Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Maoiniú Chraoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

1. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Meán, Turasóireachta, Ealaíon, Cultúir, Spóirt agus Gaeltachta cén uair a dhéanfaidh sí cinneadh i dtaobh deontas aonuaire €1.9 milliún a thabhairt do TG4 in aitheantas do na costais bhreise a bhí orthu go dtí seo i mbliana mar gheall ar na bearta a dhein an stáisiún teilifíse chun leanúint ag craoladh, an fhoireann uilig a choimeád agus a íoc agus ar an éacht a dhein sé le Cúla4 ar scoil, srl., agus a bhí leagtha amach i mionsonraí i litir a cuireadh chuig a Roinn tamall ó shin. [27424/20]

Cén uair a dhéanfaidh an tAire cinneadh maidir le deontas aonuaire a thabhairt do TG4 chun an t-airgead a bhí air a chaitheamh le linn an tréimhse Covid go dtí seo a chlúdach toisc go raibh sé ar an ngannchuid ar an gcéad dul síos agus toisc go bhfuil gá le €1.9 milliún chun an t-airgead ar chaith sé go dtí seo a ghlanadh?

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta. B'ionann leithroinnt mhaoinithe phoiblí TG4 agus €37.2 milliún in 2020, leithroinnt a bhí comhdhéanta de €34.2 milliún i gcaiteachas reatha agus €3 milliún i gcaiteachas caipitil. Fuair m'oifigigh comhfhreagras ó TG4 ar 11 Meán Fómhair inar iarradh €1.9 milliún i maoiniú breise don bhliain 2020 i ndáil le costais bhreise a bhain le Covid. Aithním gur bhliain thar a bheith dúshlánach a bhí inti do gach earnáil agus go raibh dúshláin ar leith i gceist le hiad i dtionscail na cruthaitheachta. Táthar ag lorg tuilleadh faisnéise ó TG4 maidir leis an iarratas ar mhaoiniú agus tá m'oifigigh i dteagmháil leis ina leith sin.

Táim ag labhairt faoi seo mar Aire ar a bhfuil freagracht as na meáin, as an nGaeltacht agus as an gcultúr. Tuigim an obair atá déanta ag TG4 chun foinsí nuachta, oideachas agus faisnéis seirbhíse poiblí a chur ar fáil i rith na tréimhse seo. Tá an sceideal coinnithe ag TG4 mar atá agus tá sé curtha in oiriúint aige le freagairt ar riachtanais a lucht féachana in ainneoin gur bhain dúshláin léiriúcháin leis sin de bharr na srianta sláinte.

Tá ról tábhachtach ag seirbhísí craoltóireachta a chuirtear ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge i straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge an Rialtais. Is ríthábhachtach atá TG4 ina leith sin. Tá ról tábhachtach aige i dtreo cultúr na Gaeilge agus an Ghaeilge í féin a chur faoi bhráid lucht féachana a bhfuil Gaeilge acu. Cuireann sé ábhar nuálach agus ábhartha ar fáil trína sheirbhísí teilifíse agus ar líne. Chomh maith leis sin, mar chraoltóir foilseacháin, cuireann sé tacaíocht thábhachtach ar fáil d'earnáil na cruthaitheachta in Éirinn. Chaith sé €23,000 in 2019 sa réimse sin.

