the need and importance of strategic partnerships with international producers as equal partners.

The Irish Film Board's enhanced role in encouraging television productions is welcome. The linking of TV3 with Granada Television is very exciting. Granada Television is one of the bigger global producers of drama and TV3 must be encouraged by the Irish Film Board to explore with Granada the possibility of developing international projects for an international audience. We must encourage film production, of which we are proud as a nation, for an international audience. At the same time we must realise that the best cinema sometimes may not reflect positively on our society – films such as "Angela's Ashes", "My Left Foot", "The Commitments" and "A Love Divided" certainly do not convey the typical Bord Fáilte image of Ireland, but were successful.

In her contribution the Minister said our films must reflect the culture of Ireland, but they must reflect the culture, warts and all. We must be blatantly honest in our representation of issues even if to do so is not complimentary to us as a nation.

The performance of the Irish Film Board must also be measured in a broader perspective. Irish films must travel and portray things about Ireland and the world. The board must foster talent as well as subsidising film production. Also, it is no longer good enough simply to make a film. In the USA, for example, 20% of finance goes into research and development and 40% goes into distribution and marketing the product.

We must wait for the board's five year strategy plan. The Kilkenny report recommended that section 481 of the Finance Act should be extended for seven years, but in the most recent Finance Act it was extended for only five years. By the time the board has published its five year strategy, one of the five years specified under section 481 will be over. Surely, the section should be further extended in the forthcoming budget to at least cover the period of the strategic plan. If the Kilkenny report recommendations are inter-dependent, then it is important they are all implemented as soon as possible. The thrust and intent of the Minister's speech is good but it lacks a sense of urgency to put all the elements in place. Also the film board funding should allow for inflation. Irish producers must form strategic alliances as equals and must bring to the market place something that is different and stands out. We have the scripts, the entrepreneurial spirit and a global audience to be conquered. To conquer that market, the involvement and identification and targeting of equity investors is important.

The American film industry is driven by equity investors. We have that type of climate in Ireland yet. It would be great if we could get people such as Denis O'Brien and Tony O'Reilly to invest in the film industry. There is a great deal of money around but we look at the section 481 option all the time when perhaps we should seek more equity investment as in America. A typical Irish film costs about £2 million to £3 million which is a good deal of money whereas a truly successful film internationally, apart from the exceptions such as "The Full Monty", would cost £20 million to £30 million which is almost half that provided for in the Bill. We should look at the scale of our ambition which must be put in context. We must seek to promote our cinema on the same level as that which "Riverdance" has done for dance, as U2 has done for music and as Martin McDonagh and the Druid Theatre have done for drama.

I will refer briefly to the area of training. Given the decline in the training role of RTE and the dramatic growth, interest and participation in the multi-media sector the question is whether there is enough expertise available for this buoyant sector. Perhaps the time is opportune to consider establishing a national film school – a school of expertise and excellence which would co-ordinate all the current training and education programmes and develop them further and seek to have on its teaching staff the best expertise in the world. There is no reason we could not bring in visiting lecturers, top directors, top editors, top camera people, designers, and photographers to the school. If we are to take the film industry a step further this is a type of scenario that must be considered. This centre of excellence I am proposing may be what is needed to provide the expertise to move the industry on to a higher level of excellence.

On the issue of decentralisation, bringing the screen commission under the ambit of the Irish Film Board is welcome. I am a member of County Kerry screen commission but it is difficult to do any business because of the 40 mile SIPTU rule. Where any Irish crew travels, say, 40 miles from St. Stephen's Green, it has to get overnight maintenance and travelling expenses of varying amounts with the result that it would have cost a film production company, such as Hallmark, which came to Ireland to film John B. Keane's "Durango", almost £0.5 million more to film it in Kerry. I hope the screen commission, under the ambit of the film board properly resourced, would take cognisance of the existence of county film commissions around the country. There are major opportunities to be exploited.

There are also other aspects of the film industry such as script writing. The film industry is not just happening in Dublin, it can happen all over the country and there must be a decentralisation policy to involve the whole country, to give assurances to people who are trying to write scripts on the periphery of Ireland. There are people in Dingle doing distance work with companies all over the world but that must be encouraged. I witnessed the effect of one short-cut film entitled "Most Important", about a greyhound. The impact which that film had on a small community in Lixnaw, County Kerry, was enormous. We could have 20 more such films. On one level we have to look at the national aspect but on the other hand we have to look at the local aspect.

I welcome the thrust and intent of the Minister's statement which contained many new policy proposals. The question now is to put them in place. We have a thriving industry to foster. Various elements must be put in place to ensure its potential will be realised.

Ba mhaith liom i dtosach fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo agus fáilte freisin roimh an méid airgid atá á chur ar fáil ag an Aire don Bhord chun a chuid oibre a dhéanamh. Cuirim fáilte chomh maith roimh ráiteas an Aire nuair a chuir sí in iúl go mbeidh ceanncheathrú an Bhoird i nGaillimh.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this important though short Bill. It gives an indication of a commitment by the Government to the development of the film industry in Ireland. It is appropriate to pay tribute not only to the Minister but to her many predecessors who initiated the work of the Irish film industry in Ireland and particularly the previous Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, who endeavoured to secure financing in more difficult times to allow the Irish Film Board to develop the film industry in Ireland. The Bill provides that funding shall be increased from £30 million to £80 million. This arises from the fact that the allocations to date have been utilised. If that is the case it indicates a vibrant industry that will continue to grow.

The funds available to the Irish Film Board must be made available to those interested in promoting the film industry in Ireland. That the board provides development loans and capital loans puts an onus on the board to become a type of banking institution. Given that it provides loans there is a necessity for great care to be taken. I have no doubt when members are vetting the applications which come to them, great care is taken in apportioning loans and making the decision to give a particular applicant or company loan approval. I welcome the fact that these funds are available to applicants who have bone fideapplications before the board. However, I am concerned that the recoupment rate of these loans is low. Surely there must be a concern in some quarters within the board or with the Mini ster and the Department that the recoupment rate of these loans is as low as 3%.

Will the Minister make available the reasons such a small amount of the loans are recouped? There is a substantial write-off as many of the projects fail. This is inevitable in all industries but the number of failures in this sector is probably higher than in other sectors of the economy in the current climate. I am concerned about this issue and I hope the Minister will explain why the board fails to recoup more of the loans it disburses.

The annual report outlines the criteria used by the board to assess projects. These include the creative strength of a project in that it has to be imaginative, original and compelling and have the potential to attract an audience. There are different kinds of audiences and it is difficult to be sure that an application will fit this criteria.

The track record of the creative team is another of the criteria used. One difficulty faced by management teams in securing financial approval is that people in the industry have not had much time to establish a track record as it is a new industry. I welcome the criteria which specifies the employment of Irish people in all grades. There is no doubt that the growth of the film industry has led to increased employment, not only in those areas directly associated with film production, but in spin-off industries. This is a welcome development, particularly in areas which have become the focus of film making. In addition to Ardmore Studios in Bray, many areas along the west coast, particularly in County Galway, have been used as locations for important films. My first memory of the Irish film industry was the production of "Alfred the Great" in Kilchreest, County Galway, in the mid to late 1960s. At that time any employment, even temporary employment, was important to many people. The industry has moved on significantly since then but it is important to know that the development of the industry has created employment and financed spin-offs, particularly in areas classed as disadvantaged in the past.

The spend generated by a developing industry is important, particularly in rural areas such as the west. It was important that the Minister endorsed the location of the Irish Film Board in Galway and the report indicates that the lease option on the premises runs up to 2020. This is an endorsement of the fact that the board will remain in Galway even though it may be necessary to open offices in Dublin and other areas as the industry develops. Decentralisation to the provinces is welcome and important, particularly to the west in this instance.

This is a new industry and I welcome the fact that when the Minister established the Film Industry Strategic Review Group in 1998, under the chairmanship of Mr. Ossie Kilkenny, the remit of the review was to make recommendations for further development in the years ahead. The group's recommendations were to strengthen, broaden and reconstruct the board.