Tá na meáin Ghaeilge ag teacht laistigh de chúram an choimisiúin um thodhchaí na meán, coimisiún a d'fhógair mé féin agus an Taoiseach ar 29 Meán Fómhair chun féachaint ar an bhfís amach anseo do na meáin seirbhíse poiblí. Tá sé beartaithe agam chomh maith cruinniú a bheith agam le TG4 sna seachtainí amach romhainn. Táim ag súil leis an mbealach ina mbeidh sé ábalta leanúint ag fás agus tacú tuilleadh leis an nGaeilge a phlé leis.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Aire as an méid sin. Dar ndóigh, is bliain dhúshlánach í ní hamháin do TG4 ach do gach earnáil agus gach uile dhuine ar shlí amháin nó ar shlí eile. Sa chás seo, murab ionann is a lán comhlachtaí eile, níor bhain TG4 úsáid as aon cheann de na scéimeanna fóirdheontais a bhí ar fáil. Choimeád an comhlacht gach uile dhuine a bhí fostaithe aige ag obair agus choimisiúnaigh sé scannáin agus cláir atá le teacht. Choimeád sé a lán daoine nach raibh ag obair go díreach don chomhlacht ag obair chomh maith. Thug sé deontais dóibh. Choimeád an comhlacht a sceideal, agus sceideal "Cúla4 ar Scoil" ach go háirithe, ar siúl ar feadh na tréimhse uilig. Bhí gach duine ag maíomh as sin ach ní féidir leis an stáisiún leanúint ar aghaidh gan airgead. Táim ag tagairt do dheontas aonuaire amháin ach tá a lán ceisteanna le cur faoin deontas a fhaigheann TG4 gach uile bhliain freisin.

Rinne an Teachta Ó Snodaigh tagairt don chlár "Cúla4 ar Scoil", clár a choimisiúnaigh TG4. Soláthraíonn an clár seo seirbhís chuimsitheach do scoileanna Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoileanna chun foghlaim i nGaeilge a éascú don lucht féachana. Clúdaíonn sé na príomhábhair: an Ghaeilge, matamaitic, stair agus tíreolaíocht. Bhí áthas orm a nótáil freisin go bhfuil an clár ag clúdach ranganna cruthaitheacha ar na healaíona, ar na healaíona traidisiúnta agus ar shláinte agus folláine. Mar gheall ar an mbeartas seo, bhí costas breise de €1.9 milliún le clúdach ag TG4 i mbliana. Tá iarratas á dhéanamh agam chun tacaíocht airgeadais a fháil i mbliana i leith na costais Covid seo. Mar is eol don Teachta, tá grá agam ar TG4 agus déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall chun gach tacaíocht a thabhairt dó, don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht. Mar a dúirt mé cheana, táim ag súil le cruinniú a bheith agam le TG4 sna seachtainí atá romhainn.

Tá sé thíos €1.9 milliún i mbliana díreach de thoradh Covid-19. Seachas sin, tá bearna mhór ann ó thaobh an maoiniú a chóir a bheith aige agus an maoiniú a shocraigh sé in aontú leis an BAI chun cinntiú go leanfadh sé ar aghaidh agus go bhfuil plean straitéiseach ann. Tá €4.1 milliún i gceist i mbliana. Táim ag impí ar an Aire, ní amháin an €1.9 milliún a lorg ón Aire Airgeadais, ach díriú chomh maith ar an airgead atá de dhíth ag TG4 chun maireachtáil amach anseo. Mar a dúirt mé, tá breis agus €4 milliún ag teastáil uaidh i mbliana.

Tá m’oifigigh i mbun idirchaidrimh le TG4 maidir leis an iarratas do mhaoiniú bhreise agus tá siad ag lorg tuilleadh faisnéise. Measfar an iarratas nuair a fhaightear an fhaisnéis sin. Beidh mé i mbun idirchaidrimh leis an Aire Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe maidir le riachtanais maoiniú mo Roinne don bhliain 2021 mar chuid den phróiseas Meastacháin. Ní féidir a rá ag an bpointe seo cén t-airgead a chuirfear ar fáil d’aon ghníomhaireacht go dtí go n-aontaíonn an Rialtas leis sin. D’éirigh liom maoiniú breise de €2 milliún a fháil i bpacáiste spreagadh mhí Iúil don scéim fís agus fuaim agus tá sé sin ar fáil do gach craoltóir. Seolfaidh mé aon eolas breise ag an Teachta Dála níos déanaí inniu.

Football Association of Ireland

Duncan Smith

Ceist:

2. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht if she has had discussions with an association (details supplied) on bringing payments to the international women’s team in line with payments made to the men’s international team in view of the fact that a number of other countries have brought payments in line; her views on such a move from the organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27495/20]

This question relates to work being done by the Labour Party sports spokesperson, Senator Wall, as well as by Deputy Ó Ríordáin. Has the Minister had any discussions with the FAI to bring payments to the women’s international team in line with payments made to the men’s international team, given that several countries have brought these payments for appearance fees in line? Does the Minister support such a move?