The group also set many strategic goals, the first of which referred to script development. The funding now available should encourage script development in whatever way possible as it is the basis for our indigenous industry. We have a great tradition in writing but we must specifically encourage script development for the film industry. As this is one of the strategic goals set by the review group, I hope work will rapidly expand because if we do not develop this area work will come to a rapid halt at some point in the future.

The commitments given by the Minister and the Government towards the development of production finance is important as they will lead to the promotion of Ireland in many different ways. We must recognise that the film board works in conjunction with many other State agencies such as Forbairt, FÁS, IDA and Bord Fáilte. Given that the film board impacts on all of these areas, one can see the importance of the role it is now playing.

If one talks about the film industry in Ireland, one is talking about the film board and the section 481 tax concessions. These are the two key elements of the industry's success and I hope they will be supported for a long time. I hope the Government will support the board long into the future and that it will indefinitely extend the tax benefits for the film industry. Some argue that the film industry receives more focused attention than other sectors by way of incentives. This is the case but the industry deserves those incentives as it has grown from a low starting point to great heights and to such a success. It is important that the Minister for Finance recognises this fact and continues to provide this valuable concession in the future. Unless it is understood and recognised that these facilities are needed for the future, a sense of uncertainty could easily creep into the industry.

It is important also that there would be greater emphasis on the area of training and education in film. That means we would discuss making available funding to allow people to develop all the professional skills required in a vibrant industry. The part played by FÁS to date must be recognised but there is a need to identify further training opportunities not necessarily at one level but at all levels in order that the industry can draw on expertise to develop and grow quickly, particularly in the area of technology. That is the way the industry is developing. There is no other industry in which technology is in greater demand and therefore we must be sure that Ireland has readily available at all times professional personnel capable of producing the highest quality films.

It is good that for the first time we have established awards for Irish film making. There is now a new award and substantial prize of 20,000 for the best emerging Irish film director and also an award for the best short cuts, Oscailt. I am sure the Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Deputy Ó Cuív, will recognise the importance of Oscailt in the production of films as Gaeilge. If there was one other area in which Ireland has been successful and to which I would want to refer here, it must be that of the independent television sector, TV3 and also TG4. More people are tuned into TG4 on a regular basis than those for whom we give that station credit. This is a recognition of the importance of our language to our culture. Previously in another forum reference may have been made to the decline of the Gaeltacht areas, but we must realise that in the Galltacht, in urban areas throughout the country and in Dublin, scoileanna náisiúnta lán-Gaeilge have been established. That development has not just occurred as a result of the actions of people who were cranks or who wanted just to be different from the ordinary people around them. It has developed out of a desire in those people to make sure their children are educated in and like their language. When one recognises the part played by TG4 in that area, one must also recognise the part played by Raidió na Gaeltachta in making the Irish language readily available to the listening public. I am delighted, therefore, that Oscailt has been recognised in the new awards for Irish film makers.

I welcome the additional funding being provided in the Bill. I am sure the success of the Irish film industry, whose birthplace is really at Ardmore Studios, will continue in the future. Ardmore Studios is a professional outfit, to which great credit is due. The industry is now expanding into an important national industry. I hope these additional grants, which provide confidence, will be extended by future Ministers and that there will not ever be ambivalence in Government about support for the continuation and development of this new industry.

I welcome the Bill which allows the Irish Film Board to increase its expenditure from £30 million to £80 million. As Deputy Burke stated, the people involved in this industry experienced difficulties for many years. There were days when there was nobody to support them and when people laughed at them for wanting to make films in Ireland. I congratulate them and wish them well. They did the State a great service. They were prepared to fight for the industry and to invest in it when the Government was not prepared to give them the support they needed. A former Minister introduced tax breaks to encourage people to come here and make films. At the time I complimented him for having the vision and foresight to see that there was an industry here which could be promoted and supported and that we had people capable of being as good as those in the rest of the world.

In the past there was evidence of that potential in films made in Ireland and in the people involved in them and we saw these films winning Oscars and competing with the best in the United States, where money is no obstacle. Our people were able to compete with, and beat, the best film makers and to turn out the best films.

Although I am open to correction, I think "The Quiet Man" was made in Cong in the 1930s.

It was the 1950s.

I always look forward to seeing it on RTE over Christmas. Although I have not bought other films on video because I am not a film buff, I bought that film because it is my favourite. It depicts a part of the country which both the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, and I love dearly. The Government does not treat the west fairly and it can take many things away from us in the west, but the one thing it cannot take away from us is the natural beauty of the landscape and the people depicted in "The Quiet Man" and many other films. One such film which comes to mind is "The Ballroom of Romance". I went down to Ballycroy to see where they repaired an old ballroom for that successful film. Tony Chambers, the great man with a saxophone from Newport of whom I am sure the Minister of State is aware, is now a living legend as a result. People all over the world know of Tony Chambers because of "The Ballroom of Romance". He was a local man who took part in that film with professional actors. There are people who still talk about the old dances and ballrooms, and that film projected an image of Ireland which some people, who think we are now too sophisticated and have passed that stage, like to forget.

What keeps this country going is its people, its beauty and our way of life. We are losing much of that at present. People do not have time to talk to each other any more and they do not have time to say "hello" to visitors who come into this country. We were always a friendly nation and that is one thing which should not go from us. The way the economy is going, I hope the people will not lose that friendliness.

Over the years there has been much criticism of RTE's role in film but, in fairness, it has not done a bad job. It did not have the finances it needed. There is now a report on the running of RTE and on cut-backs in that area. Perhaps RTE is living beyond its means and has squandered funds on occasion, but at the same time it has done a good job producing films over the years. Maybe there is a bit of squandering in that company but, at the same time, it has done a good job over the years producing films. The recent production, "Amongst Women", in which it played a large part, was shown over a number of Sunday nights and I enjoyed it. It used mostly Irish actors. We have to give it credit for that. Sometimes it does not have the resources and the money to continue to do more of that. It should be encouraged, helped and assisted as with other people involved in this very good industry.

I remember when "The Field" was filmed in Leenane. That sent out an image of this country, its people and part of our tradition. Looking at the other side of it, think of what it did for Leenane at a quiet time of the year, what it did for the area and the employment it created. Parts of "Amongst Women" was filmed in Islandeady, on the most beautiful beach in Ireland, Bertra Beach, and in Mayo Abbey. Hotels, guest houses and other accommodations were filled in the winter months when there was nothing happening and the tourism season was over. These people came in and took over these places for a number of months. The film itself when produced, was very good and was sold abroad.

People laugh at it but I am not ashamed to say I love to watch "Glenroe" on a Sunday night with Joe Lynch as Dinny. It is one of the most popular programmes in Australia. It is an excellent programme with excellent actors. I am glad to say Mick Lally is a native of Tourmakeady and is proud of it. He is not ashamed to say he is from Mayo. He is a native Irish speaker and is somebody who is proud of the county and the west. I am sure he saw bad days. He started off as an amateur and became a professional. Like Joe Lynch, Gabriel Byrne, the Cusack family and many others, he has made a major contribution to this industry.

I am glad to see that at last this Government – and I hope future Governments will follow suit – is supporting and helping this industry. I hope we will continue with what is being done in this Bill and that we will see further funding being provided for these people because it is a high risk business – it takes a lot of money, investment and nerve. These people have to go out and look for investors and try to encourage people to come to this country. It also helps our own people. There are very talented people in this country who have shown the rest of the world what they can do. They also learn from these people coming in – they learn from the British and the Americans – and I am sure we teach them some things. We have certainly been successful. I compliment everybody involved in this industry.

I hope that in the future, Governments will see fit to provide tax breaks to it. I make no apology for whatever tax breaks the Government believes it should give to this industry because it deserves them. It is a high risk industry and anything that it high risk should be supported and given grant aid. The Government should not be afraid to do that or to be prepared to invest, to take a chance and to give the tax breaks necessary.

I heard Deputy Ulick Burke talk about TG4. As somebody from the west, I want to compliment it. It is doing well and is using its head. TG4 is taking up local stories and films and is doing business quite well. It has started to cover the local county finals. If RTE had done this in the past, we would have had no local radio. RTE would have had total control of the radio stations if it had radio Mayo, radio Kerry and radio Galway and had done what the BBC did in the past. It would have had no competition and would have had total control of the airwaves. It did not do that and it has paid the price. TG4 is now taking that up and is doing well.

I watch TG4 the odd night and see John Wayne on it, although he does not speak Irish. There is the odd good film on TG4, although not all are in Irish and there is nothing wrong with that. It is certainly doing a good job promoting the Irish language. There are subtitles in English and they help and assist people like me who are not native Irish speakers and who are trying to learn the language. I wish it well. There was a lot of criticism of it but I did not criticise it on the basis that – if it worked, it worked and if did not work, it did not work. It deserves support and help and it has done a fine job.

Something that worries me about the film industry is the lack of cinemas. Recently, a prominent cinema closed down in this city and staff lost their jobs. More and more cinemas in rural Ireland are closing down because of Sky and digital television. I compliment RTE and the Government on trying to protect our own national heritage. I am talking about supporting events like the All-Ireland, the FAI cup and racing events. It would be wrong if Sky, because of its monopoly and money, could say to the GAA that people who do not get a ticket to an All-Ireland will have to pay to watch it. RTE should have the rights to certain events and should be supported in that regard. I think it is now in legislation. We should not allow people like Rupert Murdoch to come in and take over our national heritage because what will happen is that Sky will take over and we will lose RTE, TV3 and TG4. That would be a shame. These stations should be protected and I suppose that will happen in the promised legislation on local radio, television and the licence fee and so on. All these stations should get a percentage of the licence fee.

Local radio stations should also be assisted by the State to enable them to produce home made and current affairs programmes. They should not have to depend on advertising alone and they should be assisted by the State. We should not be ashamed to do that. Local radio does a good job and it should be supported and helped. I say to people who continually knock RTE that they should not always knock it. It does not do everything right, but it certainly does not do everything wrong.

Many people in certain parts of the west still cannot get RTE 1 or Network 2 because they do not have full coverage. Recently, we gave a licence to TV3 but again people in many parts of the west cannot pick up that service. If somebody gets a licence from the State to service the State, they should provide that service to the entire State and not only to part of it – the population centres like Dublin, Galway and Cork. The Minister should insist that people getting licences are given a time span within which to introduce a service.

In the Gaeltacht in north Mayo – the Minister of State is aware of this problem – people who love, speak and promote the language cannot watch TG4 simply because they cannot get the signal. That is outrageous and it should not happen. The Minister should say to those providing the service, particularly RTE, that they must cover the whole State.

I welcome the Bill and compliment the people involved in this industry. There were brave people in the past who worked hard to build up this industry to be very professional. They deserve to be supported and this Government should not apologise to anybody for assisting it in any way. Each time a film showing our scenery is made, which is seen throughout the world, the industry is doing the job Bord Fáilte has failed to do for the last 50 years. These people have done more for tourism, Ireland and scenery in Ireland than Bord Fáilte has done and they should be helped. I know that is part of what is being done in this Bill.

The Government should look at tax breaks and at any other way in which the industry can be assisted. It is a high risk business and should be supported. We should make no apologies for doing so. I welcome the Bill and compliment the people involved in the industry.

I am glad to speak on this important legislation, the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Bill, 2000, which is welcome. Deputy Ring spoke about increased investment. To restore tax relief for moneys spent in film production to 100% from 80% would be very beneficial because, as Deputy Ring correctly stated, it is a high risk and hugely competitive business.

In terms of revenue to the State, there is a huge risk in dealing with technology based companies. Ireland is a world player, together with the United States, in that area and there is no reason we cannot be equally recognised in Europe as being proactive and pro-development. We are competing with the UK where the relevant Minister is offering a competitive deal to entice companies to make films there and in Northern Ireland. We need long-term commitment and vision. The increase in equity to £80 million will be appreciated because it is needed.

The film industry here could be worth £532 million. This would contribute significantly to Government coffers according to a new report from Film Makers Ireland Limited. The projections are based on an annual growth rate of 10% to 11% per year, which the report's author, David McWilliams of the London-based consultants, claims is logical based on the past four years growth. He also warns that abolishing section 481 or reducing its attractiveness will result in a viable industry being choked. Given its potential globally, it is silly to abolish a scheme that does not cost the State anything.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, will extend the film tax relief for 12 months, pending publication of specially commissioned studies on film relief by the Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. The outcome of this will be interesting.

The FMI report sets out to dispel what it terms misinformation, half truths associated with the issues of tax, financing and the film business and to set the record straight by working on the numbers. According to its dispassionate economic analysis, using the most sophisticated model for the Irish economy, the industry contributes more than its fair share to the economy. Its findings have already been passed to the commission which is studying the issue. The FMI findings show that the Irish film industry has grown by 3,400% since 1992 compared with 100% globally in the same period. That speaks volumes. Despite this rapid growth, the industry is only at the cottage industry stage and needs support. Approximately 50% of all film finance in Ireland applies under section 481. This means it does not make sense to scrap or diminish it at a time when the industry holds so much potential. I am not an expert on the subject, but it is important to give encouragement in this area.

Financial investors' faith in the sector is evidenced by the fact that investors are paying a premium of between 40% and 70% for shares in broadcast media and entertainment companies. After telecom, office equipment, software and electronic semi-conductors, the broadcast media and entertainment sectors is where investors see most growth potential. We need to analyse the full benefits the industry can offer. The whole area of broadcasting and television network is changing.

The IDA persevered in difficult times with the software sector because it had a vision of what the future could hold. Similar vision is now needed to maximise Ireland's film industry. The IDA had a vision and software had great potential in this country. It is wonderful what a small country like Ireland achieved in this area. Film fits well into the profile of industries which Ireland is seeking to foster. It is a high risk and high value added business. The west has managed to move up the value added curve by making these types of industries its own. One could have a fantastic film but if one does not have a good salesman, good promotional people and the right connections, a film could be thrown in the rubbish heap. Of every ten films, approximately one or two are successful.

Tourism has been important in the past and it will be in the future. As we begin the new millennium, it is important to look back at the success of that industry. We can celebrate success, particularly in the tourism industry. The films made in the 1950s starring John Wayne and others epitomised the thatched cottage and a simple Ireland. This appealed to the American market. However, things have changed rapidly. While there are mega bucks coming from the United States, it is important also to support home industry. When those films were made in the 1950s, Ireland was 100 years behind the United States. This is not the case in the new millennium. A radio tech nician who relays material back to Ireland from New York told me the United States is far behind Ireland from the point of view of updated equipment. We have a lot to be proud of because we have come a long way in 50 years.

The tourism industry has grown spectacularly in the past decade, creating thousands of new jobs. This has contributed millions of pounds to the economy and enriched the lives of visitors and the Irish people. This did not happen by chance but as a result of enlightened policies, public and private investment and the hard work and professionalism of workers. Those who operate in the tourism sector are professionals because they have invested hugely in the industry. These people who have worked with State bodies are worthy of appreciation. Some may criticise Bord Fáilte. We cannot isolate Bord Fáilte because the regional tourism authorities in all the regions have been effective.

It is important that we are now talking about Irish films. Tourism and the film industry go hand in hand. The film "Braveheart" was made in Ireland and credited with being produced in Scotland. We have a unique opportunity to provide tax incentives to those who wish to make films here but these films should be credited with being produced and filmed in Ireland. Over the years Ireland has been renowned throughout the world for the success of its playwrights, authors and so on. We have the dedication, commitment, professionalism, facilities and scenery to entice people to visit this country. The Australian Film Board provides huge incentives to entice people to promote Australia.

I know the Minister of State is providing additional investment. Under existing legislation, the board's capital outlay was set at £30 million in 1997. This Bill will help to secure the future of the Irish Film Board. The future of the board should not be in doubt.