The Government has dedicated funding for women's sport over many years with considerable Exchequer funding allocated to programmes aimed at encouraging women's active and social participation in sport. I would highlight in this regard the Sport Ireland women in sport programme established in 2005 which has provided funding for sport of more than €20 million to a broad range of programmes aimed at increasing participation of women and girls. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Federation of Irish Sport 20X20 campaign. The Minister and I already have had discussions to support this initiative. We had a recent meeting with Mary O'Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, who is very involved in this campaign.

I am aware that sporting associations in several countries have decided to bring into line payments of their international men's and women's teams. This is a welcome if long overdue change. I encourage all our sporting bodies to consider this and more broadly the parity of treatment of international men and women's teams at senior and junior levels.

In respect of the sporting body referred to by the Deputy, the national governing body of sport respects the autonomy of all the associations, competitions and selection of teams. Payments to international players is a matter for the association itself. We do not have a specific role in determining the level of payments for international teams selected by this or any other national governing body.

It is important, however, to recognise that when members of the international team referred to by the Deputy highlighted the challenges in their remunerations and conditions, the issue was raised with the association on several occasions. In 2018, the then Minister provided additional funding to support the women's international team. In 2019, despite a number of challenges, the Department and Sport Ireland made arrangements to ensure the funding allocated to the women's international team was dispersed to it specifically and used to support its preparations for international fixtures.

I thank the Deputy for highlighting this important issue. The Minister and I will be engaging with the FAI and the 20X20 campaign to ensure this is addressed. The programme for Government specifically highlights the importance of women's participation in sport. It will also be highlighted in the context of an international and national basis.

There is some encouragement to be taken from the reply. Last month, the English Football Association joined associations from Brazil, Australia, Norway and New Zealand in bringing the payments for appearance fees for their women's team in line with their men's team. Players on the Irish men's team get €2,500 as a basic appearance fee before any win bonus or other extras. Our women get €500, 20% of what the men get. The Department gives the FAI €800,000 a year. Will the Minister of State ensure that money comes with strict conditions for appearance fees? The book Champagne Football was released in recent weeks by Mark Tighe and Paul Rowan. Any person with a love of this sport has been shocked by what they have read in this book. Can the Minister of State imagine being a woman player at club or international level seeing millions of euro washing around the FAI while having to pay to play in the Champions League on behalf of her club? It is disgraceful.

I have not read the book yet but I have read many of the articles associated with it. The Deputy is correct in how the funding allocation occurred over many years. To be clear, we will engage seriously with the FAI and Sport Ireland on this. We have seen leadership across many other associations.

The programme for Government is specific around targets. The national sports policy asks all national governing bodies to set gender diversity targets and to develop equality action plans. Support will be provided for dedicated leadership training programmes for women, including governance and technical training.

Sport Ireland is monitoring the progress and reports on it annually. In the context of the overall women's programme from 2005 to date, €20 million has been invested through the national governing bodies and local sports partnerships. The recently published Irish sports monitor shows the gender gap in participation continues to decline from 4.5% at the end of 2017 to 3.4% in the 2019 report.

The Deputy is correct in his summation and reflection on what is happening internationally. We should show leadership in an Irish footballing context. We will be seriously engaging with that. With the 2020 campaigns, we will meet broader equality targets in sport.

There is a role for men players and men in the game. They have not shown solidarity with the women over the years. During the 2017 strike, they were noticeably absent through their silence in supporting their women colleagues who were fighting for basics such as tracksuits as well as pay and conditions. We have seen it in other sports with Andy Murray being a strong ally for equality of pay for women in tennis. We have not seen it in football, however. It is absolutely shameful.

Footballers are publicly and laudably supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. If they can do that, they can also support gender equality in their own sport and do it vociferously. As a young schoolboy player, I paid my €2 sub. I knew if my dreams ever came true, all the gifts and allowances that come from being a professional footballer would befall on me as a man. There are women playing international football and the Champions League who are still paying their subs every week or month to play for their country or team. It just cannot go on.

Tennis has shown much leadership in equality, particularly around the majors. It is probably one of the few sports which has shown real equality. I support that as well as those associations in football which are doing that.

The promotion of women's participation in sport is a policy priority for the Government and includes women's football. There has been extraordinary participation in soccer by women and girls which I would love to see continue. It is important to recognise that the FAI and its staff have done excellent work to address the participation gap. There were challenging times in the past 18 months, but funding has been restored to FAI programmes, including those aimed at women and girls.

In the context of the diversity and equality action plans, I would like to see much better equality and diversity on the boards of all of these national governing bodies. That is what Sport Ireland is trying to promote. We saw the Olympic Federation set a 40% target at its annual general meeting. It is a priority for us that we see funding prioritised and greater equality achieved at structural levels.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

3. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht her plans to introduce a sector-specific Covid-19 plan for the coming months for the tourism and hospitality sector to provide additional support for businesses in view of the potential for further restrictions during the winter months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27684/20]

Does the Minister intend to introduce a sector-specific Covid-19 plan for the coming months for the tourism and hospitality sector to provide additional support for businesses given the potential for further restrictions during the winter months? Will she make a statement on the matter?

I am acutely aware of the enormous and unprecedented challenges which face the tourism and hospitality sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Almost all tourism businesses were initially required to close to comply with the necessary public health measures introduced. Many have since reopened but, unfortunately, the majority of businesses are operating with significantly reduced levels of turnover compared with 2019 as a result of the ongoing public health measures and the almost complete absence of overseas tourists coming into the country. This has meant that many jobs in the sector have been lost or remain vulnerable.

Along with my colleagues in Government, I have taken a number of measures to help the sector survive this crisis. The July stimulus package introduced significant measures to help businesses recover following the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. Some of the key measures for tourism and hospitality include the stay and spend initiative, the €26 million adaptation grant, the €10 million grant for coach tourism and the revised restart grant, which now includes bed and breakfast establishments. Tourism enterprises will also benefit from wider horizontal support, such as the new employment wage subsidy scheme, EWSS, liquidity and enterprise investment measures, warehousing of tax liabilities and the extension for a further three months of the waiver of commercial rates. As part of its response to Covid-19 and to drive bookings for short breaks and holidays in Ireland in 2020, Fáilte Ireland has invested in a number of domestic holiday campaigns since June of this year, and I have seen at first hand that these campaigns have been successful in getting Irish people to holiday at home.

All of these measures have helped the sector, but I appreciate that severe challenges remain and there is justified deep concern in the sector. We need to continue to examine ways to ensure businesses survive and recover. The tourism recovery task force, appointed in May, has just submitted its report to me. It is making a number of recommendations to help the sector survive the crisis and recover. That will feed into the roadmap the Deputy refers to in her question. Along with my colleagues in Government, I will consider its recommendations as we prepare for the budget and the subsequent national economic plan.

As the Minister says, she is acutely aware that the tourism and hospitality sectors are among the hardest hit sectors. They are on their knees and they face into a long winter. The Irish Hotels Federation, IHF, has said that the weekly rate of new bookings has plummeted by 67% and it is looking at occupancy rates of 23% for October. It also estimates 100,000 jobs have been lost and a further 100,000 jobs are at risk, so it is massive. The pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, and the EWSS are being cut, and the July stimulus package was a major disappointment for the industry and they made no bones about that. The stay and save initiative launched today is not going to cut it either. It is October and the Minister has missed out on the holiday period. Children are back at school and so on. The initiative also excludes so many people that it is not fit for purpose. How can the Minister call that a stimulus package?

While absolutely necessary, the public health guidelines disproportionately impact the sectors supported by my Department, namely, tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sports and media. I have had extensive engagement with people representing those working in the tourism and hospitality sector and will continue to do so. As the Deputy said, at the beginning of the year tourism supported 270,000 direct and indirect jobs. That is one in ten of all jobs. The IHF has estimated another 100,000 jobs are at risk. I am aware of the pressure they are under.