It is important to persuade people to cushion the risks taken by film makers. Other speakers have referred to the growth in the number of television channels. We must support small indigenous companies. While I am not an expert in the film industry, I am sure there are small companies who need the cushion of Government support and who, given encouragement, would invest in the industry. From small acorns great oaks grow.

Support should also be given for the marketing of Irish films. Small companies should not have to endure the same hardship as large ones. Enterprise boards deal with small companies. Enterprise Ireland supports Irish companies while IDA Ireland deals with external companies. A board within the Irish Film Board should deal with small companies and share their difficulties. Too many talented people fail because they do not get support from banks and large institutions.

We have seen successful productions of films with historical themes. The series "Seven Ages", telling the history of the State, was very successful. However, we should not neglect contemporary themes and the development of our regions. We are seeing an unprecedented wave of Irish and Irish related feature films. No fewer than 11 titles are due for release before the end of this year. These include "The Book that Wrote Itself", "Beyond the Pale" and "The Closer You Get" which is a romantic comedy set in Donegal and marks the first outing for Uberto Pasolini since he made "The Full Monty". Another film due for release is "Flick", Fintan Connolly's stylish study of Dublin's low life. These new Irish films, with Pat Murphy's "Nora" and others will be eligible for this year's Irish Film and Television Awards to be held in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast in December. It is important that we encourage this development.

Film is an enormous business. We see cartels in small businesses but they are even greater in the film business where the influence of Hollywood is vast. It is important that small companies receive support. Tourism will be the greatest contributor to our future economy. It has already surpassed agriculture. Hoteliers and others have taken risks in the industry and new attractions are emerging throughout the country. Our visitors will not have to return to the same old venues. Irish film producers can promote every tourism region in Ireland. The Minister, Deputy de Valera has agreed to return the O'Hara coaches, which were given to the State in 1952, to the new county museum in Ballymote, County Sligo. The museum will house many notable artefacts which are now in Dublin. This is a wonderful development. The O'Hara coaches are now stored in a warehouse in Inchicore, Dublin where no one has seen them. Tourists will be interested to see them in their home in County Sligo. I acknowledge the Minister's initiative in returning the coaches and in supporting the new folk museum in Castlebar. A new market is being created for our heritage.

It is important that our heritage is recorded on film. The story of the O'Hara carriages should be interpreted on film. Our story has been interpreted in the literary sense but it should also be told on film. Very few people read broadsheet newspapers or watch the evening news on television. It is important that our history is told in a way which can be easily understood by the viewer or listener. Our history must be made available for visitors to Ireland on video and audio tapes.

Film has traditionally been transported on huge reels through the film distribution network. General Film Distributors distribute film to cinemas throughout the country. In future, film will be delivered by wire. We are in a rapidly changing world and jobs will be lost in the film distribution industry. Film is a hugely competitive business and the Irish market of four million is small by world standards. Our scenic beauty is an attraction for film makers. We have professional people with great commitment. Companies such as TV3 and TG4 are also wonderful assets. The audience figures of TG4 rose by 92% in the past year and its total reach is now approximately 600,000.

Small is profitable. I appeal to the Minister of State to encourage small film production companies in conjunction with the tourism industry. Film producers from the United Kingdom should not be given greater incentives than Irish producers. We must not impose tax handicaps on Irish producers. We can compete with foreign producers and we should do so.

I welcome this short, simple Bill which will give extra capacity to the Irish Film Board by allowing the ceiling to be raised on authorised issues from £30 million to £80 million. This is most welcome.

The film industry in general is volatile, precarious, competitive and ephemeral in terms of how it can wax and wane during economic slumps and booms. Despite those characteristics, County Wicklow has a long tradition of film making spanning over 80 years. It has had its ups and downs, but the long thread has not ever been completely broken. We take a certain pride in it and we have a sense of ownership of it. We do not want it to be limited in terms of further growth and expansion.

If somebody wanted an example of the impact of film making in any particular context, I would cite Avoca village in County Wicklow. For a number of years Avoca suffered high levels of unemployment and people were leaving the village. There was despair among local people about the ability to attract new employment opportunities to replace the jobs that had been available in the local mines. There were mining operations around Avoca for many years which provided employment for hundreds of families. The closure of the mines appeared to be the end of the hopes of many villagers that they would be able to get work in their community and feel secure about their children gaining work in the area.

Avoca now has international fame as the setting for "Ballykissangel". It has been a dramatic change for the village in terms of new opportunities for people directly in the television series as acting extras or providing services to the film makers and also in the enormous spin off that has occurred through the provision of attractions for tourists who arrive in busloads to visit "Ballykissangel" or Avoca. The difficulties now in the village involve traffic congestion because of the overload that occurs on occasions.

Avoca has been transformed by the film making there not only in relation to "Ballykissangel", but also in terms of other film companies making films in the area. It is a good example of the benefits and spin offs that local communities can experience from film making. There is also a consciousness that "Ballykissangel" will not last forever and there is an onus on us all to ensure that whatever long-term benefits can be achieved from this type of activity – we appreciate that film making by its nature ends very quickly – are realised as far as practicable.

In that context, Wicklow County Council established the County Wicklow Film Com mission and it is now in operation. It is designed to encourage and support film making and to ensure that County Wicklow continues to grow and to be recognised as a base for making foreign and indigenous films. This year has been good. Eight major productions have been filmed in Ireland and all of them were partially shot in County Wicklow or were based at Ardmore Studios in Bray.

The facilities at Ardmore Studios are completely booked out this year and the same is projected for next year. Some major, big budget movies have been scheduled for the summer of 2001. Aside from assisting these productions while they are filming on location, the Wicklow Film Commission has also started compiling a number of databases which will be vital in providing back up services for the industry.

An important part of the work of the commission is ensuring that the sourcing of skills and services can be done easily and efficiently and for the maximum benefit of those living in the county. The database is in the process of being compiled and its aim is to assist key people in the industry in sourcing locations, crews, services, production offices and extras in the county. A slide library is also being put together which can be entered through the revamped Wicklow website. It is important that this work continues and the local authorities in Bray and Wicklow are directly supporting the film commission through financial contributions.

It is interesting to see the work on which the commission is now embarking. For example, one of the activities it intends to take on this year is wooing the prolific Indian film industry. It is one of the biggest film industries in the world. It produces more than 800 films a year, which generate £133 million. A total of six billion tickets are sold worldwide to Indian movies. I am not sure if many of those are sold to Irish people, but there is no shortage of people who want to see the films. The Indian market worldwide is bigger than the American market.

These films often contain a dream sequence and these sequences are often filmed in places such as Holland and Switzerland. One sequence, which may last up to ten minutes, could cost approximately $1 million. The Wicklow commission is currently setting about trying to encourage Indian film makers to make some of these sequences in County Wicklow which has a magnificent landscape that is ideally suited to such sequences. It is important to continue developing our attractions as a location for film making.

In terms of that attraction, there is a need to consider training. It is of less benefit to us if local young people with skills are kept outside the loop. We can develop more skills in film making to ensure that there is a good take up when foreign film makers come here to film and use our resources, but this cannot be done without financial investment at one level or another. Ardmore Studios is very busy, but we must ensure that resources and technical facilities are in place to keep the wheels moving.

As other speakers said, there is a deeper cultural aspect to film making. This is apart from the practical aspects of generating incomes in households and ensuring that communities get direct financial benefits from the economic activity which does not last long. As I said, film making is short-term. When a film is made, the whole caravan disappears. Sometimes it is as if it never happened despite the amount of activity and labour involved. Once the film is made, everybody disappears and life returns to normal. It is ephemeral in that sense.

There is a huge cultural impact in terms of the product. The images that are presented, the stories that are told and the concepts that are delivered through television or cinematic films have an enormous impact on our lives. Irish film makers need to be encouraged and supported. Other areas of the arts have been successful and it has become a truism at this stage, particularly with regard to literature. In recent times, there has been a Nobel prize winner and there were Booker prize winners in the past. There are major literary figures who are highly regarded internationally who write Irish books in the sense that they are clearly placed in and draw inspiration from Irish society and the Irish context.