On the stay and spend initiative, the purpose of that was to support the accommodation and food sector during the off-season, not during the peak season. That is what was flagged to us as what was needed. There was concern about the season between October and April. However, this is a fast-paced pandemic and we are in a different position now to July when we launched what was a very innovative scheme. The country was reopening then but now we are dealing with much harsher restrictions on already devastated sectors. Given that, it is natural to assess if the initiative is providing the full benefit that was planned in July.

Can the Minister honestly say the stay and spend initiative is sufficient for what the sector needs? A whole section of society has been excluded from it and it is only those who can afford to go on a holiday that will benefit from it. A voucher scheme such as that proposed by my party, according to which every adult and every child in the State would have got €200, would been a real stimulus package. Given the pandemic, the restrictions and the lockdown, if a person's county is in lockdown between now and April, there is hardly an opportunity to break away and he or she is not going to be able to benefit from it.

I sent a written question to the Minister and she referred to the tourism and recovery task force and the recovery plan that has been published. She said earlier she had seen it. She said in the written response to me that, if necessary, she will refine existing supports and consider further necessary measures. They need to be more than refined. There is a whole sector in hospitality and tourism in deep trouble and the first thing that needs to be done is the PUP needs to be restored and larger grants and initiatives introduced to sustain the sector. It is crying out for help.

That is why I have been engaging with them extensively. One of the first things I did as a Minister, on day two, was to meet with the sector. On the stay and spend initiative, that is exactly what I said in my answer: it needs to be reassessed. I take that on board. That is why I am saying that in this Chamber. It is because of the fast-paced nature of this horrifying pandemic and how it is impacting on the sector.

The tourism recovery task force report landed with me this week. I am reading that and will give it consideration. As the pandemic evolves, the Government will consider what are the best supports and measures which can be introduced to support businesses and employment. I will be discussing this with my Cabinet colleagues in the context of the budget and in my role as a member of the Cabinet committee on economic recovery. The people who represent that sector and other individuals I have spoken to know I voice that at Cabinet and will continue to do so. That means everything has to be considered. As far as I am concerned, everything is on the table in the context of the budget.

Sports Funding

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

4. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht the details of the budgetary supports which will be committed to clubs (details supplied); and the other supports for the organisation to keep it functioning into 2021 and beyond. [28046/20]

My question pertains to the League of Ireland and it is very specific. What budgetary commitments will the Government be making to ensure that League of Ireland football clubs can sustain themselves into 2021 and beyond?

I am acutely aware of the difficulties and challenges facing all sporting organisations and clubs, including those in the League of Ireland. Measures introduced by the Government to date which have benefited the sports sector include the temporary wage subsidy scheme, TWSS, the PUP and a series of enterprise supports.

There has been extensive engagement with the sports sector over recent months which has highlighted the significant adverse impact of Covid-19 on all levels of the Irish sporting landscape. The Covid-19 sports management group, chaired at a ministerial level, has been established to engage directly which the sporting bodies. An expert group on the return to sport, chaired by an official of my Department, is also being established to provide advice and guidance to sporting bodies. Sport Ireland is also engaging directly which the sporting bodies on an ongoing basis.

A funding package of up to €70 million has been put in place to support the sector and the package will be administered by Sport Ireland. There will be funding of up to €40 million for the three main organisations: the FAI, to which the League of Ireland pertains, the GAA, and the IRFU. There will be a resilience fund of up to €10 million to support the national governing bodies of sport, as well as a sports club resilience fund and up to €15 million in support for clubs, and a sports restart and renewal fund. The funding will be invested through new grant schemes with Sport Ireland. The closing date for applications under the Covid-19 grant schemes was 14 September and a large number of applications were received. There are four strands of funding.

I know how valuable and important the League of Ireland is as a competition in our local communities. It plays a central part in the lives of many club supporters and we are lucky to have such a great league. In that regard, Sport Ireland is engaging directly with the national governing body and through the FAI on the allocation of Covid-19 funding for its affiliated clubs. In recent contact with the sports sector, we made clear that the financial and operational challenges associated with Covid-19 will continue into 2021. Any additional funding for sport in 2021 is subject to the budgetary process which is under way, but we want to see sport funded and supported. It is a key part of our community and that includes the League of Ireland.

I do not doubt for a second that we want sport to be funded and to continue in this country but the League of Ireland was in a precarious place long before the pandemic hit and it is now at a point where we do not know whether there will be a League of Ireland next season. I have spoken to Shelbourne and Bohemians, which are in my constituency, and to clubs throughout Dublin. They have told me that they have asked for a financial package of approximately €5 million which will keep them afloat into 2021 and ensure that they can keep their staff on so they do not need to avail of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. Every club has approximately ten staff members so a PUP for each employee would stretch into the millions if the payment is available for another year. The clubs are asking for €3.5 million to €5 million. Can we commit that amount to the League of Ireland to ensure it continues into 2021?

As I referenced, the stimulus package provides a significant amount of support for the FAI. The association, through Sport Ireland, will fund the League of Ireland and many other sporting competitions. The chief executive officer of the FAI, at a meeting of the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, indicated that €3.5 million is required to stage the League of Ireland. Funding provided to the FAI by Sport Ireland is for the non-professional elements of the sport and is broadly aimed at encouraging and creating more opportunities for young people to participate in football.

I also referenced the €40 million package and the resilience fund of up to €10 million. We have a sports club resilience fund of more than €15 million. I will engage further with League of Ireland clubs through the FAI and with Sport Ireland. We cannot have a scenario where there is a question mark over our league. That also applies to many other leagues across the sporting landscape in the next year. Sport will have significant funding challenges in 2021 but it is an important part of our communities and we will have ongoing engagement with the sector about its funding. The financial packages that have been put in place and will be filtered out through Sport Ireland demonstrate that the Government has supported sport.

With the greatest of respect, I was also at the committee meeting to which the Minister of State referred. The FAI was quite clear that it has applied for a grant but there is no guarantee it will get it and allow that money to filter down to the League of Ireland.

This is a time sensitive matter. Most clubs would usually sell season tickets in December or January and if they are not sold, clubs will not be able to reopen their doors. People use clubs for a variety of reasons and some go to their clubs just to have a cup of tea and engage with their community. This needs urgency. I am asking specifically about the League of Ireland. We will talk about other sports on other days. I implore the Minister of State not only to commit to meeting and engaging with the League of Ireland but to funding that will give confidence to those clubs to start planning for 2021.

We will engage with League of Ireland clubs through the FAI and Sport Ireland. As I said, a significant funding package has been put in place which will be allocated and distributed over the month of October. That is €40 million for the three major sporting bodies. Decisions about how that money is specifically allocated by those sporting organisations is a matter for them but the Minister and I are keen to support the League of Ireland and ensure its continuity. We cannot have a scenario where there is a question mark over it.

There will obviously be funding challenges for all sports next year. We are engaging with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform around the whole sporting budget because the reduced numbers of participation are directly impacting the budgetary position of clubs across all sports that require ticket sales for their underlying finances. The League of Ireland is a key, grassroots league that is important for Irish soccer and I support it. We will ensure that there is certainty around it through the packages we have already announced and future packages.

Television Licence Fee

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

5. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht if the Commission on the Future of Irish Public Service Broadcasting plans to prioritise and expedite the matter of the licence fee; when the commission will report on same; her views on implementing the recommendations of the report regarding the licence fee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28045/20]

I ask the Minister if she can confirm whether the commission on the future of Irish public service broadcasting intends to prioritise and expedite the matter of the licence fee in its work, when the commission is expected to report on this section of its work, if the Minister will commit to implementing the recommendations of that report regarding the licence fee and if she will make a statement on the matter.

The programme for Government has expanded the remit of the public service broadcasting commission to become a future of media commission to consider the future of print, broadcast and online media on a platform-agnostic fashion. The programme for Government calls for a report within nine months on the measures that need to be taken to ensure there is a vibrant, independent public service media for the next generation. It notes that the current funding model for public service broadcasting is inefficient and the commission will publish recommendations.