It is not as easy to encourage that kind of expression in film making because invariably there are costs and technical skills involved. The making of a film is a co-operative effort and requires many people. Even low budget films require money, unlike literature where, to a great extent, the writer has a word processor and a creative imagination to start writing.

With regard to the Minister's approach, the strategic planning and greater resources are very welcome. However, we must always be conscious of what we are fostering. In terms of indigenous talent, we must ensure we are not simply manufacturing a product for dissemination but that we are conscious of quality and talent. That does not always depend on the largest budget. "Saltwater" is one example of Irish film making that encapsulates quality work which does not incur huge financial demands. It is a good example of fine writing and acting which resulted in a good film set in the modern Irish context rather than an atavistic film, of which we have seen too many, dependent on historical figures for subjects. This is a modern Irish story which in filmic terms is very satisfying and of a high quality. It is interesting that the director, Conor McPherson, was already internationally recognised for his writing for theatre. In this case, he directed a film which he had also written. However, I suspect it will not receive the kind of international recognition his plays have received. The distribution networks that operate globally create difficulties and obstacles for a country like ours when we are trying to ensure the works produced by indigenous talented people can compete with the big budget films distributed worldwide by very profitable large companies that do not see the benefit of the small scale production, no matter how good its quality.

People have cited the example of Australia as a country which, when it began to promote its own film making industry, was not in a great economic position to do so. Yet significantly, it was able to develop a very distinctive style of film making and to get the message across globally rather than regarding it as simply a product for home consumption. The Australian genre of film is recognisable worldwide. We need to do the same for Irish films. Distribution is the key.

There is a tremendous interest in film making. We would be in trouble if every young person who would like a job in film making realised his or her dream because the system would be overloaded. It can only be to the benefit of Irish film making and the Irish film industry if young people have an interest in and a passion for film and contribute their talents to building the kind of film industry of which we can be proud and which also reflects the aspects of modern Irish life which are increasingly complex.

The fact that we are, in effect, a multicultural society is an aspect of our lives which has not been fully explored in artistic terms, but it will be. I am sure people are already working on film scripts concerning the subject of multiculturalism and which reflect the changes occurring in our society that we may only partially understand. Very often, works of art teach us about ourselves and illuminate aspects of our lives that may be unclear to us. They can inspire us but they also have a prophetic quality in that they can look into the future and tell us something about ourselves that only the artistic talent has the capacity to do, to become our prophets in a way that we as politicians are not necessarily able to do.

It is important that we ensure there is an Irish film industry in the future and that Irish film is part of the artistic canon that we have developed across the various media of literature, the visual arts, theatre, music and so on. It is more difficult to develop a strong capacity in film making because it is largely about very powerful commercial interests promoting what they want to see happen, what they want to sell and what does sell. A person told me some time ago that the focus in America is on the average film goer, who apparently is around 15 years old. It would be difficult to develop a fully rounded set of films if we concentrated solely on very young people, but apparently the 15 year old young makes up the big market.

There has been a renewal of interest in film. More people are going to the cinema. There was a time when the whole industry seemed to slump but the growth of cinema and videos as the natural follow-on from film making will ensure films continue to be made. We need to think carefully about what will influence society and where we fit in that global scale of film making and provide resources for it.

I welcome the strategic planning in this area and I am pleased the Bill has the general support of the House. However, we must ensure we can foster an industry which is also a form of artistic expression which, in an increasingly homogenous world, will become increasingly important to us. We must ensure our sense of identity as a society is reflected in work of this nature.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this important Bill for the reasons set out by a number of previous speakers who obviously have studied the film making industry. This country lends itself very readily to film making for a variety of reasons. We have scenery unrivalled anywhere in the world and acting is a feature of our tradition and culture. It is true that Irish people lend themselves naturally to acting, which is a good thing. It is a feature of our culture and heritage of which we should be proud and one we should use to the best of our ability. Previous speakers referred to the recent technological developments in film-making that have brought it within arms' reach of much smaller organisations that have an ability to produce quality films and market them successfully.

There are two elements in film production. One can make a film that is a work of art and good to watch but is a box office flop. There are many such films worldwide. The board must be careful of that. While it should not be necessary to be driven totally by success at the box office, it must be recognised that it is the means through which the film industry is best advertised. I was an avid film buff. It was a poor week in which I did not see three films. Unfortunately, times have changed and I seldom see them anymore. The days of cramped, smoke filled cinemas that left everyone with streaming eyes have long since passed. Cinemas are more comfortable nowadays. As Deputy McManus said the tendency now is to see films on video in the comfort of one's own home with no need to worry about driving and parking. If we want to attract cinemagoers we must provide facilities for them to have a social evening – public transport, safe parking, the ability to have a meal and see the film.

I remember seeing films when I was much younger that featured places such as the Grand Canyon and the sun was always shining. I make a plea to film-makers not to show reels of film that feature a continuous downpour of rain, especially if the actors and actresses are filmed outside. I know of one film in the not too distant past in which the country is depicted as a rain sodden island, among other things, and there is nothing as offputting to a potential tourist. While we must present matters as they are, within reason, that is not the best way to present the country.

Modern technology has lent itself to film making and to the development of this country. We must present ourselves, through film productions, as a modern, fast-growing, effective economy and move away from the old stage Irish attitude that was readily depicted in films. We must have something that is modern, youthful and presents itself worldwide as a production from a country that is competitive. They are simple, basic ingredients which, if not incorporated into film production, will give a negative picture to potential film goers. Whether that affects the quality of the film or its success at the box office rests with the production. Some literary works are more adaptable to the stage than the cinema. The Film Board must look at that issue in the course of the offers, referred to by the Minister, in regard to film making here. It is important that consideration be given to the viability of a film under certain headings.

Unfortunately, many of us do not appreciate the technically perfect production or the animation films used as a filler by television stations some years ago which were often technically perfect and illustrated a particular point of view. There would be a rapid decrease in cinema patronage if such productions were shown there. The Film Board should look carefully at that aspect when deciding which films to support.

Many speakers referred to the degree to which this country lends itself to film making as a backdrop. Deputy McManus mentioned Wicklow. It is an exceptionally beautiful county. Equally, other counties have much to offer. There is a tradition of film-making in Ardmore in Wicklow, which has had its ups and downs over the years. It appears to be on the up and up at present. I hope it will be successful in the future and will avail of the assistance the board will offer to the various productions that will emanate from there. There is no better way to deter tourists from coming here than to show the country as a rain sodden island. It is depressing. However, if the film depicts an indoor scene with people enjoying themselves while the rain pours down outside it has the opposite effect. It works well if the scene changes and you see a sunlit beach or whatever. It is a question of careful and clever marketing. I understand that it costs millions of pounds to have products advertised on the screen even for an instant.

I used to and still watch James Bond films, although there are not as many of them made now and the personnel have been changed many times. I remember James Bond liked a particular brand of drink, which I will not mention because we cannot become involved in commercial advertising. He also liked it in a certain way and at a particular temperature. A different drink of Irish origin for which he had a particular liking was shown in another film. The product is known worldwide for its association with that particular film. I mention that to emphasise the importance of advertising through films. The greatest film ever made can be used for advertising and for projecting a positive national image just as easily as it can be used to give a negative impression of the country. We should use the Irish Film Board to emphasise the positive points and we should not readily support those who present the other side of the coin.

This country has a great tradition of writers and artists of all descriptions. When I was younger I spent a lot of time reading. However, like everything else, that has gone by the board. The Irish Film Board must consider the unsavoury depiction of Irish society which has been glorified at times. Writers are entitled to write what they wish but I object to looking at it in graphic detail. I have the right not to support such productions. I hope the Irish Film Board will consider that as part of its role in encouraging the film industry. We know that unsavoury things happen in this country, as they do in other countries, and we would prefer if that was not the case. I am not sure their projection on the screen is good as it can cause some people, particularly those about whom the story is told, to become more depressed than they were before it was shown.

We are a nation of artists and storytellers. This country is an ideal location for a film industry. However, I am critical of the number of films we have promoted in recent years. A number of films were promoted here over the past 25 or 30 years and a lot of work was done by the Department. It is important for senior operators in the film industry, including actors and actresses, to come to the country so they will develop an interest in it. Some actors and actresses also work in the production area or will become future producers. It is important to encourage them to come here so they know the type of facilities and services which are available and the technological advances which have taken place. As previous speakers said, our technology is often ahead of the technology available elsewhere. There is no other way to get that message across to these people who are important because they are either potential investors or will be able to encourage investors to proceed in a particular direction.

I referred earlier to scenery. We used to be depicted as Ireland of the welcomes. However, some people say we are not as welcoming as we used to be. There is no better way to address such issues than through the film industry. We can portray the right image through scenery, etc. We would give a sad impression of the country if we depicted ourselves as downtrodden, poor and hungry. Some people are poor, if not necessarily hungry, and they have not benefited from our economy. We must ensure that the plight of socially deprived people is not added to by something we produce. We all come from various backgrounds. It does not do any harm to reflect on that from time to time and on the impact some productions may have on our thinking and our lives.

I welcome the Bill which should be used to project a positive image of the country. We should try to remove the image of a rain sodden and hard drinking island of doubtful chancers which was projected on a number of occasions in the past.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill. With most other Members, I welcome the Government's decision to increase the funding from £30 million to £80 million. This is a large increase which will play a positive role in the film industry. Excellent producers have brought the Irish film industry to an international stage and have created a lot of excitement, employment and confidence in Irish society in the past ten years. While many of the films were produced in the United States, a number of them were produced at home and they were box office hits. This is extremely good advertising for the country. If the money is administered and spent properly, it will benefit the country.

A number of questions arise regarding the Irish Film Board. How many films directly funded by the board have been commercially successful? When the board was established with funding it was envisaged that it would be used for investment in movies and I understand the money invested by the board has made a return of approximately 10% to 15%. The board was established as a self financing funding organisation, but that has not been the case. While I do not criticise it for that, I raise these questions with a view to ascertaining how future funding allocated to the board will be used and whether it will be viewed on a commercial basis or as a subsidy.

Generous tax breaks are provided for film production. In addition, the industry can avail of the generous 10% corporation tax rate. I support these measures. They have played an effective and popular role in enticing movie makers to work in the country. They should be encouraged on the basis that they will attract further outside involvement. At one stage the Minister had difficulty persuading her Cabinet colleagues that the tax breaks should be retained. I am glad they were because they have paid handsome dividends. It should also be noted that our competitors, especially in the British Isles, introduced tax breaks for their film industries. While Britain had a well established film industry, we have had to create a favourable environment to persuade international film makers to work here.

The Government says it is investing £80 million in the film industry, which is welcome. However, from the information I have obtained, it appears to amount to a subsidy rather than an investment. We should be honest enough to say that the industry is being allocated a part subsidy and part investment. The Minister will argue that in most other countries the return on investment in the industry amounts to between 10% and 15%. That is not very worthwhile and in that context a subsidy is reasonable, especially if the Government considers that the money is necessary and will be well spent.

With regard to Deputy Clune's speech, while the semi-State boards and bodies have been established in good faith, they have a tendency to expand, especially on the administrative side. In this context, much of the allocation of £80 million to the industry could get lost in administration before it reaches the coal face, where the money should be made.

That cannot happen.

It should not happen, but administration costs in other State sectors have mushroomed at the expense of front line expenditure. We must watch that.

I understand that two local authorities have established film commissions, one in County Wexford and the other in County Wicklow. I also understand Counties Donegal and Leitrim are in the process of establishing commissions. This has arisen because people see the opportunities that arise in their locality from film production, which can play a full part in the development of the local economy and an enormous role in the promotion of an area. That is to be welcomed.

The film commission proposed by Leitrim County Council will comprise six members from the elected members of the council, the arts officer, the county manager, a representative from the Screen Commission of Ireland, union members and a small number of people with expertise in the film industry. We hope the commission will steal a march from a number of other locations by putting proposals to the Irish Film Board to help indigenous young film makers who seek locations for their work. I commend the management of Leitrim County Council for this initiative and I hope it will be successful in ensuring that films are made in the county.

A number of speakers have outlined the advantages of film making to their county in terms of promotion, activity in the local economy and the involvement of actors and others working in the arts. Perhaps the Irish Film Board could do a marketing job on the involvement of the Members of this House in promoting their areas for film production. The television series "Amongst Women" was made in County Leitrim, which was an interesting experience for many living in the county. The series was based on the novel by John McGahern, an excellent writer who resides in the county. A large number of amateur actors, members of drama societies around the county, were used as extras. That created a welcome interest in the arts. The Irish Film Board should play a role in involving people on the amateur side of acting. This could be done by tapping into the strong amateur drama culture in the country.

For a number of years, films were made in Redhills in County Cavan, an area close to my home in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's constituency. Those films, which were made by major Hollywood producers, created great hype and brought phenomenal levels of money into the area. They also resulted in people who might not otherwise have visited the county doing so. Redhills is now viewed as one of the most idyllic film locations in the country. The availability of such locations makes it easier for the Irish Film Board to entice increasing numbers of film makers into Ireland.

There is an ongoing debate on whether film students should be educated in a theoretical or practical way. FÁS was formerly involved in this area but the task has since been sub-contracted to another institution. If one compares the numbers of people involved in this industry ten years ago with the current figures, one can see there has been a massive growth in this area. The former Minister, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, must take a great deal of credit for his role in creating the upsurge in the Irish film industry. The Government of which he was a Member took some very courageous steps in this area which laid the foundation for the industry's success. I do not often find myself in agreement with Deputy Higgins but I compliment him on his role in this matter.

There is now a higher level of interest in film making at second level than existed heretofore. Young people are recognising the opportunities which exist in the industry and we must educate them properly. As happened in the computer industry, talented, well educated and trained people will encourage major players in the industry to come to Ireland.

We can go from strength to strength in this industry and we must also provide encouragement to Irish producers and film makers. The Celtic tiger phenomenon has provided a large amount of wealth to the private sector which is now in a position to invest in film making, whereas ten years ago we depended to a far greater degree on foreign investment. We now have the indigenous financial wherewithal to encourage people to become involved in film making, production and distribution and I would like to see the Irish Film Board directing the bulk of its funding towards this area. I do not have any difficulty with the provision of subsidies in this regard because we must encourage the involvement of young people in this industry and we must create a solid foundation which will enable them to stay in Ireland making short films, feature films etc. The backing of the Irish Film Board, the Government and the private sector will be required to achieve that objective. Tax breaks in the form of 10% corporation tax are necessary because investment in film making can be quite risky.

The Irish film industry has grown dramatically over the past ten years but much more can be achieved over the next ten years, depending on the direction provided by the Minister, the Government and the Irish Film Board. I look forward to the development of a very strong indigenous film industry.

I appreciate that this Bill's speedy passage is necessary to allow the Irish Film Board, which has reached its existing ceiling, to assist practitioners in the industry. I was encouraged to contribute to this debate by the contributions of some of the other speakers whom I watched on the television monitor. It is unfortunate that the broadcasting legislation is also being dealt with in committee today by my successor, Deputy de Valera, who is responsible for film and broadcasting. That is not to detract from the presence of the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, who also has an interest in this area.

Of the initiatives taken to encourage film production early in 1993, particularly between January and May of that year, the re-funding of the Irish Film Board was perhaps the most significant. Other initiatives included the reformulation of section 35, the establishment of a market for independent film makers through the public service broadcaster under the Broadcasting Act, 1993 and opportunities in regard to what was formerly Teilifís na Gaeilge.

The Irish Film Board was the most important because it had not been funded since 1987. The board's remit was to promote film in its best sense as an expression of Irish culture and the role of film making within that culture. The board was a minimally staffed, efficient and well operated body at that time and enormous credit goes to Dr. Lelia Doolin, its first chairperson, and the board's staff for their management of public funding. The board was a model in terms of the frugality with which it administered its affairs.