The commission is being established by the Department of the Taoiseach in liaison with my Department, and the terms of reference and membership were approved by the Government on 29 September. The goal of the independent commission is to identify what the Irish experience has been in delivering the above aims through public service broadcasters, or broadcasters, print and online media at a local, regional and national levels, and the challenges created for these media by new global platforms and change in audience preference for the delivery of content. It will consider the extent to which the current models of delivery are appropriate for the next ten years and review the best practice in other comparable jurisdictions, particularly across the European economic area, in terms of providing future-proofed models for meeting the above public services in light of changing audience expectations, in particular the preferences and behaviours of younger audiences.

Within this context, the commission will examine how these aims can be delivered in a way that is sustainable, give greater security of funding, ensure independent editorial oversight and deliver value for money to the public. It will also make recommendations on RTÉ's role, financing and structure within this framework. It is expected that the commission will engage in a wide-ranging consultation with all relevant stakeholders and sectors to ensure that all relevant perspectives are considered in its work.

In light of its remit, I expect that the licence fee will be among the issues examined by the commission. I believe it is important to allow the commission the time and space to undertake its work and any recommendations made about the funding model and licence fee will be considered by the Government. In the meantime, An Post, which acts as my issuing agent for licence fee collection, will continue to sell television licences and free licences will continue to be issued by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to qualifying applicants under the household benefit scheme.

Maintaining robust public service broadcasting has never been more important, given fake news and other interference in the media. RTÉ and TG4 have significant funding gaps, to the tune of €30 million and €4 million, respectively. I am sure that the loss of advertising revenue during the Covid-19 period has made the situation worse.

It is also important to note the importance of TG4 as a public service broadcaster. I hope that the work of the commission will support it to grow and continue to produce excellent programming, as well as provide vital jobs in Gaeltacht areas and the television production sector.

I know that RTÉ was given €10 million in additional funding last year but it is still well short of the €30 million deficit. The licence fee needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, as has been flagged up by all sectors.

The future of the media commission also has consideration of the Irish language and media within its remit. I made sure to have someone on the commission who is fluent in Irish and works in the sector. I recognise the work TG4 has done in providing an important source of news, education and public service information during this time, maintaining and adapting its schedule to respond to its audience needs despite the production challenge posed by the health restrictions. The delivery of broadcasting services through the medium of Irish plays a vital role in the implementation of the Government's 20-year strategy for the Irish language and TG4 has been essential in that regard. TG4 plays an important role in bringing Irish language and culture to Irish-speaking audiences, providing innovative and relevant content through television and its online services. In addition, as a publisher and broadcaster, it also provides valuable support to the Irish creative sector, spending €23 million in 2019. I look forward to the recommendations of the commission in this regard.

As the Deputy said, there is a need to support quality journalism and media now more than ever. I am committed to doing so and that includes RTÉ but I do not want to pre-empt the work of the commission.

Yesterday's announcement laid out a wide remit for the commission. My question relates to the urgent matter of the licence fee. The wide remit of the commission is welcome and we need to examine all aspects of the media. I also hope to see print journalists appointed to the commission; they have been omitted so far. The real issue concerning all the areas that have been flagged is the need to address the licence fee.

I thank the Deputy. As I said, the licence fee will be discussed in the context of the commission. I do not want to interfere with the work of the commission.

I am aware that evasion is currently estimated to be at 12.57% even though An Post makes every effort to bring the evaders into the licence pool with reminder notifications and inspections. There is also an increasing number of homes, approximately 11%, which have televisions and do not pay a fee.

I cannot pre-empt the work of a commission, the members of which will serve really well. The NUJ has written to me and sent me its report, which I will bring to the attention of the chair of the future of media commission. As I said, there will be extensive engagement with all stakeholders. The print sector was added to the commission as an acknowledgement by the Government that it is at risk. We have to acknowledge that and see how best to provide a road forward for it.