During my period as Minister, I attended Council of Ministers meetings in Europe at which we discussed MEDIA I which subsequently became MEDIA II. There was a great deal of discussion about the fact that of the 15 EU member states, none watched less than 90% of films sourced in the United States. While it was generally felt that some of the finest films in the history of film making were made in the United States, it was also felt that not all the films viewed by people should come from one corner of one country and that there should be diversity in this area.

In the early stages of discussion on the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, the question arose as to whether film was merely another commodity to be traded internationally and to be governed by rules of competition within a globalised market. The fringe position, supported by Ireland, argued in favour of anexception culturelle, the effect of which was that film was a cultural expression and was, therefore, more than a commodity. Given that film was a cultural expression, it therefore became important not merely to resist US produce but to have the capacity to produce one's own.

I was struck by the huge proportion of films viewed in Europe; on the basis of cinema seat sales there has been little less than a revolution in viewing habits. Whatever the US might say, it was distributing basket loads of films in a near monopoly position and it was impossible to obtain a recently released film without having to purchase several others as well. In fact a US prod uct was being dumped to some extent on the European market.

Not only was the number of films being affected, but so too was the genre of film making in relation to films which were commercially successful. In terms of the structure of the narrative and the plot, the genre itself was becoming American and we were losing the tradition of European film making in its wide diversity from Fellini in Italy to Fassbinder and Jean-Luc Goddard and others.

For Ireland the best days are yet to come and I support the Bill. Film, being an art form, is capable of carrying the expression of the people in entirely new ways. If there is confidence that there will be a continuity of funding for film and of debate on the place of film in culture then one will probably get the best possible result. To some extent I say that in answer to those who might say film and what the Irish Film Board does must be commercial. That misses the point. It is precisely because people sought to go into competition with an American model of the international film market that people lost faith in film. It is important to remember that for the average film from the US, up to 30% of the gross cost is spent on distribution.

I am worried that we have not continued our work in MEDIA II, which has a fund of about 400 million ecu, to the same degree as under MEDIA I. I very strongly argued that the money should not be spent on the basis of a Hollywood model but that the spending should be tiered, i.e that money be available for low, medium and large budget films. The position of France, Britain and Germany has always been that they wanted allocations for big budget films which would leave small countries such as Ireland and Denmark at a disadvantage. Therefore, it is very important that the Irish Minister is present to defend the structure of MEDIA II in such a way as to ensure the best benefit for the largest number of film makers in Ireland.

In case anyone is in doubt about the value of what has happened in relation to film, I calculate that between 1993-97, for which I had responsibility, about 4,000 full-time job equivalents resulted from the film industry. It is probable that no area has been submitted so thoroughly to external evaluation in relation to spending. Film has many advantages in terms of bringing investment to remote areas, being clean and involving highly talented and skilled work. A film with a budget of £1 million involves up to 52 skills ranging from grip to hairdresser, make-up, camera, sound etc. Therefore, it is very important to recognise that the Irish Film Board is our principal source for assisting young film makers in the future. It is also important that the board builds on its experience in relation to the demand for funding for script development, of film itself and in relation to taking part of the equity in films.

It is sad to see the closed cinemas when travelling through the country, some of which have been turned into garages. Had I the opportunity and time I would have liked to have had those abandoned cinemas restored as multi-purpose art centres. They would have been very attractive as such given their central location in many rural towns. The buildings have relatively similar architecture and were very important in the life of small places and I still hope we might be able to do something about them.

Another initiative which originated with the Irish Film Board and which is assisted by it is the touring cinema, which will go to areas where people would not ever see a film. Shortly there will be an opportunity for primary school children to see films in the morning and secondary school pupils to watch films in the afternoon and evening. This encourages a connection with film among rural communities and is welcome.

We suffered a big disadvantage when Virginia Bottomley, under pressure from Mrs. Thatcher, decided to take Britain out of EUROIMAGE, a funding mechanism which requires participation by three countries. We had an immense advantage in having another English speaking country as a partner and had only to find one other partner. I understand Britain is not yet part of EUROIMAGE, which was very important for the development of scripts.

In terms of the relative effects of the different instruments I have mentioned – the rejigging of section 35 and creation of a market for independent film makers – the re-founding of the film board was the most important as it facilitated us doing something specifically Irish which was truest to the art form of film.

I found that film makers when asked for business plans, etc., were well able to produce them quickly. I cannot say all those who put together section 35 packages showed they were able to catch up in terms of film in the same way. In other words film could be converted to what was required in relation to commerce and the market, but it was much more difficult to convert the market and commerce to investing in film.

The time from deciding to make a major film to its distribution takes not less than three years. There was an awfully powerful case for having section 35 – later section 481 – available over a period of time, thereby providing certainty. I think 50% of section 35 investment came from the US, and being able to put our package of incentives into the marketplace in competition with other packages and incentives was powerfully assisted by knowing the package would be in place for several years.

I recall being told more than once that films do not make money, that it had been tried twice and that twice we had retreated from it, but I think the Department of Finance, which was barely converted to film, entirely missed the point. However, as I always said in reply, the Department opposed electricity on the basis it would never catch on. We have managed to get over their worst hesitations in relation to film, but that was only done by having external evaluations of what was taking place. There is a very strong case for making a commitment over a period of years and for giving a lead role to the film maker.

It would be very foolish to have tension between the commercial side of the film industry and film makers. There would be nothing to distribute or give a tax break on if there were no film makers. Things should be led by film makers. The film board knows best about the art form and deals most directly with the practitioners. It has a very lean administration and is in a very good position to give a lead.

I listened with interest to the possibility of a film commission in Leitrim. There are some limitations to what one can do, but certainly the time has come for local authorities to allocate the task of facilitating film making to one person. In New York it is handled by a special commission within the mayor's office which licences people to film on the streets, and one could find other examples.

I am disappointed that some of the authorities in Galway have not moved, despite my repeated suggestions, because they were in a good position to do this as are others. However, I hope they will move.

Another matter which is important relates to the question of what is commercially successful. What is commercially successful is a very limited part of film making. I cannot recall the figures but of all films successfully completed about 15% or less go into successful commercial distribution. That leaves 85%. Of those 85%, if one has a budget of £0.5 million or £1 million one is talking about 52 stills. One can in fact create the capacity for film making in joined film and have it as an expression of oneself. It need not be always in that end of what is being commercially distributed.

It is the most exciting and the most wonderful medium of the century that has just gone. Jean Luc Goddard once said, when asked to speak in a programme about 100 years of the film industry "is it 100 years for film and the Lumiere brothers moving images, or is it 100 years of celebration of people charging other people for looking at images on a wall or on a screen". There is a difference between the industry. We should not have any under labourer or inferiority complex about what is happening. The best films in the United States have been made by independent film makers from New York, some from Harlem. The big money that is bullying its way through the European discussions is represented by people like Jack Valenti, Motion Pictures of America and the studios of the west coast. In many ways it is an area in which, across the world, we are looking at the domination of film viewing by a product coming from a very small area. There are wonderful exceptions to that, for example, in India there is a strong indigenous film production sector. Film making is a vital contribution to the cultural diversity of Europe and is a vital contribution to the cultural expression of ourselves. It is a medium that is separate and cannot be reduced, for example, to literature as an art form. It is a separate set of skills, a separate kind of insight, a separate aesthetic. If we are to have a debate about it, a well-funded film board is important.

I hope the Department of Education and Science will listen and that the Minister of State will communicate to it the immense value of having film appreciation as a regular feature at second level. When people know the different possibilities of this art form they will have a higher standard in what they demand and in what they look at. It is also powerfully democratic to be able to read the film and get behind it so that one knows that what is a commercial dross made according to a very limited formula is just that, and that there are other capacities within this form.

Finally – I am beginning to sound like Barry Desmond – the small number of staff available in the Department are immensely talented and dedicated and work long hours. They are the people who contributed, before I arrived in the Department, to the working group on the film industry which reported in January 1993. Most of the screen commissions of a regional kind anywhere in Europe had three and four times the number of staff available in the Department. Equally the film board was very much understaffed. I strongly support the Bill and hope that film will always have all party support in the House.

I support and welcome the Bill. I wish the Minister of State and the Minister well. Also I pay tribute to the former Minister who did tremendous work in that portfolio. There was a reference earlier to local authority arts officers who were put in place by the former Minister. They have made a significant contribution to all local authorities. In Longford we are lucky to have an efficient arts officer. We now see the results at school exhibitions and elsewhere. All these new ideas are co-ordinated by the arts officer. Certainly a great awareness was fostered by the previous Minister and continued by the present Minister. There is evidence of that today. That there is a demand for extra funding speaks well for the industry. The proper course of action is to support it. We all know the great influence films have on our lives. We can all remember back to our schooldays when the local hall was the scene for films. I recall the film arriving in the village on a Monday night and being shown in the local hall. Unfortunately the hall had a flat floor. If one arrived late the chances were that one's figure would be projected on to the screen because one had to walk across the hall. Many a person was spotted arriving late and their names were called out. On another occasion, the man who was showing the film forgot to bring the screen. He has now gone to glory. One of the local ladies said, "no problem". She went off to her house and brought back her best sheet which acted as the screen on the wall. The film being shown that night was "The Devil's Hand". That sheet is still in the hall. She would not take home the sheet because "The Devil's Hand" had everybody on edge.

I mention those memories to illustrate the influence of film on people. I have no doubt that films and videos etc. have the same influence on young people today. That is why the emphasis must be on quality of product and quality of idea. All sides agree that much of the violence in society comes from the influence of videos, films etc. People can argue about it but there is no doubt about it – monkey see, monkey do. That is an important aspect of film that should not be forgotten in the overall industry.

People flocked to see the famous film "The Quiet Man" in which John Wayne featured. From what we can gather it had a great influence abroad. It showed Ireland at its best as regards scenery etc. and a quality of life which people enjoyed. Since then quite a few well known films have been produced here. The atmosphere and the location is ideal for the industry. It would be disastrous if the position of the film industry was not improved financially. Script writing is a vital part of the industry. Without a good script one cannot start. Great efforts have been made by the film board which has broadened the industry. I commend FÁS for its efforts in training and providing people with the basic skills to develop their talent whether in script writing, on the technical side or whatever. These factors have combined to improve the industry and to make Ireland a serious player in the film business. Deputy Gerry Reynolds mentioned that his local authority has recognised the importance of the film industry and is interested in developing it in the county. There is no doubt that the industry can add to the image and promotion of Ireland.

I wish the Minister and Minister of State well and I support the Bill.

Ba mhaith liom i dtosach báire an-bhuíochas a ghlacadh leis na Teachtaí ar fad a labhair ar an mBille seo. Taispeánann an oiread cainte is a bhí againn an spéis atá ag daoine i gcúrsaí scannánaíochta. Ar ndóigh níl sa Bhille seo ach aon líne amháin, sé sin go mbeadh cead ag an mBord Scannán tuilleadh airgid a íoc amach nó a infheistiú i gcúrsaí scannánaíochta.

I thank Deputies for the comprehensive debate on film even though the Bill consists of only one line.

Deputy Clune referred to our literary heritage. One of the issues which has come to light in the course of the industry's development, and which was commented on in the Kilkenny report, is that screen writing is a distinct creative process involving particular visualisation skills which transcend literary genres. The development of these skills will be a key area for training to ensure that our great culture of story telling can be effectively conveyed to the large and small screens. The film board will also increase investment in script development. This change of emphasis is already in train. Furthermore, experts will be engaged to convey key skills to our up and coming script writers so we can expect a new generation of excellence in screen writing.

Deputy Clune also mentioned the importance of training. In the film industry it is necessary to have both theory and, most importantly, on-the-job training. The latter is so important that the engagement of trainees is a condition of qualification for the section 481 scheme. This aspect will be fine-tuned in conjunction with the Irish Film Board and Screen Training Ireland to ensure that the optimum use is made of these opportunities in production, supported by section 481 incentives and by the board.

The Deputy also referred to the need to keep people in Ireland once they have completed their training. While I accept the Deputy's concern, it is essential and advantageous for Irish film makers to gain experience abroad. If we have a strong industry, these people will come back with new resources of knowledge and experience. The biggest difference in the new Ireland is that people can go but they also have the opportunity to return.

Deputy Clune referred to the importance of documentaries and short digital productions in the context of expanding markets as digital television rolls out. These are two areas in which the film board is active and this activity will increase. The board recently established a scheme called short shorts to provide funding for very short productions aimed at the digital market.

Deputy O'Shea referred to the importance of county and regional film commissions. The work and development of such commissions will continue. It is important that the best local experience and streamlined co-ordination with local authorities should be available when seeking to identify locations. A number of counties have set up film commissions for this purpose and to provide a one-stop-shop. We would all agree with the importance of this approach as it helps to facilitate a speedy process. Deputy Higgins mentioned the time lag and getting films into production. Facilitating people is a key aspect of getting films into production.

With regard to the question about the Irish language, tá, ar ndóigh, spéis ar leith agam sa cheist seo. Ag éirí as an tuarascáil a chuirfear ar bun beidh aird faoi leith á thabhairt ar an ngnó seo agus beidh an Bord Scannán, Údarás na Gaeltachta agus lucht craolachán ag obair le chéile chun dlús a chur leis an obair seo.

Deputy Deenihan raised the issue of the staffing of the film board. At present the board has ten full-time staff, including the chief executive. A further two people are employed by the Screen Commission of Ireland. In addition, earlier this year two additional posts were created in the business management and development sections of the board. In light of the review of the board's needs which has just been completed, it is intended to create seven key additional posts to enable the board to take on its extended strategic role in developing the industry.

I would also like to take on board the other point, which is very true in the case of the film board, that it is important in any State board that we get production value for the staff provided. There is no question about this in the case of the film board when one looks at its staffing resources and the work it is doing.

I do not intend to go into detail on section 481 but its provisions will run for five years which offers important continuity. The section could not run on a year to year basis and, for that reason, it was decided to operate it for five years. A number of changes to section 481 were suggested but these are budgetary issues on which I will make no further comment.

The provision of additional moneys for the film board was raised. The Minister is committed to this idea in line with the recommendations of the industry's strategic review group report. This issue will be discussed in the context of Estimates and so on. The Minister is concerned about this issue and will press the case for additional funds.

The role of the film board is to protect an Irish film industry which would be indigenous and reflect Irish culture and an Irish way of doing things. It is important that we keep this focus in mind and ensure that the board's essential characteristic and purpose is to achieve this objective.

The question was asked as to whether funding constituted investment or subsidisation. That is like asking me if I put a pound on a horse whether it is an investment or subsidisation.

It is a bet.

Yes, but you win some and you lose some. There is a repayment in some cases and not in others. However, there would be no need for this investment if there was a certainty about a project. In the past we tended to be too careful in terms of investment. One of the criticisms of the commercial sector was that it always wanted to bet on guaranteed winners. The idea of the board was to break that vicious circle and ensure that a risk was taken and that money was available to help people take a risk to ensure that productions went ahead. One has to accept that some projects will be winners and some will be losers.

The board's recoupment figure is 13%. It is hoped to increase this figure but, looking at international experience, there is a limit to the level of recoupment one could expect. We would be aiming to raise the figure to 25% but it would be wrong to see this money as either straight subsidisation or a scheme with a high level of recoupment. It must be accepted that the scheme will not work if one approaches it in either of those ways.

Deputies raised other issues related to training. FÁS and the college in Dún Laoghaire are involved in training. Training is obviously very important and we recognise that.

I would like uair amháin eile buíochas a ghlacadh leis na Teachtaí ar fad a labhair ar an mBille. Díospóireacht an-bhríomhar a bhí ann agus chuir na Teachtaí ar fad go mór leis an mBille leis na rudaí éagsúla a bhí le rá acu.

Question put and agreed to.